On Tuesday, July 26, 2016, Hillary Clinton formally became the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, winning a yearlong struggle with Senator Bernie Sanders for control of the nation’s center-left political party. Some of Sanders’s supporters might find that date appropriate—but only if they check a calendar that shared their revolutionary spirit.
Most western cultures use the Gregorian calendar, named for the 16th-century pope who commissioned it. His calendar soon became the universal standard in Western Europe and the world. But republican activists during the French Revolution despised the calendar for its religious framework. Bolstered by their other successful efforts to modernize French society, a group of revolutionaries and astronomers sought to create a more progressive calendar for their radical era.
The French republican calendar they promulgated in 1793 is an oddity by our standards. It kept the Gregorian calendar’s 12-month scheme but created 10-day weeks and three-week months. Year I began on September 22, 1792, the date of the First Republic’s proclamation. Five “revolutionary” days were also added to the end of each year. The result was impractical and unwieldy, especially when it came to assigning leap years. (The dates in this article use the leap-year method devised by the calendar’s creator, Charles-Gilbert Romme; other methods also exist.) Napoleon formally scrapped the calendar in 1805.