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Decimal tideräkning: Analys av ett rationellt förslag
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Culture and Aesthetics.
2014 (Swedish)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesisAlternative title
Decimal time : Analysis of a rational reform (English)
Abstract [en]


Decimal time. Analysis of a rational reform.

Decimal tideräkning. Analys av ett rationellt förslag.

Christina Rydberg   

University of Stockholm. History of ideas. Bachelor’s study. Autumn 2014

Mentor: Elisabeth Mansén


The aim of this study is to try to understand why the late 18th century French attempt to introduce decimal time was a failure. The question is whether there are substantial differences to be seen when compared to the rest of the reforms, like the meter. What part did politics, science, implementation, design and public opinion play in the outcome?

The study draws on primary sources on decimal time, such as minutes of the French Convention and Senate (Gallica data base), as well as secondary sources on the contemporary reforms. There are few studies on decimal time; but those of Michel Froeschlé and Lars Nystedt introduce important aspects. Literature is otherwise mainly focused on the spatial reforms and especially on definition and introduction of the meter. The method used is close reading with the purpose of identifying arguments and circumstances relevant to the outcome of the reform. 

The result of this study concurs with prior research in the impression that the “revolutionary” halo of the calendar discredited decimal time, especially in other countries. Also confusion was created by old names given to the new hours and minutes. The watchmakers disliked not being able to sell their stock of handicraft. Finally, most people disliked fewer days off.

This study further argues that the reform was given away by the French Convention in order to save the rest of spatial metric reforms including decimalization. It also highlights the ambiguity with which the reform was abolished by the politicians. The metric reforms had meant creating standards, defining units and agreeing on what mathematical base to be used. It is important to note that the arguments for abolishing decimal time were less negative to decimalization than to other parts of the reform. The study suggests that if the French reform on time had been limited to the decimal dimension alone, the possibilities for success could have been greater. Instead decimal time was introduced as part of a revolutionary era and disappeared with the persons who created this vision.


Key words: Decimal time, metric reform, Republican calendar, 18th century, French revolution

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. , 35 p.
Keyword [en]
Decimal time, metric reform, Republican calender, 18th century, French revolution
Keyword [sv]
Decimaltid, meterreform, republikansk kalender, 1700-tal, franska revolutionen
National Category
Humanities Other Humanities
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-114149OAI: diva2:858717
2015-01-13, Konferensrummet, Frescativägen 22B-26, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-10-05 Created: 2015-02-22 Last updated: 2015-10-05Bibliographically approved

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