Odd Dates From History

Odd Dates From History

We spent a lot of history chopping and changing our calender and it has created all sorts of anomalies. The length of years has varied massively even surprisingly recently. I'm going to go through some times and dates which either should have existed but didn't or shouldn't but did.

Day 445 of 46 BCE. This one did exist; the Year of Confusion added in two extra months and many extra days in order to synch back up with the solar year. Before this point the Roman Empire had occasionally added in Leap Months to achieve this, but this hadn't happened for a long time leading up to 46 BCE so they had to do a lot at once.

This was all in preparation for 45 BCE which was the first year to have the 1st January as the official start of the year. So begins the start of the Julian Calender.

Year 0. Did not exist. So the years go 2 BCE, 1 BCE, 1 CE, 2 CE. This catches a lot of people out.

The second 1st January 568 CE. This date until the 24th March of the same year seemed to happen twice, once at the start of the year, once at the end. The next year marked the first to switch back to having more ancient start date of the 25th March as the start of the year, leaving almost 3 months of time which has to reasonably be attributed to the year before.

29th February 1600. Go on Leap Year buffs, which way does this one go?

Well Leap Years happen every 4 years, apart from if it divides by 100, apart from if it divides by 400. So 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not Leap Years, but 2000 was. Unfortunately this rule came in after 1600 and so the date above didn't exist. Be prepared to have a lot of arguments in February 2100.

1st January 1751. England finally goes back to having the 1st January as the start of the year in 1752, so the previous year only ran from 25th March until 31st December making it the shortest in history and meaning that the date above didn't exist. In the years after the swap-over some dates were given in both old and new style. Samuel Pepys' diary has dates which were between 1st Jan to 25th Mar written with the year with the units place having the old style and new style written in small writing over each other in an attempt to hedge his bets. Some gravestones from the period adopted the same idea.

This change was well overdue since most of Europe had switched over (at different points) during the early 1600s. The date would change as you went over borders and various famous events in history are recorded as happening on different dates in other countries. Overall it was a bit of a mess and once again England was the last on the uptake of the modern system (looking at you Imperial System).

3rd September 1752. This is classic pub quiz fodder; it didn't exist. Having had only 282 days in the previous year to change the start date, they still had the problem of aligning the date with those on the continent. This required getting rid of eleven days and so the date after Wednesday 2nd September was Thursday 14th September. Because the government didn't want to lose out on 11 days of tax, the previous start of the tax year, which had been on what was the start of the year in the Julian Calendar, 25th March, was delayed until 6th April where it remains to this day.

Reports of riots from people demanding their eleven days back are overblown, but it was a big divide between the Tories that wanted to revert to the old system and the Whigs that defended the change. The painting below by William Hogarth shows Whig politicians with a stolen black flag from a Tory protester (bottom right under the chair) which states, "Give us our eleven days." More Tory protesters can be seen outside the tavern.

 William Hogarth's Humours of an Election, 1755

William Hogarth's Humours of an Election, 1755

23:59:60 30th June 2015. This one existed. Normally the time counts from 23:59:59 on one day to 00:00:00 on the next. However due to the slowing rotation of the Earth we occasionally and irregularly add in an extra Leap Second. So far we've only done in 26 times and it always gets added on to the end of June or the end of December. This makes the 31st December the longest day of the year on average (although not the one with the longest amount of sunlight, we should really have better words, to replace day, to separate these two concepts).

Next Leap Second is at the end of the year. Don't worry, Big Ben factors it in. I wish you all an extra long and extra special New Year's Eve.

Normal Numbers

Normal Numbers

Tetris Rectangle

Tetris Rectangle