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CURRENT ISSUE: Mar. 2007
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History Magazine cover
The 1650s
Victoria L. King examines a decade of civil unrest and enlightenment in Europe.

Birth of the Boardwalk: A Sandy History
Russell Roberts looks at the illustrious beginning of the "walk of boards".

Gutta-Purcha
David A. Norris looks at the plastic of the Victorian Age.

The Battle of Cannae
Nicky Nielsen tells the story of the ancient battle between Hannibal Barcas and his sworn enemy, Rome..

Barter and Trade in Colonial America
Joanne Liu looks at the early history of Colonial America where currency as we know it was scarce.

Chroniclers & Scribes — Medieval Historical Writers
William Stroock chronicles some of the great medieval documents that have survived.

The Pedigree of Platinum
Steve Voynick relates the fascinating history of the "other" precious metal.

Pyramids and the Occult — Fact or Fiction?
Pamela D. Toller chronicles the search for the magical meaningn of the pyramids.

The Early Days of Radio
From the book With Amusement For All: A History Of American Popular Culture Since 1930, author LeRoy Ashby looks at the early programs that made radio so popular.

"The Storm": Killer Hurricane Devastates Galveston, Texas
Joanna Bostwick Backman tells the story of a killer hurricane.

Fire Below! The Devastating Reality of Coal Bunker Fires
Patrick McSherry chronicles the dirty and dangerous history of coal bunker fires and the men that fought them.

The Timeless Appeal of Clocks
Phill Jones chronicles the history of timekeeping and its impact on history.

Lizzie Borden and the Fall River Axe Murders
Daniel M. Hoenig describes the enduring interest in this case of murder most foul.


The Gregorian Calendar


Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar, primarily to ensure that religious holidays fell at the proper time of year.

IN OCTOBER 1582, many people in Europe lost 10 days of their lives. After years of floating seasons and religious occasions, Pope Gregory XIII decided to change the Julian calendar. The Julian Calendar, named after its creator Julius Caesar, was in use from 45bc. Caesar had improved things by switching from the traditional lunar calendar to one guided by the sun, but there were still problems with the calendar.

According to the Julian Calendar, the year was 365 and 1/4 days in length. A solar year is actually 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds in length, 11 minutes and 14 seconds shorter than the Julian calculation. There were also too many leap years inserted into the Julian Calendar - one every four years. The combination of too many leap years and 11 extra minutes each year meant that Easter would eventually take place in the winter.

In 1582, Gregory XIII decided to eliminate 10 days from October by making 15 October the day after 4 October. By removing these days, the spring equinox was set at 21 March.

Under the Julian Calendar, a leap year occurred every four years. Under the new, more precise calendar, a leap year occurred every four years, except in centennial years not evenly divisible by 400 (thus, 1600 and 2000 would be leap years, but 1700, 1800 and 1900 would not be).

The new calendar also created a fixed day for the New Year. This anniversary had been celebrated on numerous dates. Julius Caesar had used 1 January, but the Church had since changed that date to 25 March. The Gregorian Calendar reverted back to the date of 1 January.

The Gregorian Calendar is differ from the solar year by only 26 seconds, which only adds up to one day every 3,323 years.

The Gregorian Calendar went into effect in 1582 in all Roman Catholic countries. Protestant and non-Christian countries were slower to adopt the calendar - Great Britain and her possessions adopted the calendar in 1752, Sweden in 1753, Japan in 1873 and China in 1912.

The Gregorian Calendar is still in effect today throughout the world except in Muslim countries, where the calendar is based on predicted lunar visibility.

This article originally appeared as part of a larger piece on the 1580s in our October/November 2001 issue.

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