I've been wondering what the reactions were in France to the new Republican Calendar. When I learned about it in school, it seemed ridiculously overzealous to me, and this notion hasn't left me since. Has it been common among the French people of that era too?

I know that many French workers disliked the new calendar because it gave them a free day every ten days instead of every seven days. But did they use it in they everyday lives nevertheless? Who actually used it and for what purposes? I imagine most seven-day cycles in France's social life must have been too strongly ingrained in the people to be easily removed. Is that correct?


1 Answer 1


Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, a History, Chapter 3.4.IV:

...on the 5th of October 1793, after trouble enough, they bring forth this New Republican Calendar of theirs, in a complete state; and by Law, get it put in action...


For the Romme (Revolutionary) Calendar, in so many Newspapers,Memoirs, Public Acts,has stamped itself deep into that section of Time: a New Era that lasts some Twelve years and odd is not to be despised.


The New Calendar ceased on the 1st of January 1806. See Choix des Rapports, xiii. 83-99; xix. 199.


Thus with new Feast of Pikes, and New Era or New Calendar, did France accept her New Constitution: the most Democratic Constitution ever committed to paper.

As is evident from Carlyle, the calendar was in widespread use during the period of Jacobin (the far left political wing of the the revolutionary movement that became dominant in French politics in 1792-3) domination, for two reasons, in spite of the inertia factor that you mentioned: Patriotic zeal amongst those who were indeed patriotic, i.e. supported the Jacobins; fear of being deemed "Suspect", i.e. opposed to the Jacobins, amongst those who were not quite so 'patriotic': Moving to a new calendar was more palatable than moving the location of your head from your neck to the sack behind the Guillotine...

Carlyle asserts that the Romme Calendar remained in use for some 12 years, through the early Napoleonic era, although radical Jacobin rule effectively ended in the Summer/Fall of 1794, subsequent to Robespierre's execution, less than a year after the calendar was adopted. This was again due to the inertia factor (once the new calendar was implemented, it was difficult to roll back) and because although the radical Jacobins were out of power, the Thermidorians (a somewhat more moderate group who deposed and executed Robespierre in July of 1794, so named because July became the month of Thermidor [hot-sweltering] in the new calendar) also embraced the Revolutionary vision and believed in the "New Era" ushered in by the Revolution, but rejected the unbridled terror and rapidly developing despotism of radical Jacobinism, led by Robespierre.

In the same way, the French accepted other radical innovations of the Jacobins, as cited above from Carlyle.

  • 1
    +1 A quibble, though: I don't think the Thermidor men were Jacobins. Barras wasn't. Jul 20, 2013 at 13:36
  • Granted. Not all of them were Jacobins- Barras certainly not, and once Robespierre was gone, many others who were in hiding or 'in the closet'-remnants of the Girondins and even 'crypto royalists' came out into the open. But I think the principle driver of Robespierre's removal was the guillotining of Danton,a Jacobin leader, which infuriated his supporters, and the purging of faithful Jacobins from the party because they disagreed with the most extreme Jacobin methods and feared being dominated and exterminated by Robespierre. That's why I put it that way. I will modify the language. Thanks.
    – user2590
    Jul 20, 2013 at 20:31
  • I think there are more recent, more reliable, better documented, and certainly less prejudiced works on the French Revolution than Carlyle.
    – fdb
    Jul 14, 2014 at 10:48
  • @fdb - 'recent' isn't necessarily better; Carlyle is extensively documented from primary sources; "prejudiced" is a subjective, political criticism. If you have an objection to the content of the answer, please express it. Simply railing on Carlyle for the sake of it, because you apparently consider him "pro-aristocrat" doesn't add much.
    – user2590
    Jul 14, 2014 at 15:40
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    It is usually taught in France that the Revolutionnary calendar was a bust (weekend every 10 days inteasd of 7, for exemple) and had a hard time getting hold outside of Paris.
    – MakorDal
    Feb 26, 2020 at 12:14

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