Sunday, June 20, 2010

The French Revolutionary calendar

Fabre d'Eglantine a former actor and dramatist, addressing the French National Convention in 1793 during the terror, on the necessity to introduce a new calendar:

"We could not go on reckoning the years during which we were oppressed by kings as part of our lifetime. Every page of the old calendar was soiled by the prejudices and falsehoods of the throne and the church."

The revolutionary calendar was in force in France from 1793 to 1805. Fabre, together with André Thouin, chief botanist at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, drew their inspiration for the new calendar from the natural world.

Germinal was the seventh month (late March to late April) and from the beginning was a dramatic month. Two revolutionary factions (the Hébertists and Dantonists) were guillotined in Germinal, Year II; starving Parisians stormed the National Convention in Germinal, Year III. Much later, mindful of its revolutionary heritage, the Paris Commune of 1871 reverted to the revolutionary calendar for 18 days, and found itself in Germinal, Year LXXIX.

From Ruth Scurr on rereading Zola's Germinal, Guardian 19/6/10

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