Major Themes
Thèmes Principaux

2. Millennium, time and history
2. Millénaire, temps et histoire

Reinhart Koselleck, Germany

Harbans Mukhia, India

a) The construction and division of time: periodisation and chronology
a) Construction et division du temps: périodisation et chronologie

Tuesday, 8 August, 9:00-12:00
Mardi 8 août de 9h à 12h

Building B, Auditorium 1

Masayuki Sato, Japan

François Dosse, France


Homo sapiens is the only creature that is equipped to look back consciously on its past. The past, however, is chaos. It is the ability of man as homo historicus that makes that chaos intelligible and understandable by giving it order, structure, and meaning. One of the most important elements which brings order to the past is time: Time is a "human invention rendering chaos intelligible" rather than "something that exists in itself." Among the various notions of time, "year" is the notion of most relevant for organizing the past, for without the invention of the "year" we could not even be able to establish our past as history. The reckoning of years is not merely the assignment of sequential numbers, itself an advanced intellectual exercise peculiar to the human species. It is also a political, social and cultural act of human intelligence. Peoples and cultures have produced a variety of ways to reckon years. The "Christian era" system is now most widely used around the world, but there are many other systems, some still in use; the combined system of era names and the sexagesimal cycle in East Asia, the Jewish calendar, the Islamic way of reckoning years, regnal years, Medieval European chronology by indictio, etc.

What began as Christian chronology now functions in the role of common chronology in the world, theoretically by introducing "B.C." and by deciding the first of January as New Year's Day, and politically through the dominance of Western culture toward the end of twentieth century. "Common chronology" undermines the very existence that every people, culture and nation has its own "year," which is the foundation making possible a balanced sense of history, by relativising our unconscious
historical sense that we are living in the year numbered 2000. This balanced sense of history opens to us the possibility of free and various senses of time.

Historians have been discussing "periodization" as a division of time for centuries, however, the nature of "chronology" as a construction of time was beyond the range of historians' concern. A discussion that joins chronology with periodization will open a new intellectual horizon on the way we remake our past into history. This session will invite eight speakers from around the world to discuss the various notions and ideas of constructing and dividing time in Africa, Asia, Europe, India, Islam and Judaism. The session will conclude by some theoretical discussions on the nature of chronology and periodization. The year 2000, as people around the world become particularly conscious of questions of chronology, is an especially good opportunity for a reconsideration of the meaning of the "year" and the century. This can lead to a discussion of whether the "turn of the century" has any meaning, or what time reckoning means, especially for historians, at the year of closing the 20th century.

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Theme 1b
Théme 1b



Theme 2b
Théme 2b