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The Cover
January 16, 2002


Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2002;287(3):285. doi:10.1001/jama.287.3.285

During the Middle Ages, time, as now, was a major preoccupation. On the other hand, the concept of time, as well as its measurement, was vastly different. We think in split seconds, they thought in centuries, even millennia. As the French medievalist Jacques Le Goff has so elegantly described it, there was church time, merchant time, and work time; each had its own measure and meaning. Religious feasts, for example, were moveable, the exact time of their celebration determined by a phase of the moon; accurate, predictive calendars were essential, since the dates for observance were set by law. For merchants, time had a quantitative element, and calendars, at least daily calendars, were also necessary; the amount of a debt to be paid depended on the number of days the debt had been owed; its amount increased directly as the time elapsed grew. The laborer's day had a still different measurement: it was the time, not the wage, that was flexible. The workday extended from the hour of Terce to the hour of None, which, practically, could be anywhere from six to ten hours, depending on the season.

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