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The History of the Clock Change

The History of the Clock Change

Thursday 30 September 2021

Here we are again - darker nights are just around the corner, and the slow seep of winter draws ever closer. As happens every year, the clock change is the moment we all seem to accept that the cold is here to stay.

The clock change is another interesting piece of history which draws intrigue from those of us who encounter it. Centred around the desire to make more productive use of the daylight hours, the clock change has been under scrutiny for years, and many countries do not make this sort of adjustment at any point of the year. In 2020, the EU took a bold step by announcing it would no longer use a clock change, whereas there are no plans to change it in this country any time soon.

So, what’s the story?

The first recorded suggestion of daylight saving was made in 1895 by an entomologist from New Zealand called George Hudson, who thought he would have a better chance of capturing insects for study after work. There was some interest, but the idea did not get very far with politicians.

Around seven years later, and totally independently, William Willett proposed the idea to the English parliament in his pamphlet The Waste of Daylight. Despite garnering support from none other than Winston Churchill, its headway never incited a permanent change, even with Willett campaigning for it right up until his death in 1915.

What triggered the change?

Naturally, the only thing which has ever seemed to inspire decisiveness in politicians had to occur, for any form of clock change to be adopted. That was the advent of war - specifically the First World War, when Germany agreed with Willett’s assertions about improvements of productivity and energy-saving.

Fearing that the Germans may have gained an advantage, the British, along with many other countries, followed suit and made the change. By 1918, the British Summer Time Act was passed - but that wasn’t the end of it.

During the Second World War, the British government elected to go a step further, by introducing British Double Summer Time, where the clocks leapt forward an extra hour.

A short, but impactful history

The clock change is a tradition barely 100 years old in the United Kingdom, yet it has become a cultural staple, and is one of the big shifts before the winter. While we’re all pleased when the darker nights end, revel in the cosiness winter may afford you. Catch up on your reading, make a good hearty stew, and mend that hat you didn’t get around to fixing last year.


  1. National Geographic.
  2. RMG.
  3. Time & Date.


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