When does the century end, and what happened to the reference guide about it?

The source of the confusion over when a century ends is easy to discern. For a hundred years, we dated our documents with year designations beginning with the digits, "19". Obviously, when we began to date them starting with "20," we embarked on a new century!

Didn't we?

The answer is no, we did not; we merely arrived at the last year of the 20th century. As historians and others involved in measuring time continue to remind us, there was no year 0. In fact, there has never been a system of recording reigns, dynasties, or eras that did not designate its first year as the year 1. To complete a century, one must complete 100 years; the first century of our era ran from the beginning of A.D. 1 to the end of A.D. 100; the second century began with the year A.D. 101.

A chronological guide to writings on the century was published by the Library of Congress in 1995, and is currently available on the HathiTrust website. The Battle of the Centuries, a list of references compiled by Ruth S. Freitag, a senior bibliographer in the then Science and Technology division, cites more than 200 pamphlets and articles in periodicals and newspapers, beginning at the close of the 17th century, that relate to the conflict.

As for the "Battle of the Centuries" reference guide, the Library of Congress is completing a project to update and modernize Library reading room websites. As a part of the process, the Science Section has re-evaluated its web content, migrating some guides and removing others. While no longer hosted on the Reading Room website, the “Battle of the Centuries” remains ongoing at HathiTrust!


Last Updated: Nov 22, 2023
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