[whatwg] Historic dates in HTML5

Jim O'Donnell jim at eatyourgreens.org.uk
Wed Mar 4 15:29:52 PST 2009


Apologies for coming in late but Bruce Lawson pointed me in the  
direction of this discussion  I had some comments about dates in HTML5.

Lachlan Hunt wrote:
"The time element was primarily designed to address use cases involving
contemporary dates.  It doesn't address non-Gregorian calendars or BCE
dates by design, as it is not really meant for historical dates.

Probably the most historical dates that it would really be suitably
optimised for are people's birthdates, which, for people alive today,
don't really extend back beyond the early 20th century, with very few

Has any consideration been given to using the <time> tag in the same  
manner as the <date> element from TEI to mark up dates, particularly  
the calendar attribute to indicate non-Gregorian calendars? (see  

I ask because one of the sites I look after is the National Maritime  
Museum archive search, which includes ~70,000 records dating from the  
16th century to present. Of those, around 3,500 predate the Gregorian  
calendar and have, presumably, Julian dates: http://is.gd/lFrh
It would be useful to mark up these dates as dates in the HTML  
versions of the catalogue records. However, from what Lachlan Hunt  
has said, it seems the <time> tag in HTML5 can't be used to do this.  
This then leads to a situation where some dates on the web can be  
marked up, semantically, as dates but others cannot, which seems  
somewhat ridiculous really.

Is there any suitable markup in HTML5 for dates in digitised  
documents from museums, libraries and archives?

Jim O'Donnell
jim at eatyourgreens.org.uk

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