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History of Daylight Saving Time in Europe

Germany was the first country in Europe to implement Daylight Saving Time (DST) on April 30, 1916. This practice of switching times twice a year was controversial and was not adopted by many countries until the early 1980s.

Astronomical clock in Prague, the Czech Republic.

Astronomical clock in Prague, the Czech Republic.

Many countries in Europe change their clocks to observe daylight saving time on the last Sunday of March each year. Pictured above is a clock in Prague, the Czech Republic's capital city.


Today, most countries in Europe follow a synchronized DST, or summer time, schedule that lasts from the last Sunday of March to the last Sunday of October.

It Began With World War I

Several European countries started using Daylight Saving Time during the First World War, which lasted from July 1914 until November 1918.

Germany stopped using DST in 1919 and Austria in 1921, while the United Kingdom, Ireland, and cities like Paris in France kept on setting their clocks back and forth.

And Divided France

The French had mixed feelings about DST: The rural population didn't like it and got rid of it by 1920, but Paris and other major cities still favored it. In 1923, the French Cabinet decided that the time would remain the same, but working hours would start and stop 30 minutes earlier between April 28 and November 3.

Imposed During World War II

During the Second World War, Hitler’s commanders imposed DST as they moved through Europe, but it did not always work. Denmark was one of the countries that adopted DST during the war. The French initially resisted DST at the beginning of the war, but by 1941 they were officially on “Hitler time.” Some French patriots, however, stuck to the old French time, 2 hours behind the Berlin-based DST.

Used for National Rebuilding

DST was also implemented in the aftermath of World War II mainly to help people conserve fuel for national recovery and rebuilding programs.

However, many European countries later abandoned Daylight Saving Time, as it became a reminder of the war itself and the humiliation of foreign occupation. Both the Italians and the French repealed DST after clearing up the debris of German occupation. In fact, the French refused to adopt DST until the worldwide oil shortage during the 1970s. In 1975, the French adopted DST as a way to increase savings by reducing lighting needs. This was done by better matching operating hours with daylight hours to limit the use of artificial lighting.

1980s Onwards

By the early 1980s, many countries of the European Union were using Daylight Saving Time, but they had different practices, thus impeding transport schedules and communications within the continent. In 1996, the European Union (EU) standardized an EU-wide DST schedule, which runs from the last Sunday of March through the last Sunday of October.

Topics: Daylight Saving Time, Timekeeping, History

Daylight Saving Time Changes:


Daylight Saving Time – DST

  1. What is DST?
  2. One Hour Back or Forward?
  3. What is Standard Time?
  4. Savings or Saving?
  5. Pros and Cons of DST
  6. Your Health and DST
  7. Summer or Winter Time?
  8. History of DST
  9. History of DST in Europe
  10. DST Statistics

Time Zones & DST

Time Zone Library

  1. What is a Time Zone?
  2. How Many Time Zones Are There?
  3. Half Hour & 45 Minute Time Zones
  4. What is Standard Time?
  5. What's the International Date Line?
  6. When Were Time Zones Introduced?
  7. USA Time Zones
  8. UK's Time Zones: GMT and BST
  9. Canada's Time Zones
  10. Australia’s Time Zones
  11. Antarctica's Time Zones

Time Zones Worldwide

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