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We live in a technological age. From televisions to the internet, our daily lives are shaped by modern technology. But what exactly is the relationship between technology and modernity? Did one produce the other? In this seminar, we approach this subject through the close study of a single technology: the clock. Innocuous at first glance, the clock has played a major role in social, economic and cultural transformation throughout history. However, the exact relationship between the clock and modernity is subject to intense scholarly debate. In this seminar, we engage with this debate by revisiting a number of classic texts.

Seminar Questions

  • Is the modern world characterised by a transition to clock-time?
  • What motivated the standardisation of time?
  • Does the material and technological form of the clock matter?
  • What methods and theories have informed the history of technology?

Core Readings
Thompson, E. P., ‘Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism’, Past & Present, 38 (1967)

Ingold, Tim, ‘Work, Time and Industry’, Time & Society, 4 (1995)

Ogle, Vanessa, ‘Whose Time Is It? The Pluralization of Time and the Global Condition, 1870s–1940s’, The American Historical Review, 118 (2013)

Additional Readings
Aveni, Anthony, Empires of Time: Calendars, Clocks and Cultures (London: I. B. Tauris: 1990)

Bartky, Ian, Selling the True Time: Nineteenth-Century Timekeeping in America (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000)

Bartky, Ian, One Time Fits All: The Campaigns for Global Uniformity (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007)

Bartky, Ian, ‘The Adoption of Standard Time’, Technology and Culture, 30 (1989)

Bender, John, and David E. Wellbery (eds), Chronotypes: The Construction of Time (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991)

Forman, Frieda, and Caoran Sowton (eds), Taking Our Time: Feminist Perspectives on Temporality (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1989)

Gay, Hannah, ‘Clock Synchrony, Time Distribution and Electrical Timekeeping in Britain 1880–1925’, Past & Present, 181 (2003)

Glennie, Paul, and Nigel Thrift, ‘Reworking E. P. Thompson’s 'Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism’’, Time & Society, 5 (2016)

Glennie, Paul, and Nigel Thrift, Shaping the Day: A History of Timekeeping in England and Wales 1300-1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

Landes, David, Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000)

Ogle, Vanessa, The Global Transformation of Time: 1870-1950 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015)

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization and Perception of Time and Space (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 1986)

Stephens, Carlene, ‘“The Most Reliable Time”: William Bond, the New England Railroads, and Time Awareness in 19th-Century America’, Technology and Culture, 30 (1989)

Alongside these readings, you may wish to search the journal Time & Society for further articles and ideas when writing essays.