Timing the world

Forty years ago, historian E P Thompson suggested that the ‘invention’ of clock time facilitated the Industrial Revolution – a ‘horological revolution’ where the mass production of mechanical clocks allowed time to be turned into a regulated commodity instead of the earlier seasonal, sunrise-sunset regimes.

A new book by geographers Paul Glennie and Nigel Thrift (Shaping the day: a history of timekeeping in England and Wales 1300-1800) rejects this notion, maintaining that timing lives was well-established back in the pre-industrial world, when public clocks proclaimed their ‘soundmarks’ throughout the day. Even in rural communities they suggest there was a well established working week – 6am to 6pm, Tuesday to Saturday, with Sunday and Monday comprising the weekend.

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