HISTORY

About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks

Norton. Aug. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9780393867930. $28.95. HIST
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Time and timekeeping are often said to have transformed civilization; see, for instance, the widespread theory that innovations in mechanical clockwork forever changed medieval society. In his new book, horologist-geographer Rooney (Spaces of Congestion and Traffic) goes into great detail about the relationship between civilization and timekeeping. He analyzes the innovations and impacts of timekeeping devices from around the world, including a third-century BCE sundial at the Roman Forum, the 1611 Amsterdam Stock Exchange clock, and the Plutonium Timekeeper of Osaka, built in 1970 and placed into a time capsule to be opened in the year 6970. Rooney also discusses, for instance, the social implications of the clock tower at the British Raj–founded Mayo College in Ajmer, India, and its domination of the surrounding landscape. Readers will appreciate Rooney’s history of timekeeping, from ancient sundials, to the water clocks of imperial China, to medieval hourglasses and mechanical clocks, to the Greenwich Royal Observatory. This book discusses timekeeping in terms of scientific innovation, artistry, and political power.
VERDICT An interesting book for world history readers, especially those interested in the history of science or art.
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