Professor of medieval and early history Gerhard Dohrn-Van Rossum might suggest (if pressed) it was the clock that fueled the Industrial Revolution, not the steam engine. Scholars of European history concur that the shift in time consciousness began in the Middle Ages with the transition from agrarian to industrial society and that ever since, the patterns of daily life have been dominated to a high degree by the constraints and pressures of time. But we'd be hard put to find any volume that approximates Dohrn-Van Rossum's-the pages of which posit the clock as a symbol of the process of European modernization as well as the description of the mental differences between old Europe and the modern world as well as European, North American, Japanese societies and the so-called Third World. His first two chapters on classical and medieval hour-reckoning summarize current clock-knowledge and lay the groundwork for Dohrn-Van Rossum's original research on the medieval hours, the development of the wheeled clock and the public clock, late medieval clockmakers, communal bells and municipal signal systems, the ordering of modern hour-reckoning, concepts of work time and hourly wage, and time-keeping's standardization up to the time of ''World Time'' conventions. Interestingly, these conventions established the hour standard astronomically, much like the earliest keepers of time-until the atom was discovered and time began to be clocked by its 9,192,631,770 oscillations per second. Dohrn-Van Rossum's history illuminates the mostly mindless routine by which we order our modern lives.
An Eighth Day View:
In this sweeping study of the organization of time, Dohrn-van Rossum offers fresh insight into the history of the mechanical clock and its influence on European society from the late Middle Ages to the industrial revolution. Detailing the clock's effects on social activity, he presents a vivid picture of a society regulated by the precise measurement of identical hours.
"In tracing the evolution of time consciousness with scholarship and skill . . . Dohrn-van Rossum evokes the many ways that the small moments of life have come to be reckoned with the passage of time."--Dava Sobel, "Civilization"
"Dohrn-van Rossum paints a highly nuanced picture of time's conquest of modern life."--Steven Lagerfeld, "Wilson Quarterly"
"This book is definitive in showing the clock's pervasive influence over European society."--"Virginia Quarterly Review"
" A] delightful, excellently translated history."--"Choice"
"Dohrn-van Rossum has produced a persuasive and brilliantly documented new understanding of how modern time-consciousness arose."--Owen Gingerich, "Nature"