The Global Transformation of Time, 1870–1950

In This Review

The Global Transformation of Time, 1870–1950
By Vanessa Ogle
Harvard University Press, 2015
288 pp.

The second half of the nineteenth century fascinates global historians. Rising European power and influence reached a climax and created an early form of globalization. For better or worse, the West and the rest of the world discovered their interconnectedness. As Ogle notes in this fascinating account of the establishment of “global time,” an interconnected world required standard measures of time and space. Capitalism and a global economy demanded that large numbers of people organize and synchronize the prosaic stuff of a modern industrial life—production cycles, work schedules, delivery dates—across great distances. But Ogle is more interested in the ways in which the concept of global time helped create what she calls a “global imagination,” in which peoples and societies could be understood as parts of a single, developing world system. In this way, Ogle argues, the standardization of time reflected and reproduced the world’s European-led power hierarchies. International clocks and calendars united the world, but they also revealed and sometimes reinforced its inequities. 

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