Research

The history of timekeeping runs through American histories of modernity and the Enlightenment, the impact of capitalism, the spread of scientific knowledge, and changing perceptions of the natural world. In these works the broad transformation in Western time-consciousness from the Enlightenment to modernity appears as the slow death of natural time and seasonal rhythms, the subduing of calendrical or liturgical measures of time, and the enforcement of abstract measures, ticked-off by machines in ever smaller and more reliable units. But the clock is not the only way to know and note time, as anyone who has spent time wondering about unseasonal weather, anticipating when garden vegetables will ripen, feeling their bodies age, or anticipating the first crocuses in spring can attest. This other history– the history of how non-clock based ways of tracking time changed over the course of the long nineteenth century– is the subject of my dissertation: “Between the Calendar and the Clock: An Environmental History of American Timekeeping Practices, 1680-1920.”