“As Time Goes by”? Time as a Category of Measurement, Transfer and Experience in 19th and early 20th century Europe
21 09 2022
We would like to invite you to a conference organised on 22-23 September 2022, as part of the project funded by Action IV.3.1 “Internal grants of the University of Warsaw”.
Time had long been crucial for history, religion, philosophy, travelling, art, business, the sciences, and everyday experience. However, the 19th century brought an essential change: vast local times became the subject of measurement and standardisation. The process concluded with the embodied idea of universal time: the same for all the inhabitants of the Earth.
A London conference in 1884 adopted a universal day of 24 hours beginning at Greenwich midnight. By about 1900, almost all countries had adopted a standard time zone. Some of them used an hourly offset from GMT. Despite “structural” decisions – the variety of local times was an important factor of the everyday experience of individuals and communities for many decades onward.
The idea of the conference focuses on time as an element of human experience, a category of culture and a tool used for designing and governing the lives of people and societies. Those themes also refer to broader reflection concentrated on the 19th century as the beginning of rapid globalisation – contrary to the typical focus on the development of nationalism separating societies and states in all possible dimensions: political, social, cultural ones.
We want to look at how people of the long 19th century and early 20th century tried to include, invent, and change time in different ways and with different tools: clocks, time zones, telegraphs, travelling, modern media, and how these mechanisms of measuring and controlling time gained importance for everyday life, public and cultural discourses, and political conflicts. Time measurements should serve as perfect focal points within and between communities.
The time went by – but loaded with many social functions and symbolic meanings. The power over it was technical; it created a mechanism of influencing the lifestyle of individuals and communities, effective leverage working for changing inherited from past feudal schemes of prestige and power, changing theatre of royal courts into a unified, standardised time of the working classes.