No Clockwatching

Time in the early modern world lacked precision, but it did have humanity.

Time stands still: haymaking in July, from the Book of Hours, France, 1510-25.
Time stands still: haymaking in July, from the Book of Hours, France, 1510-25.

Anniversaries are big business. The centenaries, bicentenaries and quincentenaries of major events are hooks on which publishers and TV producers can hang history books and shows. The dates on which key events occurred are etched into our minds. I can probably just give you some dates and you’ll supply the events: 28 June 1914, 2 September 1945, 15 August 1947, 22 November 1963 and 11 September 2001? We live our days by the clock and our lives by the calendar. How old are you? When were you born? Most of you will know these answers without a second thought.

I have found it striking, therefore, to realise that our ancestors did not think like this. I have spent some time working through cases from 16th- and 17th-century France and have slowly recognised that people living then had a completely different relationship to times, dates and years than we do.

The Mediterranean and the Atlantic

David Abulafia | Published 07 February 2018
The explosion in the study of both Mediterranean and Atlantic history, not to mention the history of other seas and oceans, has left one important issue unresolved. What is the relationship between the bodies of water that flow into one another? The links between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic have been largely neglected. Barry Cunliffe’s latest addition to his beautiful collection of volumes about early Europe and the seas around it is, therefore, very welcome. Even if it reprises themes from earlier books, notably his Facing the Ocean , the extension of his argument into the Mediterranean enables him to...Read more »
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Shining a Light on Darkness

Sexual exploitation by powerful men has a long history. Will it ever end?

Unremitting: The Rape  of Lucretia, by Alessandro Varotari, 17th century.
Unremitting: The Rape of Lucretia, by Alessandro Varotari, 17th century.

The revelations about Harvey Weinstein and those of other men who used their privilege for the sexual exploitation of women – and men – with less power than themselves, feels as if it has woken us from sleep. In choosing the ‘Silence Breakers’ as their Person of the Year – all those pictured and an unidentified elbow that speaks of you and #metoo – Time magazine has exalted the efforts of those who let the light in through the cracks.

What troubles me is the idea that the Weinstein phenomenon is a recent excrescence. Yet there is a deep and bitter historical root to this matter that needs to be known, because what we are seeing is ‘history today’: the ritual enacting of behaviours that have long thrived.

The Invention of the Flapper

Tanya Cheadle | Published 16 January 2018
The flapper continues to exert a powerful hold on our collective imagination. A symbol of decadence, ebullience and cynicism, she signifies at once the character of a decade – the 1920s – and the rebellion of a gender. Her genesis is often assumed to be the material deprivations and emotional disruptions of the First World War. Yet, as Linda Simon argues in this deftly written and meticulously researched cultural and experiential history, the flapper had a longer, complex and far more troubled evolution. For Simon, the flapper’s story begins in 1890s Britain and America. This is justified both etymologically –...Read more »
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