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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great survey of the way Time is thought of in the West, November 10, 2002
This is a fascinating history of time and the way we measure it in the West. Whitrow covers just about every topic one would expect connected to our concepts of time beginning with the evidence of Prehistory and extending to contemporary physics and philosophy.
My favorite parts are those dealing with the creation of the calendar and the ways that were developed for dividing up the day in the Hellenistic world. I had always taken the names of the months and the length of days in each pretty much for granted, but Whitrow goes into detail about how the egos of the Roman Emperors forced a renumbering of the months so that Augustus could have his month on the calendar have as many days as any other. I had never realized that July was named for Julius and August for Augustus. Whitrow also covers the development and refinement of the calendar over the centuries, and why their was the need for the Gregorian calendar to replace the Julian, and the former's gradual acceptance by all the world.
There is also discussion of the problems of clocks, of the various types, and their development. And special kinds of clocks are covered as well, such as John Harrison's that was recounted in greater detail in Sobel's LONGITUDE.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in how the Western world has developed its ways of thinking about time and how to measure it. Since these concepts undergird virtually everything that happens in our culture, it deals with exceedingly fundamental concepts indeed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent overview on the history of time., November 7, 1997
I had always been curious as to the origin of our calendar, our timing system etc. This book presents a very good introduction to this, and also to the changes in the perception and importance of time to different societies throughout history. It is a good introduction though, and not a book for academic research.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time and History, April 2, 2006
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Many important questions in history and philosophy implicate some conception of time. Likewise, the study of historical events requires some background knowledge of calendars, seasons and holidays. Perhaps for this reason I find myself picking up G. J. Whitrow's TIME IN HISTORY every couple of years and rereading all or part of it. It serves as an admirable refresher to issues that keep popping up.

Whitrow starts with a general discussion of time. Children develop a sense of time gradually. Many primitive cultures have not developed a vocabulary that allows them to distinguish periods of time with any precision.

Whitrow next surveys conceptions of time in various cultures and historical epochs. The creation accounts in different religions all contain some conception of time. Although Western Civilization is generally forward looking, there is a strong conservative tendency as well. As Whithrow points out, the Romans looked with suspicion on something that was a "novelty."

At the end of the book he reviews theories of progress and change, such as those advanced by Bury, Spengler and Toynbee. He also discusses the scientific theories of Leibniz, Newtown and Einstein and the various theories of time involved with each.

For a moderately sized book it is quite comprehensive. To take just one example, Whitrow provides an overview of the controversy surrounding New Testament scholar Oscar Cullman's theory of time in the Judeo-Christian world.
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Time in History: Views of Time from Prehistory to the Present Day
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