Today’s the day! The Clocks are Telling Lies is available now in bookstores near you.
The book is a scholarly investigation into the early days of global timekeeping, when engineers and astronomers vied for control over how the world would coordinate their clocks. If that sounds interesting, here’s what to expect:
- Its a five-part book: the first chapter tells the story of standard time and time zones, which were not so much ‘invented’ as ‘negotiated’ by activists like Sandford Fleming, William Allen, and Cleveland Abbe, who fought to make their ideas mainstream, while the broader scientific community remained largely unconvinced.
- Read chapter two if you’ve ever wondered what the transit of Venus, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and organized religion have in common, or what they have to do with timekeeping. Professions as diverse as archaeology and astronomy influenced the measurement of time, so this chapter covers a lot of ground discussing the context of the time debates.
- If international diplomacy is your jam, chapter three is for you. Its a deep dive into the day-by-day activities of the Prime Meridian Conference of 1884, where the battle for control over global timekeeping and mapmaking came to a head.
- Chapter four looks at how ordinary people in Britain reacted to standard time, including things like the birth of a new time-selling industry, where Greenwich time was sold by telegraph wire and door-to-door.
- The last chapter is largely about North American schools, and how they played a key role in teaching a generation of youth to tell time in a manner different from their parents. Its also about how that effort often failed, or was repurposed to suit different needs. From elementary schools to universities, timekeeping was never a straightforward subject.
Writing this book has been a seven-year journey, and to see it out in the world for readers like you to enjoy is a gift beyond compare. I hope you find it compelling. If in some small way The Clocks are Telling Lies inspires you to think critically about how our societies create, negotiate, and reshape themselves, then I will have done my job. The ways we live (not just our timekeeping practices) aren’t inevitable. Change is possible. And persistence pays off in the quest for a better world.
Where to get The Clocks are Telling Lies:
McGill-Queen’s University Press