About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks

Written by:
David Rooney
Narrated by:
David Rooney

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
October 2021
9 hours 57 minutes
For thousands of years, people of all cultures have made and used clocks: city sundials in ancient Rome, medieval water clocks in imperial China, hourglasses fomenting revolution in the Middle Ages, the Stock Exchange clock of Amsterdam in 1611, Enlightenment observatories in India, high-precision clocks circling the Earth on
a fleet of GPS satellites that have been launched since 1978. Clocks have helped us navigate the world and build empires, and have even taken us to the brink of destruction. Elites have used them to wield power, make money, govern citizens, and control lives—and sometimes the people have used them to fight back.
Through the stories of twelve clocks, About Time brings pivotal moments from the past vividly to life. Historian and lifelong clock enthusiast David Rooney takes us from the unveiling of al-Jazari’s castle clock in 1206, in present-day Turkey; to the Cape of Good Hope observatory at the southern tip of Africa, where nineteenth century
British government astronomers moved the gears of empire with a time ball and a gun; to the burial of a plutonium clock now sealed beneath a public park in Osaka, where it will keep time for 5,000 years.
Rooney shows, through these artifacts, how time has been imagined, politicized, and weaponized over the centuries—and how it might bring peace. Ultimately, he writes, “the technical history of horology is only the start of the story. … A history of clocks is a history of civilization.”
Profile Avatar
Lis C.

This is a history, not of time, but of timekeeping and clocks, and how clocks have changed our lives. Rooney grew up with parents who were clockmakers, and pursued a career in the maintenance and history of technology generally and clocks in particular, and is a former curator of timekeeping at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. He's also very focused on how clocks and timekeeping have been politicized and weaponized. Sometimes this can be annoying; sometimes it's just weirdly ironic. He offers us at the start the story of KAL Flight 007, the Korean commercial airliner shot down after entering Soviet airspace on September 1, 1983. I'm not going to rehash the details, some of which the Russians still dispute, but this was a civilian airliner that made a course error in its navigation system--an error that would have been avoided with now-routine use of GPS to check its actual location. Rooney goes over the details of the course error, why GPS would have prevented it, and notes that the first, experimental, purely military GPS satellites were in orbit. The system wouldn't be available for civilian use for years. After explaining how 269 lives could have been saved by the precision clocks aboard the GPS satellites, Rooney tells us this system is not benign, because it's military. Okay. But it still would have saved 269 lives had it been in use that day, and hit has saved a great many lives since. It's not the only thing, by any means, invented by the military, for military use, that has also become tremendously useful in the civilian world. This is a fascinating history of clocks and timekeeping, and its impacts, economically, socially, philosophically, scientifically. But Rooney is most focused on the impact of clocks as instruments of control, and oppression. He's not wrong, but at the same time, I don't agree that in all cases it's the clocks that are the problem (sometimes they are a major contributing factor, though), or even that all the effects he dislikes are actually bad. And yet this is a fascinating book to listen to, and the history it tells is absorbing. And Rooney absolutely loves clocks, and describes individual clocks, and the progress of timekeeping technology, in loving and fascinating detail. Recommended. I bought this audiobook.

Profile Avatar
Renee M.

David Roony's cleverly utilizes the myriad forms of time-keeping devices to invite us back in time to view how they - and time itself - have served as a force in shaping civilization. Time becomes a fabulous lens through which to view history, and the evolution of time-keeping becomes symbolic of our own evolution as people. He demonstrates how clocks and time help, hinder, control, enslave, and free us. While the time-keeping devices hold no power beyond what we ascribe to them, he eruditely illustrates how we have used them, empowered them, and ascribed meaning to them. The book is read by the author, and his Scottish accent flows through his words, delivered with the passion he feels for this subject. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy this book, but I learned so many interesting aspects of history not often found in history books, and developed new perspectives on the concept of time and its role in my life. Highly recommend this wonderful book!

About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks
This title is due for release on October 19, 2021.

Enter your email below to be notified as soon as it is available!

By clicking "Notify Me" you consent to receiving electronic marketing communications from Audiobooks.com. You will be able to unsubscribe at any time.

Already a member? Log In to add this title to your wishlist.
About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks
This title is due for release on October 19, 2021
We'll send you an email as soon as it is available!

Already a member?
Log in to add this title in your wishlist
About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks
Please Log in and add this title to your wishlist.
About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks

We will send you an email as soon as this title is available.

1 book added to cart
View Cart