How Europe Used Time to Rule the World

Imperial Times. How Europe Used Time to Rule the World (XVIII-XIX Centuries) – introducing History of Historiography 77 (2020)

Aim of the introduction to the monographic issue Imperial Times. How Europe Used Time to Rule the World (XVIII-XIX Centuries) is to throw into relief current debates demonstrating the need for greater academic research into imperial times.

The question that underlies the contributions to the special issue is how to synchronise the study of history in a postcolonial age; how to navigate history while accounting for the traditional uses of concepts like the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and Modernity.

This introduction critically distances the logic underpinning periodisations by challenging the uncritical use of a given interval of time as the basis of a neutral partitioning, and takes stock of how postcolonial studies and global historians have drawn attention, in recent years, to the contingent and political origins of these timeframes.

It contends that, for all the talk about a “temporal” and an “imperial turn”, time and empire still appear, at times, to be largely undertheorized in relation to each other. It highlights new conceptualisations brought to the study of temporality in relation to empire by the history of emotions, and of material cultures, put forward by the study of gendered subjectivities, and stimulated by the attention to long-term shifts favoured by novel methodology of environmental history. It takes stock of Reinhart Koselleck’s influence on these historiographical turns, and of recent re-evaluations of his work on time and concepts.

A special emphasis on the eighteenth century seeks to contribute new perspectives on overlooked imperial dynamics that influenced the politics of time during that period.  Industrialisation; modern timekeeping; the growth of the novel; the combination of the antiquarian’s methods and philosophical history, all were once said to have changed the experience of time in eighteenth-century Europe.

Drawing on the hypothesis that conceptions of the future are crucial to our understanding of ideas and practices of time, tradition, history, and change, this introduction also discusses our conception of the history of utopian times, and the specific ties the future has to the history of imperial conceptions and projects.

The concluding section is devoted to present the methodological purpose behind the special issue: to set out four case studies to trace new pathways for the study of the imperial legacies in the making of a global history of time.

I am very grateful to the other contributors of Imperial Times for the productive discussions we had while working together on this project.

Full bibliographical data:

Matilde Cazzola, Edward Jones Corredera, Giulia Iannuzzi, and Guido G. Beduschi, Introduction. Imperial Times. Towards a History of Imperial Uses of Time
pp. 11-23, DOI: 10.19272/202011501001

Histoire de l’Historiographie · History of Historiography · Geschichte der Geschichtsschreibung

Fabrizio Serra editore, Pisa – Roma
77, 2020/1

Full text is available on the publisher’s website and via the Torrossa platform

Contact me at giannuzzi <at> if you wish to receive a pre-print version for research and teaching purposes.

Cite this article as: Giulia Iannuzzi, "How Europe Used Time to Rule the World," in Geographies of Time, 05/05/2021,

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