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,

This blog is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license

Future Wars: Introductory remarks

Introducing a series on future-wars fiction in modern European culture

Ne soyez point en peine de ce Heros inconnu qui se presente à vos yeux. Encore qu’il ne soit pas ny de ce Monde ny de ce Siecle, il n’est pas si farouche ny si barbare, qu’il ne soit capable de faire un beau choix, & qu’il n’ait jugé aussi juste de vostre merite, que l’auroient pû faire tous ceux qui ont l’honneur de vous mieux connoistre.

Jacques Guttin [Michel de Pure], 
Épigone, histoire du siècle futur
 (A Paris: Chez Pierre Lamy, 1659), aij-p.nn.

Late modern and early contemporary imageries related to techno-driven globalization processes are to be found, in some of their most popular and graphic expressions, in visual and literary works of fiction. Made possible by the emergence of new ideas of a secularized historical time, early speculative fiction is an exceptional vantage point from which to observe the birth and development of popular themes and tropes related to those compressions of time and space, which increasingly characterized the world system between the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century.

In the European cultural space, and especially in mature publishing markets such as the French one, speculative fiction set in the future became an apt expression of new imageries related to techno-science, including new communication and transportation systems and the astonishing speed of their development.1 Narratives and illustrations interpreted the appearance of new forms of awareness of globalization processes, becoming part of a communicative circuit, which was expanding its audience at a fast rate, thanks to the increasing presence of the popular press.

In this phase of techno-scientific acceleration and tumultuous changes in cultural habits, speculative fiction began to depict a major shift that had been occurring in the European mind-set during the late modern era: the emergence of a plastic future. New ideas of the future were a consequence of new, secularized temporalizations of history. The conception of historical time as home to linear processes of development was in turn deeply influenced by a close encounter with “others,” by explorations, voyages and the availability of written, figurative and material sources regarding remote parts of the world, which documented Western forms of ethnocentric hierarchization and, at the same time, began the task of problematizing them.2

Fantastic narratives and illustrations can be read as part of a broader social history of ideas of space and time,3 and work as litmus tests of the complex reconfigurations they underwent in the Western mind, as global interconnectedness brought new subjects and issues onto the stage.

The subgenre of imagined future wars developed in relation with the use of alternate history as a means for political propaganda, which could be found from the late seventeenth century onwards in non-fiction tracts and pamphlets, as in some of the examples discussed below. Near the end of the nineteenth century, this literary and visual narrative strand assumed clear-cut characteristics, and articulated concerns regarding instabilities and tensions in international relations, and fears related to the destructive use of those technological innovations that were following one another so rapidly and that were taking centre stage at the great international exhibitions and world fairs. 

The discovery of a selection of Albert Robida’s original sketches for Pierre Giffard’s feuilleton La guerre infernale (1908),4 offers an occasion to connect these various strands and critically assess the role of wars to come in the development of an imagination related to the future, and in the construction of the consciousness of a global, human, earthly destiny.

Recent scholarship in speculative fiction studies and cultural history has produced a few excellent studies tackling speculative fiction as a laboratory for a global space-time between the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century,5and the emergence of science fiction as a genre in the age of colonialism and empires.6 Existing contributions, also when dealing with the specific theme of imagined future wars,7 tend to concentrate on the early-contemporary age, rightfully stressing the significant changes that in that phase affected the European techno-scientific, socio-political and economic system, and their influence on new forms of mass media communication, collective imagery and textual genres.

Histories of science fiction dealing with the development of the genre from ancient times through the ages tend, in turn, to be written from a perspective internal to the science fiction genre..8 While excellently outlining main authors and trends, general histories of science fiction necessarily give up more in-depth analysis of specific themes, and usually broader issues of cultural history remain outside their scope. Such works do not deal, or only marginally, with the connection between speculative imagery and the conceptualization of time, and they often keep their focus on literary expressions, while leaving aside other spheres and levels of public discourse and forms of representation.

The present series of posts, building on existing contributions, aims at fostering a better understanding of imagined future wars in the early contemporary age by locating them within a long history of imagined warfare, including late-seventeenth and eighteenth-century developments, and against the backdrop of the cultural history of time. Furthermore, for late modern and early contemporary expressions, this study – drawing on Robida’s case –, aims at enhancing the deep connections that run between literary, figurative and exhibitionary cultural artefacts in terms of representation strategies and circulation of ideas.



“SF and Globalization,” ed. David Higgins and Rob Latham, special issue, Science Fiction Studies 39, no. 3, 118 (November 2012).

2Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, trans. Keith Tribe (1979; New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

3Peter Burke, “Foreword: The History of the Future, 1350-2000,” in The Uses of the Future in Early Modern Europe, ed. Andrea Brady, Butterworth Emily (New York and London: Routledge, 2010), ix-xx.

4Presently part of the Civico Museo di guerra per la pace “Diego de Henriquez” of the City of Trieste, of which seven are reproduced here (Figures 6-12). Diego de Henriquez, Italian ex-soldier and creator, between the 1940s and the early 1970s, of a notable private collection of armaments, military tools and technologies, documents and books pertinent to the theme of war throughout history, bought fifteen of Robida’s original sketches in 1957, when he found them on a bookstand in Rome. On Henriquez (Trieste 1909-1974) see Antonella Furlan, Antonio Sema, Cronaca di una vita: Diego de Henriquez (Trieste: APT Trieste, 1993); Furlan, La civica collezione Diego de Henriquez di Trieste (Trieste: Rotary Club Trieste-Civici musei di storia ed arte, 2000). On Robida’s sketches within Henriquez collection: Giulia Iannuzzi, “The Cruel Imagination: Oriental Tortures from a Future Past in Albert Robida’s Illustrations for La guerre infernale (1908),” in Law, Justice and Codification in Qing China. European and Chinese Perspectives. Essays in History and Comparative Law, ed. Guido Abbattista (Trieste: EUT, 2017), 193-211, esp. 194, note 3.

5Higgins and Latham “SF and Globalization,” quoted above.

6E.g. Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr, “Empire,” The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, ed. Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, and Sherryl Vint (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), 362-372; John Rieder, Colonialsm and the Emergence of Science Fiction (Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2008). See also Paul K. Alkon’s works cited below.

7E.g. I. F. Clarke, “Future-War Fiction: The First Main Phase, 1871-1900,” Science Fiction Studies, 24, no. 3 (November, 1997): 387-412; I. F. Clarke, “Before and after ‘The Battle of Dorking,’’’ Science Fiction Studies 24, no. 1 (1997): 33-46.

8E.g. Adam Roberts, The History of Science Fiction, 2nd ed. (London: Palgrave, 2016).

This post is adapted from Iannuzzi, G. (2019). “The Illustrator and the Global Wars to Come: Albert Robida, La guerre infernale, and the Long History of Imagined Warfare”, Cromohs – Cyber Review of Modern Historiography22, 95-136; par. “Introductory remarks”, pp. 96-98. DOI: 10.13128/cromohs-11706. Full text available in open access:

See here all posts in the future-wars series

Time / History

Image credit: time visually represented as a linear, unidirectional flow in Sebastian Adams, Synchronological Chart, 1881, detail. Copy at David Rumsey collection, © 2000 by Cartography Associates, under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) licence.

Time is the conceptual axis inevitably underpinning traditional forms of Western historical narration, yet its cultural construction is not often explicitly discussed in contemporary historiography research. Recently postcolonial studies gave momentum to the calling into question of categories such as modernity, progress, crisis, revolution.

R. Koselleck’s work still constitutes a landmark, which is presently enjoying new critical fortune (e.g. excellent essays by L. Hunt 2008 and C. Lorenz 2017 discuss his recent theoretical legacy) as part of current post-colonial questioning of traditional Euro- and/or Western-centric periodizations. In this regard, it seems to me that scholarly attentiveness and theoretical refinement have been on the increase, especially since the nineteen-nineties.

I enjoined dwelling on these and other temporal issues to prepare a seminar conducted by Guido Abbattista in Trieste.

In this occasion I had the pleasure to develop some reflections on time as a dimension in which historical discourse is organized to produce meaning, interrogating what theorists such as Paul Ricoeur and Hayden White contributed to our understanding of causal mechanisms construction in historical research and communication.

Acknowledging how historical processes might look from the perspective of different temporal scales, and fictional scenarios provided by alternate history might also be useful tools to help us see and thematize the “temporal lenses” through which we look at the past.

Cite this article as: Giulia Iannuzzi, "Time / History," in Geographies of Time, 05/02/2020,

This blog is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license

Digital Libraries

Image credit: Thomas Bewick, Fine Library, print, wood engraving on paper, illustrating A Collection of Pretty Poems for the Amusement of Children, 1780. © The Trustees of the British Museum, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

A directory of selected digital libraries, especially focused on Early Modern History, with special sections devoted to the Early Modern North Atlantic and Cartographic and visual materials

> Ongoing updates <

Continue reading “Digital Libraries”

“The Indians are a People that never value their time”

“We are fond of searching into remote Antiquity, to know the Manners of our earliest Progenitors; and, if I am not mistaken, the Indians are living Images of them.”

Colden 1747

I presented this paper – titled “The Indians are a People that never value their time”: Mappature dei “selvaggi” e concettualizzazioni del tempo storico nello spazio nordatlantico del primo Settecento – at the 2019 conference of the Italian Society for the Study of the XVIII century (L’invenzione del passato nel XVIII secolo, 27-29 May 2019).

Aim of this research is to look at and locate conceptions of time as part of the processes that characterized European
encounters with populations perceived and represented as ‘others’ during the eighteenth century, in order to lay bare the connections between the development of new ideas of time and the geographical expansion of Western colonial powers.

Here’s the conference program

Cite this article as: Giulia Iannuzzi, "“The Indians are a People that never value their time”," in Geographies of Time, 28/05/2019,

This blog is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license