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The Secular Enlightenment$
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Margaret C. Jacob

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691161327

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691161327.001.0001

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Time Reinvented

Time Reinvented

(p.33) 2 Time Reinvented
The Secular Enlightenment

Margaret C. Jacob

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how time was understood during the Enlightenment. The eighteenth century opened with many ordinary people as well as the highly educated believing that human time and the age of the earth coincided. The key to finding the hidden meaning of human time lay largely in the prophetic books of the Bible. In just a hundred years, three generations of eighteenth-century Euro-Americans questioned all inherited orthodoxies, and they did so within the framework of putting in place a new, secular understanding of time. They moved from Christian to modern time as it is known today. For twelve years from 1793 onward, the French nation abided by a new calendar that erased Christian time entirely. By 1800, time became an entirely human invention without end, open to the narratives of every individual life. Just as time expanded conceptually, technology in the form of clocks and pocket watches brought it into daily living.

Keywords:   time, Enlightenment, human time, secular, Christian time, modern time, calendar, clocks, pocket watches

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