continues a recent trend of small, focused books that closely examine particular topics in history and present them in clear, well-written prose for non-specialists. Inevitably the book brings to mind such recent works as Dava Sobel's Longitude and Tom Standage's book on telegraphy, The Victorian Internet. Like Sobel and Standage, Clark Blaise uses his narrow focus to examine in detail an important historical event that is largely overlooked.
Time Lord is the fascinating story of how one man devised and promoted (and finally achieved) worldwide consensus on the measurement of time. It may surprise readers to learn that Standard Time, measured into official days with official time zones, was established as late as 1884, during an era marked by transoceanic ships and transcontinental trains a period in which the world grew smaller. Local variations in timekeeping were no longer acceptable. To remedy the situation, Sandford Fleming, a Canadian surveyor and engineer, worked behind the scenes to facilitate a scientific consensus, then took his battle for standardized time to political representatives. The result is recorded in the imaginary lines drawn on every globe and map to this day: 24 one-hour time zones; the International Date Line; and a consensus on the measurement of longitude and the establishment of a prime meridian at Greenwich, England a not-so-subtle, Victorian way of cementing Europe's hegemony, even in abstractions such as time. Blaise's style in this compelling narrative is lively and witty. Illuminating other issues raised by the changes of Sandford's hectic era, he also provides clear and fascinating discourse on such topics as the impact of railway travel on philosophical and aesthetic debates not to mention social etiquette. The reader can't help but wonder what Sandford Fleming would have said about our own era of jet planes, automobiles and e-mails. Such speculation helps clarify the virtues of books such as Time Lord : these narratives help us stop taking our own time for granted and make us remember that even the most overlooked aspects of our daily lives are rich with history and romance.