Time Lord | Clark Blaise

Have you ever imagined what life was like before time zones? Every village had their own time. Noon was when the sun stood directly overhead. New Year’s Eve was a wave of celebration that spread town-by-town across the country. None of this was really a problem until the advent of railways. All of a sudden you had to explain to people at both ends of a route what time the train was leaving and arriving. You can imagine the confusion.

Time Lord is marketed as a biography of Sir Sanford Fleming, but it’s really much broader than that. It’s a history of the late Victorian era when people’s understanding of time radically shifted. Blaise’s work draws significantly on literature to describe people’s attitudes towards time.

Fleming is the perfect candidate through which to explore this era. He’s known for three main things: surveying a good portion of Canada’s cross-country railroad, leading the world to a conference where time was standardized, and laying a world-circling sub-Pacific cable. All three major elements of life swirl around the question of what time is and how it should be described.

Some might feel that the book meanders a little too much. One of the chapters, for example, is almost exclusively devoted to Sherlock Holmes. I, on the other hand, found the leisurely journey through the late nineteenth-century quite fascinating.

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