Tag: University of Pennsylvania

Symposium: “Global Histories of Taxation and State Finances Since the Late 19th Century,” Basel, December 1-3, 2016

If you’re a long-time follower of our interviews with global historians at the Global History Forum, you may recall one of our very first interviews with University of Pennsylvania historian Vanessa Ogle — then on her first book, The Global Transformation of Time, published with Harvard University Press in 2015. As we noted in our interview…

Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Perry World House (University of Pennsylvania)

For those of you looking for post-doctoral fellowships with later deadlines, here’s another neat opportunity. At the University of Pennsylvania, the Global Innovations Institute at Perry World House has announced its inaugural post-doctoral program, part of the larger remit of Perry World House to “connect Penn to the international policy world through research, student engagement,…

Globalizing Time, Globalizing Capital: A Conversation with Vanessa Ogle

It’s a familiar routine for scholars of global history. Having squeezed in a visit to an archive during a spring break or stretch of summer vacation, you get off the airplane in a foreign land, stretch your legs, and feel, in spite of the local caffeine injection, tired. You set your watch, several hours ahead if coming from the United States and several hours back if coming to Europe and try to make the best of the first day on foreign soil.

Soon, however, jet lag sets in. You either fall asleep in your dinner or wake up hours before the local bakers do. Exhausted, you read tips on how to beat the exhaustion, where you learn that the body needs an equivalent number of days to time zones crossed to beat off the exhaustion. The scholar coming from California to Moscow, for example, has eleven days of misery to endure before he or she is fully up to date with local time. You remain grateful for the chance to pursue your research, but, counting the time zones, groan at the routine.

It’s a familiar routine for many, indeed, but not as old as one might think. Until the late 19th century, as University of Pennsylvania professor and global historian Vanessa Ogle shows in her work, efforts towards a global standardization of time ranged from negligible to chaotic. The standardization of time that we have today, and the divisions that we use–Central European Time from Madrid to Montenegro, Greenwich Mean Time, and scientifically controlled Coordinated Universal Time to keep time zones themselves punctual–are all relatively recent inventions.

Unpacking this story, and seeing how contentious the seemingly most universal thing in the world–time–could be are great themes for global history. That’s why the Global History Forum was excited to sit down to interview Ogle, who is close to publishing her findings on the history of time standardization and well underway on a second project on the global history of “archipelago capitalism.” Speaking over coffee, we discussed her journey to global history, her first project, and her current work.