The decline of magic is generally discussed in the context of the rise of scientific knowledge and the spread of education. In this original critique, Maureen Perkins challenges such interpretations and argues that the nineteenth-century marginalisation of ‘superstition’ is part of a social history of time management. Perkins summarises the development of a sense of British temporal superiority and tackles enduring questions of colonialisation and class from the unusual angle of beliefs about time. She relates differing concepts of time to colonial discourse, particularly in relation to gypsies and Australian Aborigines, and to the development of national identity in calendar illustrations. She surveys technological developments in the calculation of time, and assesses the role of popular beliefs in astrology, books of fate, and prophetic dreaming. This fascinating study reveals how the increasing importance of accurate measurement of time in the modern world led to campaigns against the fatalism and apathy which popular practices, such as fortune-telling, supposedly encouraged.
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Maureen Perkins is a Research Fellow in the School of Communication and Cultural Studies at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia,. She is the author of Visions of the Future: Almanacs, Time, and Cultural Change 1775 - 1870 (OUP, 1996), and editor of 'Third Space and Cross-Cultural Identities' an edition of the electronic journal Mots Pluriels.
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