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A Republic in TimeTemporality and Social Imagination in Nineteenth-Century America$
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Thomas M. Allen

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780807831793

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807868171_allen

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Time In The Land

Time In The Land

(p.146) 4 Time In The Land
A Republic in Time

Thomas M. Allen

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter focuses on the revolutions in natural time that took place in the nineteenth century. It examines how the expansion of the temporal scale in the nineteenth century by major developments in natural history, especially geology, shaped American thinking about history and nationhood. Between about 1750 and 1860, a series of naturalists and science writers including Comte de Buffon, James Hutton, John Playfair, Charles Lyell, Louis Agassiz, and Charles Darwin revolutionized the Western world's understanding of time by expanding the scale of the earth's history from thousands to millions of years. This shift was brought about by major theoretical and methodological developments in the sciences of geology and biology, developments that were disseminated through the literate public by books and reviews written for an intelligent lay audience.

Keywords:   natural time, temporal scale, natural history, naturalists, Comte de Buffon, James Hutton, John Playfair, Charles Lyell, Louis Agassiz, Charles Darwin

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