The Time of Enlightenment: Constructing the Future in France, 1750 to Year One
A new idea of the future emerged in eighteenth-century France. With the development of modern biological, economic, and social engineering, the future transformed from being predetermined and beyond significant human intervention into something that could be dramatically affected through actions in the present.
The Time of Enlightenment argues that specific mechanisms for constructing the future first arose through the development of practices and instruments aimed at countering degeneration. In their attempts to regenerate a healthy natural state, Enlightenment philosophes created the means to exceed previously recognized limits and build a future that was not merely a recuperation of the past, but fundamentally different from it. A theoretically inflected work combining intellectual history and the history of science, this book will appeal to anyone interested in European history and the history of science, as well as the history of France, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 240 pages
- Illustrations: 14
- Dimensions: 6.1in x 1.0in x 9.0in
"Drawing on up-to-date scholarship, William Max Nelson engages in interesting ways with the historiography of the Enlightenment and the history of science in the eighteenth century. This study delves deeply into the concept of progress by focusing on references to a constructible future and possibilities, within limits, to change the world for the better."
Denise Davidson, Department of History, Georgia State University
"This is an important book that engages with a rapidly expanding body of work that explores what might be called the history of time. Theoretically sophisticated and exhibiting an impressive command of the literature on the French enlightenment, The Time of Enlightenment offers an important and original historical perspective for those interested in the problem of imagining the future."
Kevin Lambert, Department of Liberal Studies, California State University, Fullerton
"This book is bound to appeal to historians of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, as well as historians of science and those interested in the history of ideas. With William Max Nelson’s elegant phrasing and impressive skill at explicating even complex ideas, any reader would admire the erudition of the study and the panache with which its ideas are expressed."
Thomas Stammers, Department of History, Durham University
Author InformationWilliam Max Nelson is an associate professor of History at the University of Toronto and a co-editor of The French Revolution in Global Perspective.
Table of contents
1. Making Time Different: Historical Change and the Laws of Nature
2. Living the Future: Ideas of Progress and Uncanny Temporality
3. “The Explosion of Light”: The Economic Order and the Scientific Revelation of the Future
4. Generating Time: Buffon and the Biological Instruments of Futurity
5. The Time of Regeneration: Renewal, Rupture, and Beginning Anew in the French Revolution
Conclusion: Colonizing the Future
Subjects and Courses