M930.50.1.896 | Clock

John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
4.8 x 3.7 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Miscellaneous (671) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

Work, Duty and Pleasure Redefined

Leisure is as old as human history. The need to relax, have fun and enjoy has always existed. However, the definition of leisure has changed over time. In traditional societies, leisure and lifestyle were closely linked. In rural and even urban areas, work fluctuated with the seasons. Labour-intensive periods were followed by a spell of recreation and relaxation that lasted until it was time for the next task. The advent of industrialization in the 1840s brought about a growing regimentation of time. With the introduction of working discipline and fixed shifts came a clear divide between the hours devoted to work and those spent on leisure and other pursuits.

  • What

    The word "clock" originally denoted a bell. The first clocks were mechanical devices for ringing steeple bells to ensure punctual attendance at church services, work shifts and public events.

  • Where

    Clocks were used in the workplace to measure working hours, but they also marked the division between labour and leisure.

  • When

    Although clocks were invented early on -- in the 12th century -- they came into general use only with industrialization -- in the 19th century.

  • Who

    Owners and workers often clashed over workday length in the 1800s. People today still organize their lives around given numbers of working and leisure hours.