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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2018

Lines in “the stream of time” (Tidens Strøm)

A comparison of three chronological charts from nineteenth-century Denmark

From the book SpatioTemporalities on the Line

  • Holger Berg


The chronological charts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are generally recognised as precursors of the graph and the timeline. While the modern timeline is of ‘breadthless length’ and thus fulfils Euclid’s definition, breadth is crucial to the lines on chronological charts. These charts used the axes of time and spatio-political power to provide a visual overview of world history in the form of a delta, The Stream of Time. While the History of the Timeline by David Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton has tracked overall developments in Latin Christendom from Eusebius until our day, the flourishing of chronological charts in the nineteenth century has yet to be mapped and explored. My article addresses this gap through a case-study of three chronological charts that were produced in Denmark between 1817 and 1841. The lines in the three charts are analysed along with the concepts of time and space expressed in the text companions. The analysis uncovers significant variation and shows why it makes sense to speak of ‘time columns’ instead of timelines. A final section on the production of chronological charts and their adaptation in teaching shows how charts had a major impact on notions of time and history. The conclusion relates the findings to Ingold’s overarching theses on lines and adds some necessary historical nuance. The outlook also connects the Danish chronological charts to the two alternative teaching aids, historical atlases and chronological tables.

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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