Marking Time: Objects in Early Modern History

During the early modern period, people’s relationship with the concept of time and their personal experience of it underwent a series of revolutions – leading to the habitual dating of everyday objects. The advent of affordable pendulum clocks and the arrival of the pocket watch, which enabled accurate timekeeping to the minute, provided individuals with a powerful, new experience of travelling through time and space.

Many of the objects catalogued in Marking Time: Objects, People, and Their Lives, 1500-1800 were made and dated to mark significant (but commonplace) moments in the course of an individual’s life such as the birth of a child, completing an apprenticeship, marriage, or death. Others intertwine with events and figures that held significance on a national or even global scale. For example, a modest brass tobacco box, dated 1725, marks the date that John Linder graduated from St John’s College, Cambridge and began his career as a clergyman; it is a personal memento that celebrates the individual achievements of a young man from Yorkshire. At the same time it is also an object made to satisfy a cultural habit derived from the Britain’s increasingly unchecked colonial ambitions and the profits of international trade, often founded upon the ensnarement and enslavement of others who then toiled unseen in lands “beyond the seas”.


Use the interactive timeline below to learn more about a selection of the small, everyday objects featured in Marking Time that can be linked with key events in early modern British history, such as the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot and the execution of Charles I, in the most remarkable of ways...

Marking Time: Objects, People and Their Lives, 1500-1800 is an engaging, encyclopaedic account of the material world of early modern Britain as told through a unique collection of dated objects.

Distributed for the Yale Center for British Art – Visit their website here.

Want to learn more about Marking Time?

Share this

You must be logged in to post a comment