This chapter provides an introduction to the historiography of how time has been studied and outlines the themes of the book. The literature on work-life balance is criticised for its lack of historical perspective. The ‘leisure preference’ of male workers in the early eighteenth century is contrasted with the increasing hours of work up to 1830 and then their progressive decline up to 1970. Over the same period, childhood and retirement became perceived as time without work. The period since then has been marked by a halt to the decline in working hours and women’s increasing participation in the labour market. Time, it is argued, is both linear and cyclical, its history intimately bound up with the histories of space, of class, of Christianity and of economic life.
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