Read A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor Online


Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects takes a bold, original approach to human history, exploring past civilizations through the objects that defined them. Encompassing a grand sweep of human history, A History of the World in 100 Objects begins with one of the earliest surviving objects made by human hands, a chopping tool from the Olduvai gorge in AfricaNeil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects takes a bold, original approach to human history, exploring past civilizations through the objects that defined them. Encompassing a grand sweep of human history, A History of the World in 100 Objects begins with one of the earliest surviving objects made by human hands, a chopping tool from the Olduvai gorge in Africa, and ends with objects which characterise the world we live in today. Seen through MacGregor's eyes, history is a kaleidoscope - shifting, interconnected, constantly surprising, and shaping our world today in ways that most of us have never imagined. A stone pillar tells us about a great Indian emperor preaching tolerance to his people; Spanish pieces of eight tell us about the beginning of a global currency; and an early Victorian tea-set speaks to us about the impact of empire. An intellectual and visual feast, this is one of the most engrossing and unusual history books published in years. 'Brilliant, engagingly written, deeply researched' Mary Beard, Guardian 'A triumph: hugely popular, and rightly lauded as one of the most effective and intellectually ambitious initiatives in the making of 'public history' for many decades' Sunday Telegraph 'Highly intelligent, delightfully written and utterly absorbing ' Timothy Clifford, Spectator 'This is a story book, vivid and witty, shining with insights, connections, shocks and delights' Gillian Reynolds Daily Telegraph...

Title : A History of the World in 100 Objects
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ISBN : 9781846144134
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 707 Pages
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A History of the World in 100 Objects Reviews

  • Nandakishore Varma
    2018-12-11 09:34

    I visited the British Museum recently. Due to the shortage of time, I decided to take the one-hour tour suggested by the brochure: a visit to ten objects separated across various galleries, spanning historical space and time. Even though it was a good introduction, and gave me a taste of the museum as a whole, I was strangely dissatisfied: it was rather like cramming for an exam where you end up with a lot of bits of disjointed knowledge.As we were leaving the museum, I asked my brother-in-law (who is settled in England) what book I should buy from the museum, and he suggested the tome under discussion. He had listened to the original BBC radio series and liked it very much. Well, I have to thank him, because this book opened up a whole new vista on how we should view objects in a museum, and why my whirlwind tour left me disappointed.Well, I will be better informed during my next visit. How does one look at objects in a museum? I must confess that I had not given much thought to this subject until I read A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor. When I enter a museum, I usually wander around just gawking at the display and reading the info on the more interesting ones. Or, if I know about something specific that the museum is famous for (like the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum or the Narmer Palette in the Cairo Museum), I make a beeline for the object and spend some time gazing in reverential awe at it. After I spend what I consider a sufficient amount of time in the building, I come out, smugly satisfied at having “done” the museum properly.Neil MacGregor has taught me that I have been doing it all wrong. A museum is a history book (although a taciturn one) and once you have learnt the language of objects, a really fascinating one. Because unlike history written by humans, which can be true, embellished or outright lies, the history told by objects can never be false. But we have to tease it out of them: the effort has to be there on our part. Otherwise, any trip to the museum becomes just a sightseeing tour. This book is the written from of a series of talks given by the author, Director of the British Museum, on the BBC. In the preface and introduction, the author talks about the many challenges: the main one (absent from the book!) being the medium of the radio, where visual imagery is impossible. But then, he realised that this is also one of the strengths-because the listener is forced to use his imagination, not only for the object, but also for the story behind it.That is what one has to do while reading this book. Let the imagination roam free across space and time: as MacGregor describes the object, puts it in its historical context, and pulls in experts from various fields like art, literature, history etc. to give their opinions on it, the mind of the reader is engaged in a continuous dialogue with history. As we trace mankind’s origins from the Olduvai gorge in Africa to the interconnected modern world, the sense of linear time slowly disappears history starts looking like a geography of time.The book is written in small chapters of 5-6 pages each, five chapters (one working week of five days) forming a common theme. This structure is easily accessible, even to the miniscule attention spans engendered by TV shows and the internet. The book can be read through in one sitting, or savoured as small tidbits over a long period. However one does it, it does not lose its efficacy.MacGregor starts with one of the most popular objects in the museum - the mummy of Hornedjitef –as a curtain raiser. The remaining 99 chapters are largely chronological, spanning countries and continents over defined time bands the author has selected as historical themes. In the earlier chapters, these time bands are large, spanning millenniums: then they narrow down to centuries and finally to decades as history becomes more crowded and compressed. And we see mankind, which has been existing as isolated pockets of civilisation, slowly expand and get connected.For me, the most fascinating thing about this book was not the stories told by the objects, but what they left unsaid: I found myself musing about the people, long dead and gone, who must have handled these objects, many a time little knowing they would they would be enshrined and viewed by millions. For example, look at the Kilwa pot sherds (Chapter 60) from Tanzania: the housewife or maid who handled them- what might have they been like? What were they thinking as they washed, dried and cooked in these utensils? What would have gone through their minds when they finally threw them away? And (most importantly) the ordinary objects we throw away now – will they carry a similar message in a museum in, say, the year 2500?Or let’s look at objects from relatively unknown cultures, like the Moche Warrior Pot (Chapter 48) from Peru or the Taino Ritual Seat (Chapter 65) from the Dominican Republic. It is obvious that these are important objects, religiously and culturally; yet the culture remains a mystery to us. Once again, we can only recreate in our mind the ceremonies which might have been conducted with these objects holding positions of importance.Moche Warrior PotTaino Ritual SeatThere are also “famous” objects in these pages, like the Rosetta Stone (Chapter 33), the Parthenon Sculptures (Chapter 27) and India’s own Indus Seal (Chapter 13). Even though these objects are known to any educated person, MacGregor puts them in a new context and new light so that one learns to look at them anew.The Rosetta StoneIndus SealIn the Introduction the author says that this book could have been as well called A History of Objects Through Many Different Worlds. I agree. Each object sings a solitary tune: sometimes happy, sometimes sad, and sometimes even creepy. Put together, they create a beautiful symphony – the song of humanity, separated by time and space, over a million different worlds. This book opened my ears to that music.Museum visits shall never be the same again!

  • Zanna
    2018-11-19 06:25

    In the British Museum I usually feel nearly overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. I am ashamed of my country's heritage of colonisation and our seemingly unclouded sense of entitlement to enjoy the world's riches, and at the same time I am utterly seduced by this booty and plunder, and I'm shedding these useless White Tears and doing nothing to dismantle the master's house as it were. Reading this is perhaps too soothing at times, and I tried not to be soothed, and to keep seeing as many layers as possible.Some of these objects came to the museum through violence, when the people who made them were deprived of any chance to speak for themselves, and MacGregor inevitably becomes a kind of vetriloquist, trying to speak on behalf of the silenced. And yes it must be better that we tell all of the truth we can find of these histories so as not to repeat them, but here is this bark shield dropped by the man who ran from the musket shots of Cook's guards in Botany Bay and even now the suffering and subjugation of the indigenous Australian population continues and it is not only a case of not repeating as thinking how we can make reparations. I hope that the objects help to open such conversations and make space for, not replace, the voices of oppressed people.One painfully literal exemplification of layering is the Sudanese slit drum that bears beautiful Islamic patterns, having been taken as booty in the Egyptian slave trade and recarved by its new owners, and also bears a British royal stamp, having been taken as booty again by Kitchener when his army took Khartoum in 1898. Twice stolen heritage of Black Africa standing in a gallery whose greatest early donor Sir Hans Sloane was himself a slave owner in Jamaica, as MacGregor reports in the chapter on a Victorian tea set, discussing the violence embodied in our national drink.I can't shake off my own colonisation. Another object that speaks insistently and uncomfortably to me is the buckskin map made by 'Piankishwa' (Piankeshaw) people about an illegal land purchase by settlers. MacGregor is eloquent on this; he grasps that to the people of the Piankeshaw the concept of owning land, much less selling it, was as bizarre and perverse as the idea of owning the air above it. On the map, distances are marked in travel time. MacGregor states that the British tried to reign in the settlers and that the "British Crown['s] eager[ness] to maintain good relations with the Native American chiefs" helped trigger the War of Independence. I guess he mentions this to elaborate on how the object speaks of wider events, and to complicate simplistic understandings, but let me not hear it as an invitation to feel better about the British role in settler colonial genocides. Let me not be soothed!---The rationale of the 100 Objects project attracted me as soon as I heard of it. MacGregor states at the outset that part of the idea was to tell the stories of ordinary people rather than only elites. I'm aware of this as a trend through my Mum's work advocating for more female and vernacular stories in heritage, and this is one of the things I appreciate about the BM. There are lots of rich and royal things in here but an attempt at widening the view is detectable. I have always struggled to absorb histories; I can take in a narrative thread but I find it extremely hard to synthesise parallel stories into big pictures, and I was pleased to find that the focus on objects helped me to take in a lot more than usual.Theses have doubtless been written about all of the things in this book, and my comments below aren't so much on favourites as on... things that provoked me to comment! I haven't mentioned any of the "American" objects, even though they are poignant and impressive, or Japanese objects, even though I find them moving and beautiful. So these aren't my highlights, just saying what I have to say.Chapter 3 Olduvai HandaxeThis object totally blew my mind, because I didn't realise that "for a million years the sound of handaxes being made provided the percussion of everyday life". The earliest made thing in the book, a chopping tool, is 2 million years old, and this is about half a million years later, putting the speed of technological advance in my own lifetime into perspective. I didn't know about the handaxe, the 'Swiss army knife of the stone age', the thing over which we maybe learned to speak, and which enabled us to spread from Africa across the whole globe. A few chapters later is a Clovis spear point, from 11,000BC, even more precisely designed and perfectly made after another 500,000 years or so of development!Chapter 13 Indus SealI had barely heard of the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation, whose script has apparently remained undeciphered. What made me sit up was that according to MacGregor, their cities, such as Harappa, built on grid patterns, with sophisticated sanitation systems and home plumbing, housing 30,000 to 40,000 people, seem not to have royal palaces or great differences between rich and poor dwellings, and were unfortified, and weapons are not found in the sites. No sign of what Doris Lessing's narrator in Shikasta calls 'the degenerative disease'. 'Is it possible these societies were based not on coercion but consensus?' asks MacGregor almost incredulously. He says they were made uninhabitable by climate change 4000 years ago, not destroyed by more violent invaders...Chapter 18 Minoan Bull-LeaperThe 'Minoans', like the Clovis people and the Celts, are a group of people whose name for themselves has been lost. This is a good example this books style of evoking ancient myth (the minotaur), contemporary cultural and economic circumstances (maritime trading of bronze, bull-leaping) and a bit of modern thought (psychoanalysis) to swirl around an object. Saying that Picasso turned 'instinctively... to that underground labyrinth and to that encounter between man and bull that still haunts us all' seems unduly universalising and accepting of Freud to me, but I suppose these sorts of flourish gives MacGregor's history its idiosyncracy.Chapter 20 Statue of Ramesses IIRamesses II presided over a 'golden age' (MacGregor uses this phrase again later to describe a period when a ruling class was exceptionally wealthy, the later Roman period in Britain) of imperial expansion and to save time, changed inscriptions on existing statues to be about him. When a battle went badly his subjects were none the wiser as the official line proclaimed was always victory. The labour involved in making this huge statue was ridiculous and largely provided by slaves. But I haven't picked out this chapter to complain about ancient antecedents of more recent rulers, but to mention the inclusion in the book of relevant experts (I noted that these were women as often as not) In this case, MacGregor turned to Antony Gormley, always wonderfully eloquent. He shared this thought:For me as a sculptor the acceptance of the material as a means of conveying the relationship between human-lived biological time and the aeons of geological time us an essential condition of the waiting quality of sculpture. Sculptures persist, endure, and life dies. And all Egyptian sculpture in some senses has this dialogue with death, with that which lies on the other side. There is something very humbling, a celebration of what people can do together, because that is the other extraordinary thing about Egyptian architecture and sculpture, which were engaged upon by vast numbers of people, and which were a collective act of celebration of what they were able to achieve.I'm not sure that that is true, but it is precisely what MacGregor wants I think, when he talks about using poetic imagination…Chaper 26 Oxus Chariot ModelIn all my years of compulsory schooling I don't think anyone ever mentioned the ancient Persian empire to me. I come from a part of the UK rich in Roman artefacts, and I have been familiar with Greek and Roman mythology for as long as I can remember. I also learned about Vikings and Anglo Saxons, and a little about ancient Chinese civilisation and pre-modern Japan. But it took actually becoming friends with an Iranian girl when I was 16 for me to find out that modern Iran has an ancient, unique heritage. MacGregor tells us that 2,500 years ago, the Persian (Iranian) empire was the world superpower. But unlike the Romans, who encouraged those they conquered to identify themselves with Rome (read: imposed their culture on the vanquished), the Iranian empire was non-hegemonic, apparently actively respecting rather than merely tolerating religious and cultural practices of subject peoples. This exquisite model shows a satrap (local governor) taking a road journey, for which he requires no armed protection or attendant other than his coachman, indicating that peace prevailed within the empire. Herodotus wrote his best known words of the Persian couriers, telling us that their roads and organisation were terrific. Those who criticism multiculturalism in the UK would probably sound less credible if we were taught a fraction about ancient Iran of what we learn about the Romans.Chapter 28 Basse-Yutz FlagonsOne thing MacGregor does often is highlight ethnocentric elitism. Here he is agreeably unpleasant about snobbish Mediterranean attitudes towards the 'Celts' (named thus by the Greeks) who were, I guess, the archetypal barbarians (the word the Greeks used for non-Greeks), but made objects like these unutterably beautiful flagons. He also talks here about the problems of understanding the Celtic lineage through the ancient Greek stereotype and equally misleading, much later British one. "the challenge... is how to get past those distorting mists of nationalist myth-making and let the objects speak as clearly as possible about their own place and their own distant world." Quite.Chapter 30 Chinese Bronze Bell I've picked up on this chapter as MacGregor reflects on the handing back of Hong Kong in 1997 when the British, with hilariously and embarrassingly maudlin pomposity, played the Last Post on a bugle. The Chinese performed a specially composed piece of music partly played on a set of ancient bells. He sees this as stereotypical - a solo instrument connecting with war and conflict versus a celebration of harmony and continuity. A fascinating discussion of the importance and history of bells in Chinese culture follows, which I won't spoil.Chapter 32 Pillar of AshokaAnother another non-hegemonic empire where the idea of public service and mutual respect were much vaunted - that of Ashoka, in India, the largest in the country's history. After some brutal conquering, he converted to Buddhism and became a gentle philosopher. MacGregor compares the principles of rule that governed his later years to modern Bhutan, quoting the coronation speech of the current king "throughout my reign I will never rule you as a king. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son." But then he expressed doubt that 'such high ideals can survive the realities of political power.' Bhutan is doing pretty well with its Gross National Happiness, as far as I'm aware.Chapter 41 Seated Buddha from Gandhara"The religions that survive today are the ones that were spread and sustained by trade and power. It's profoundly paradoxical: Buddhism, the religion founded by an ascetic who spurned all comfort and riches, flourished thanks to the international trade in luxury goods." I don't see anything ironic about this, because before people saw the suffering that came with unethical trading practices and unscrupulous struggles for wealth, what need had they to reject them? Buddhism followed the poison for which it presented itself as the antidote.Chaper 42 Gold Coins of Kumaragupta I and Chapter 68 Shiva and Parvati SculptureI like how MacGregor picks up and has a go with the objects where possible. From one perspective this might seem a bit annoying, as if he's lording it over us plebs from the other side of the velvet rope, but I see it as an attempt to bring us as close as we can get. In these chapters he is evidently keen to point out the current importance and vitality of Hinduism in the UK, which non-Hindus seem to hear very little about. Rather than interacting with the objects themselves here, he goes to the Swaminarayan Mandir, the Hindu temple in Neasden, and talks to Shaunaka Rishi Das about how Hindus think about the divine and bring it into their lives. These discussions were fascinating to me and I am glad I recently bought the banned book [[book:The Hindus: An Alternative History|5263037]], hopefully my first of many steps to learning more about the culture.He also talks about the comfortable place occupied by sexuality in Hindu theology. Historian of religion Karen Armstrong has this to say: "in the monotheisms, particularly in Christianity, we've found questions of sex and gender difficult. Some of the faiths that start out with a positive view of women, like Christianity and also Islam, get hijacked a few generations after the foundation and dragged back to the old patriarchy. I think there's a big difference, however, in the way people view sexuality. When you see [it] as a divine attribute... a way to apprehend the divine, that must have an affect. You see it in the Hindu marriage service... Questions of gender and sexuality have always been the Achilles heel of Christianity, and that shows that there's a sort of failure to... integrate a basic fact of life"Chapter 42 Sutton Hoo Helmet & Chaper 60 Kilwa Pot SherdsOne of the moment when my mind changed while reading was in the discussion here of ancient maritime links, so important since before fossil fuels water was much the easiest way to transport people and goods. In the so-called Dark Ages after the Romans left Britain, sophisticated trading relationships between Britain and the Scandinavian world probably became more important. To people on the north east coast, Danish and Norwegian people were neighbours, while folks living in Devon or Dorset were a world away. Similarly, favourable trade winds in the Indian Ocean made eastern Africa and most of Asia a vast, cosmopolitan trading community, as illustrated by a collection of pot sherds from a beach in Tanzania with pieces from China and the Muslim world amongst locally made wareChaper 52 Harem Wall-painting fragmentsThese little pieces of a palace wall from Samarra in Iraq trasport MacGregor to the world of Scheherazade, and he talks delightedly about them. I do wish though that he would say some more about whose bombs destroyed Samarra in 2006, and the unedifying history that has recently been made in Iraq by invading US and British military forces destroying much irreplaceable ancient material heritage (to say nothing of the civilians killed and injured, homes and infrastructure destroyed, resources appropriated et cetera) something we should surely be raising awareness about and doing something to make reparations for.Chapter 59 Borobudur Buddha HeadA British administrator in Java, Raffles, gave his collection to the British Museum and it included this head, from an extraordinary sculptural representation of the way to enlightenment, built 780-840, but abandoned in the sixteenth century when Islam became the main faith there. Raffles visited the overgrown site in 1814 and took a couple of fallen heads. What interests me is his attitude: he felt that the Javanese civilization built it was the equal of European civilizations. Unlike other orientalists, he was similarly appreciative of the Indonesian culture of his own day. Anthropologist Dr Nigel Barker shares this: "Raffles[']... concept of civilization... has a number of clear markers... the possession of a writing system, social hierarchy... complex stone architecture" Interesting perspective on the White/European gaze.Chaper 63 Ife Head and Chapter 77 Benin Plaque"In 1910, when the German anthropologist Leo Frobenius found the first brass head outside the city of Ife, he was so overwhelmed by its technical and aesthetic assurance that he immediately associated it with… the classical sculptures of ancient Greece... There's no record of contact [between ancient Greece and Frobenius decided that] the lost island of Atlantis must have sunk off the coast of Nigeria and the Greek survivors stepped ashore to make this astonishing sculpture". A magnificent plaque from Benin showing the local ruler, the Oba and European traders similarly astonished the British when they colonised Nigeria in 1897. For all the appreciation for the amazing works, documented and expressed in these chapters, most Europeans probably still unhelpfully think of African art via European modernist 'primitivism'. MacGregor does valuable work here to problematise and undermine such racism.Chapter 71 Tughra of Suleiman the MagnificentVisually this is probably my favourite object, and I could talk about my love of Arabic calligraphy all day, but I've picked up on this because MacGregor uses it to point out that, "as the Ottomans demonstrated, paper is power", pointing out that while the Inca and Timurid empires lasted only a few generations, while the Ming and Ottoman dynasties endured for centuries, and the difference was, he claims, efficient sophisticated bureaucracy. "Modern polliticians proudly announce their desire to sweep away bureaucracy. The contemporary prejudice is that it slows you down, clogs things up; but if you take a historical view, it is bureaucracy that sees you through the rocky patches and enables the state to survive."Chaper 81 Shi'a Religious Parade StandardIf you read about the Oxus Gold Chariot and didn't think know the tradition of respect for religious diversity in Zoroastrian Iran persisted into the Muslim era, this chapter is for you. Shah Abbas, a contemporary of Elizabeth I, eager to develop trade relationships, had a very multicultural court at Isfahan, and this standard, made for a Shi'a ceremony but with skills and materials from distant lands, shows what a cosmopolitan place Iran was through the period.Chapter 98 Throne of Weapons"For the first time in this history we are examining an object that is a record of war but which does not glorify war or the ruler who waged it" I am tempted to reply 'it's a bit late to get critical' but it wouldn't be fair, because MacGregor has viewed war-making raiders and cruel traders critically throughout. One thing that this history has in common with the more familiar kind is that extent to which it is a history of power, but it is, much more than traditional history, a narrative in which the vanquished answer and cannot be silenced. It is not, in my view, a radical history, but it contains the seed of radical histories, and in this object, one of them begins to germinate.Chapter 100 Solar Powered Lamp & ChargerThe promise to tell the stories of ordinary people has been difficult to keep, but the intention returns MacGregor to this cheap, mass produced, but for many, potentially life-changing device. We now live in a world clogged with discarded objects, representing expended energy and released carbon. If there is to be any more history of us, we must become sustainable. That hope is embodied in this cutting edge, yet inexpensive technology.

  • Petra X
    2018-11-10 11:24

    I always have a kitchen book, it sits there waiting for me to have to do something or other that requires little concentration and then I read a bit. So while my immersion blender is immersed, on the whisk is automatically frothing, or I am just absent-mindedly munching away and pretending I'm not eating (view spoiler)[because it's always fattening food I pretend I'm not eating, when it's cauliflower florets I'm all boastful to myself, look how I'm such a healthy eater! (hide spoiler)] or even I'm waiting for the microwave to ting-ting-ting, I read a few pages. I like very heavy books for my kitchen books, ones that do better read slowly and digested rather than racing through the story, and this book was ideal. Not all the objects were as interesting as the next but the whole taken together was an informative, if extremely selective and narrow, history of bits of time and place that the author found interesting. And some British collector had at some point been to that place and stolen valuable artifacts for which were now availabe for this book in particular and, more generally, for the edification of the British Museum-going public (mostly tourists and estranged fathers who have to think of what to do with the children who visit at weekends when it's wet).Five stars if I'd been allowed to choose the objects and had someone very erudite, like the author Neil MacGregor, write about them. Four stars because his choice sometimes bored me.

  • Lisa
    2018-12-11 05:46

    A treasure chest, a Wunderkammer of human development explained and illustrated!I have approached this book from many angles. I started by listening to the charming BBC broadcast. Fascinated by the different voices of the interviewees just as much as by the objects themselves, I fell in love with the concept of travelling the world, historically and geographically, on a quest to discover the diversity of man-made objects and look at them from different perspectives to tell their story in the wider context of human development. Just hearing the voices of Seamus Heaney, Amartya Sen, Wangari Maathai and many more - reflecting on the meaning of certain objects within the symbolical landscapes of their societies - made the radio show a delight. During a stay in London, I decided to follow the path of the objects in the British Museum as well, and having learned more about the way they entered the famous museum made them all the more precious. The Rosetta Stone, for example, is not just a symbol for early multilingualism in the Northern African ancient world, or for 19th century international linguistic science, or for the French-British conflicts during the Napoleonic wars, it is also a symbol for the changing nature of humans’ approach to objects. I had to lift my daughter high in the air in order for her to see the “stone that made cracking the code of the hieroglyphs possible”. For her, as for hundreds of other visitors in front of her, that was the most important exhibit, photographed over and over again. Funny to think of the centuries it lay buried in sand after losing its immediate propagandistic and political meaning of enhancing the power of an ancient king, only to gain a new kind of reverence in the modern world of science and exhibition.Other objects are completely overlooked in the vastness of the British Museum, and one of the benefits of the concept of the book is to give them more value and importance, more visibility. When we walked through the collections, one thought struck me over and over again: every single object can tell a different version of the human story. All of a sudden, not only the 100 objects picked by Neil MacGregor, but the thousands and thousands of others as well, became carriers of humankind’s history in a more obvious, natural way. There could potentially be at least a five page chapter, fifteen minute radio programme on the geographical, historical, political, social and aesthetic value of them all.I ended up buying a copy of the book in the Museum store, of course. And again, I am thrilled at the nuance the reading experience adds to the previous listening and watching. Details become clear, dates are easier to put into context, maps illustrate the geographical spread of the objects, and the quotes by illustrious and knowledgeable people are rendered in their entirety, giving them depth and reflective power. Cross-references between different chapters can be checked. The objects truly engage all senses, as well as a great deal of imagination, in order to visualise the life of people who felt the need to create all those different things:“Objects force us to the humble recognition that since our ancestors left East Africa to populate the world we have changed very little. Whether in stone or paper, gold, feathers or silicon, it is certain we will go on making objects that shape or reflect our world and that will define us to future generations”, thus the closing remarks at the end of the book!I enjoyed every moment of reading, and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in an overarching, loving account of humankind’s roller coaster ride through time and space!

  • Mark Lawrence
    2018-12-05 08:35

    This is a book I've been reading for a year at least. I think I got it for Christmas 2013. It's divided into 100 sections so it's ideal for dipping in to. It starts with objects of great antiquity from pre-history and moves forward, ending up with an object from 2010. There are black and white pictures of each object and periodically a bunch of coloured pages with photos of the items too.The objects are interesting and well chosen to illustrate the cultures they came from and the changing technologies, beliefs, and challenges of the people who made them. If you regard the pieces as academic then they're pretty engaging. If you consider them for the lay reader / mass public ... then they're a little dry in places.It's an informative book, well written, wide ranging. If you're interested in history, both on the broadest scales and in considerable pin-point detail, then this is the book for you. If you're not really that bothered -then you may not get very far with it.It did encourage me to write a small piece in the same style for an object form the Broken Empire (the world my books are set in), which later helped me secure a gig writing for a multi-player Xbox game where a portion of the world building is delivered through the history of discovered objects.Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter #prizes

  • Edward
    2018-11-20 13:26

    Preface: Mission ImpossibleIntroduction: Signals from the Past--A History of the World in 100 ObjectsMapsList of ObjectsBibliographyReferencesText AcknowledgementsAcknowledgementsIndex

  • Emma
    2018-11-29 11:34

    This was fascinating. I read it a few years ago and am about to embark on a reread. It is/was the companion piece to an exhibition at the British Museum. It is based on the premise that most recorded history is written by the winners or rules out cultures who did not record their histories in written form or whose materials were organic and so disintegrated.It is so informative , original in its perspective and also tells us about how more recent generations sometimes altered artefacts to show their appreciation of the object, and these have therefore layers of history to them.Each object has its own essay which places it in political, social and historical context on a global scale.It addresses the synchronicity of development in contrasting cultures across the globe and the part that science plays in encouraging us to return again to objects, when new technologies come along. Very well done study, deserving of the reread I am about to do. I believe the author also wrote a similar series for Shakespearean times. I went to see the accompanying exhibition..

  • Cecily
    2018-11-10 10:33

    This does exactly what it says in its title. And it does so elegantly, entertainingly, educationally and beautifully.However, it was not originally an illustrated book, but a BBC Radio 4 series! The idea of doing such an apparently visual series on the radio was extraordinary, brave... crazy even, but it worked brilliantly, and that is all down to MacGregor himself. The radio programme was so good, I wondered if the book could compete, but it does, though if I hadn't been able to imagine his voice in my head as I read it, my enjoyment might be slightly diminished.

  • Chris
    2018-11-13 10:42

    I was going to give this to my brother for Christmas, and then I opened it before wrapping it.Tough luck bro. But hey, you enjoyed Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942.This book is absolutely awesome!Originally done as a radio program, this book looks at the history of the world though 100 objects that are found in the British Museum. A few of the objects are obvious, the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles (strange, how Greece is quiet about those lately?), but most are not so famous and a few are not even on display on a regular basis.Each item gets a chapter that runs 4-5 pages. MacGregor conencts the item to the world at large as well as gives a brief history of the item. In some cases, he even ties it to the modern world. Some, such as the Sudan items, are especially relvenet today with the independence of South Sudan. Additionally, it is difficult to look at the print of the Wave without thinking of not only WW II but the tsunami of 2011. In some cases, such as some of the stoneware fragments, the discovery matches the purpose of the item.This book is amazing, and not be threatened by its size. It is extremely readable. The pages fly by.

  • Hadrian
    2018-11-21 13:32

    This is a nice big thick book with lots of juicy wonderful pictures.THe author, a curator of the British museum, has the airs of a fascinating and scholarly tour guide, and shows pieces diverse - from the oldest known tools to a modern credit card and a solar lamp. Some are ornate and expensive (the model mechanical ship is astonishing), and some are broken fragments, or tools left behind as little fragments, which reveal some little fragments of the lives of those before us.The book also has a nice geographic depth - objects from every continent are here. Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia get a generous share, but so do the Middle East, Polynesia, both North and South America, Africa, (with some of the oldest objects (stone hand axe) to the newest (throne built from machine-guns)). Each gets a little essay on its importance and symbolic value.A wonderful book, and hopefully one where you'll stop looking at the colorful pictures long enough to read the placards and listen to the tour guide.

  • Michael
    2018-11-16 12:20

    This is a marvelous book that looks at the history of the world by taking a look at 100 objects that now reside in the British Museum in London. The objects range from a crudely carved rock used as a tool to a solar powered lamp and charging unit.By the objects we learn who made it and how they used it. We learned where the object was used and when. Each object was presented with a photo and short text. It's one of those books that does not have to be read from front to back all at once. I read it a few objects at a time over several months when I needed a break from other reading.I shall always treasure this volume because it was given to me by my very dear friends Mr. & Mrs. Mellor when I visited them in their home in 2013.......Michael

  • Tony
    2018-11-14 08:22

    A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 100 OBJECTS. (2011). Neil MacGregor. *****. This is a fascinating book assembled and written by the current Director of The British Museum. It is also a massive book of well over 600 pages, printed on heavy stock paper. (WARNING: Do not attempt to read in bed. If dropped on a sleeping body, this book could cause severe and lasting damage.) What the author has done was select 100 objects that are in the museum’s collection that span the age of man, from an Oldubai Stone Chopping Tool (1.8 – 2 million years old) to a solar powered lamp and charger manufactured in Shenzhen, Guandong, China, AD 2010. Each object allows the author and other experts to tell about the world that existed at the time of each. It’s a fascinating way to learn history, most of which was not covered in any standard history course you might have had in school. The other thing it does is provide the reader with scores of factoids that he can use at the next social gathering to “wow” his friends. In discussing the chopping stone and its use in food preparation, the author notes: “The brain is an extremely power-hungry mechanism. Although it accounts for only 2 percent of our body weight, it consumes 20 percent of our entire energy intake, and it requires constant nourishment. Our ancestors of nearly 2 million years ago secured their future by giving it the food it needed to grow.” When, later, talking about a pestle (6,000 to 2,000 BC), the author mused: “Why would people choose to grow food that they can eat only once it’s been soaked or boiled or ground to make it digestible? (A) Professor of Archaeological Science at Cambridge University sees this as an essential strategy for survival. ‘As the human species expanded across the globe, we had to compete with other animals going for the easy food. Where we couldn’t compete, we had to go for the difficult food. We went for things like the small hard grass seeds we call cereals, which are indigestible if eaten raw and may even be poisonous, which we have to pulp up and turn into things like bread and dough...This was how we gained a competitive advantage – other animals that didn’t have our kind of brain couldn’t think several steps ahead to do that.’” When we get to an early Victorian Tea Set (1840-1845, Staffordshire, England), we learn “In the 1840s the Duchess of Bedford introduce(d) the ritual of afternoon tea, because by this time dinner had become so late, seven-thirty to eight o’clock, that it was a bit of a gap for the British tummy between lunchtime and evening. For a while, there was a revival of tea-drinking as a sort of meal for sandwiches and so forth, around four o’clock.” I could go on and probably quote 100 little known facts, but I’d rather you read this book yourself. As I said in the beginning, it is absolutely fascinating. Highly recommended.

  • Jsavett1
    2018-12-05 12:21

    I believe I learned more per page reading this book than any I've ever read. A tour through all of history using objects collected (stolen?) by the British Museum, this book is a bravura execution of material culture and archaeological studies. In fact, I used several entries with my Advanced Placement Literature class in order to expose them to effective and interesting "close reading." MacGregor does with objects what literary critics do with a passage of poetry: he describes the object (lovely pictures ARE included), he gives a fascinating context of the period in which this object was used, and finally, provides an analysis of what the object "says" about the people, nation, and region that used or owned it. I find this method of historical explication incredibly engaging. Rather than begin with abstract concepts like democracy, Federalism, or ethnic cleansing, MacGregor begins with the concrete--a vase, a coin, a flower pot-- and says here's what this culture produced, here's what that says about them. This also dovetails nicely with what I teach in class regarding advertising; that we can come to understand the ideals of a nation by studying its advertisements. Interestingly, the objects MacGregor chooses also function as "advertisements" for their respective milieus. A testament to how well this book is written and constructed is that I read it incredibly quickly. Before I knew it, I was on object 56 at the 300 something page mark and I had no mental fatigue. The fact that the book is organized in 100 3 to 4 pages "chapters" helps a lot because I found myself reading a few objects here and there whenever I had some spare time. I recommend this book highly to anyone who has even a fleeting interest in archaeology or cultural materialism; your efforts, and the rather hefty price of the book will be worth it.

  • AnaVlădescu
    2018-11-29 06:43

    Any history buff should be happy reading this book. Don't expect in depth analysis, because at an average of three small-type pages per object, you don't get too much information. However, since there are 100 objects and a lot of technical data about them, you do feel tired after reading even 50 pages. The scope is unbelievable - you'll find all the continents represented, a LOT of countries, and if a country is not specifically represented by an object, you might just find it as a reference for another one. The writing is very good and appropriate for the presentation style - I was gripped from the first few pages by the eloquence and warmness of the author's tone, a man who is clearly in love with history, culture and art. I recommend this to anyone who has a keen interest in the world as a whole organism, and how each and every "tissue" relates to the others.

  • Masood
    2018-11-11 13:48

    This book was inspired by the BBC Radio 4 series, including the stories of 100 object of ancient technology, arms, art, art industry that was a fascinating introduction to human history.

  • Nancy
    2018-11-11 08:33

    I love this book. I got it from my dear friend Dean, who is a museum professional, as a gift last Christmas. The reading of it has lasted me the entire year and has been a source of continual wonder. It consists of a series of short essays on 100 objects chosen by the director of the British Museum to tell the story of the history of the world. The objects are beautiful, inspiring, ingenious, inventive, compelling, challenging, complex, profound. I kept the book by my bedside. Sometimes I would read several essays in a row. But more often my reading was more spaced out because a single essay could set off a chain-reaction (like the entry on the Standard of Ur, which led me to read Sir Charles Leonard Woolley's first-hand account of his fabulous archeological discoveries in the ancient Sumerian city in the mid-1930s). I spent hours researching the objects on the Internet, looking at images, looking at maps. The book takes you through pre-history to the present day, with objects selected from every period of human history and almost every continent, encompassing individual as well as collective human experience, with often surprising and unexpected connections. I loved the sophisticated thinking about each object distilled into five to eight pages of text, and the invitation to look really closely at the objects, each of which is worthy of a lifetime of study.My friend Dean invited me to the annual conference of the American Association of Museums in Philadelphia a few years ago and I attended a fascinating presentation by Sherry Turkle, a psychologist/sociologist at MIT who has written a book titled Evocative Objects. Something she said then that has stuck with me is that we think with the objects we love, and we love the objects that we think with. Some of the most evocative objects for me in this book that I continue to think about (and think with too perhaps) include: The Ice Age carving of two swimming reindeer as seen from above, which is one of the most remarkable things about it it seems to me; the unusual perspective is beautifully rendered. The piece was made 13,000 years ago from the slightly curved end of a mammoth tusk. The Paracas textiles, dating to 200-300 BC in Peru, which I think are not usually on view to the public because of their fragility. They are intricately sewn flying half-human figures that appear quite whimsical until you realize that they carry in one hand a curved blade and in the other a severed head. The breath-taking, majestic brass Ife head from Nigeria from 1400-1500 AD, a portrait of African royalty. The ceremonial sloping wooden stool carved in an intriguing half-animal, half-human form that was made by the Taino people of the Caribbean whose society was devastated by the arrival of the Europeans in the West Indies.Thanks again for this one, Dean!

  • Caroline
    2018-12-02 07:30

    A lot of history and archaeology is conveyed in meaty lectures, or via dense scholastic tomes written for academics. Not in this instance. This is like sitting down to tea and crumpets with a fascinating friend, who is infinitely knowledgeable....yet who imparts that knowledge with a modest charm. In this book Neil MacGregor, head of the British Museum, describes some of the objects to be found in his museum.For some reason I have never been very interested in archaeology, or ancient primitive objects before, but this book is a delight. It's a biggie - at 700 pages it's not something you want to drop on your foot - but it is also hugely readable. Via one precious object after another, he shines a torch on different eras and different cultures, lighting them up so they come to us with freshness and brilliance. Not only does he use his own scholarship, but he calls upon a whole host of specialists, plus other people whose work on the surface looks completely unrelated.... like Michael Palin, the Archbishop of Canturbury, Madhur Jaffrey and Bob Geldof. The book is bursting with fresh ideas.Before I started reading the book, I'd heard parts of it broadcast on Radio 4. The trouble is that when listening to the radio you are inevitably doing other stuff. Being able to read the actual book is infinitely more rewarding....both in terms of being able to go back and re-read paragraphs if necessary, or to check out the maps at the back of the book. (It is really nice to be able to see on an atlas where things come from.)Just in case anyone fancies a taster, or to give you a flavour of the things described, my favourite objects were:05 Clovis Spear Point12 Standard of Ur13 Indus Seal19 Mold gold Cape25 Gold Coin of Croesus26 Oxus Chariot Model36 The Warren Cup39 Admonitions Scroll40 Hoxne Pepper Pot44 Hinton St. Mary Mosaic51 Maya Relief of Royal Blood-letting (not for the squeamish)55 Chinese Tang Tomb Figures59 Borobudur Buddha Head61 The Lewis Chessmen72 Ming Banknote80 Pieces of Eight91 Ship's Chronometer from HMS Beagle92 Early Victorian Tea Set95 Suffragette-defaced Penny98 Throne of Weapons100Solar-powered Lamp and ChargerI am sorry I didn't put in the date I started reading this book - as it took me a while to get through it. I think I averaged about 3 objects a day, which would mean I probably read it over about a month. I loved its format - with each object being given its own small chapter. It made it so easy to pick the book up and put it down, and to feel you were going forward in little incremental steps. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  • Sesana
    2018-11-16 11:27

    Fascinating, both in the selection of objects and in the descriptions of what they are and what they (likely) meant to their original owners. The pictures are clear and uncomplicated, though I would have been happy with more details. MacGregor does touch, very briefly, on the controversies inherent in a collection largely based on plunder, but in a relatively superficial way. Honestly, I wouldn't have expected much more than that. That is not what this book is about, and it's a complicated issue. It's a massive chunk of reading (more than 650 pages) so this might be best read a few short chapters at a time.

  • Alan
    2018-12-08 10:37

    The tl;dr (too-long; didn't-read) version of A History of the World in 100 Objects:"We pillaged the world to collect these things, and now we will explain them to you."The article that starts the title is significant, though—this book never pretends to be the history of the world. It is a singular slice through time and space, a selective view, that tries to be inclusive (and, for the most part, succeeds). It is limited, yes, but it acknowledges those limits gracefully.Neil MacGregor does sometimes fail to transcend British cultural myopia. A Native American pipe gets described (on p.235) as similar in size and shape to a "bourbon biscuit"—whatever that is. Other references to football pitches and sheets of A3 paper are more translatable, if no less Anglocentric. Setting aside the literal insularity of its viewpoint, though, A History of the World in 100 Objects is a truly amazing compendium.And then there are moments of clarity, like this observation—so much against our conventional wisdom—about bureaucracy as "life-saving continuity":Modern politicians proudly announce their desire to sweep away bureaucracy. The contemporary prejudice is that it slows you down, clogs things up; but if you take a historical view, it is bureaucracy that sees you through the rocky patches and enables the state to survive.—p.463I was lucky enough to be able to visit the British Museum in London several times during a once-in-a-lifetime visit to England back in 2013, and I was amazed by the breadth and range of its collection. I saw several of the artifacts featured in this book firsthand—among them, the Rosetta Stone (Ch. 33), the moai Hoa Hakananai'a (Ch. 70) and this Aztec double-headed feathered serpent (Ch. 78):I was (if I may use a Britishism here) gobsmacked by their antiquity, and also by the respect with which the Museum treats the objects under its care. It's certainly possible to dispute that the British Museum should be caretakers for the many items in its collection that come from other parts of the planet, but you can't argue with the care itself.A History of the World in 100 Objects is a long book, but it is a lively and entertaining one as well. Its short chapters lend themselves to episodic reading, and the photographs of the artifacts it highlights are uniformly of high quality. You'll notice, if you read through this book from start to finish, that there's a fair amount of repetition—phrases and observations that crop up again and again. However, this book was originally a series of audio segments broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (which amazes me anew, as being able to see the objects discussed, even if just in photographs, adds so much to the text), and so the repetition is not a flaw, but rather a way to tie these pieces together.And tied together they are. The final quotation out of the many in A History of the World in 100 Objects sums this up rather well:"When we look at the history of the world, it is very important to recognize that we are not looking at the history of different civilizations truncated and separated from each other. Civilizations have a huge amount of contact, and there is a kind of inter-connectedness. I have always thought of the history of the world not as a history of civilizations but as a history of world civilizations evolving in often similar, often diverse, ways, always interacting with each other."—Amartya Sen, p. 658Perhaps this book's 22nd-century reissue will even include the current edition as its 101st object. From this viewpoint, that seems like an excellent choice.

  • Ray
    2018-11-28 08:41

    This is a great book. In some ways a light read - organised into a chapter of a few pages on each object - it nonetheless provides insights and analysis which catapults us into history. It brings history to life using everyday objects rather than lists of "great leaders", kings or battles. Well worth a read.

  • Annette Abbott
    2018-11-10 10:45

    I haven't yet worked out if this would be better if it were read cover-to-cover since I basically have read it by jumping back and forth. Having grown up in a world where most Americans had a set of Encyclopedia Britannica's in their home, I read this the way I would "read" an encyclopedia - by just cracking it open and reading an entry. It's informative, it has great pictures, you can start anywhere, read a few pages and be educated/amazed. It is the history of man through 100 objects - all of which are from the collection at the British Museum. It starts with one of the earliest of objects made by man: a chopping tool from Olduvai (2 mya) and finishes with a solar powered lamp and charger (2010). It's also divided by subjects -- food, sex, religion, trade, status, economy, etc. I've been to the British Museum a number of times and each time found myself in awe of their collection. Reading this book has renewed my interesting in buying a ticket to return to London for a long weekend simply to revisit its museums.THIS is the book you'll want to buy everyone for Christmas 2011. History buffs will like it. Information/trivia geeks will love it. Those who love museums and rich photos will love it. Any human would love it -- after all, it's essentially about him and his species.

  • Roman Clodia
    2018-11-10 09:31

    A generous and nicely eclectic approach to global material cultureMacGregor has done an excellent job here of turning modern academic approaches to material culture into a welcoming, intelligent and absorbing `popular' read. Organised around short chapters, each of which starts with an object from the British Museum, he then widens his perspective from the object itself to the society or culture which produced it, and what it might tell us about the world: not just at the point at which it first came into creation but also about the later receptions of the object, not least our own.Each chapter has a photo of the object but they're really just an appetiser, a way of encouraging us to check out the real thing at the BM or at least online. MacGregor's own narrative is supported by commentators in the field (and his choices wouldn't always have been mine...) and he himself comes over as a marvellously charismatic and engaged narrator.I did have a few little niggles: perhaps an overplay of the `people in the past were always just like us' idea which I think it only partially true; and it would have been helpful if rather than the BM inventory number the book had included the BM location - most objects, after all, very rarely get moved. But these are tiny niggles which are easily overcome - a very generous book brimming with enthusiasm.

  • Jill Manske
    2018-11-25 11:28

    A few weeks ago, I read a fabulous book (A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson) that was highly entertaining as well as very informative and educational. So when I saw this book on the new acquisitions shelf at my library, I eagerly took it home, thinking it would be of similar quality. Hmmm. This is a hefty book, in size and weight as well as subject matter. And it's very cumbersome reading, figuratively and literally. I like to read in bed before going to sleep, but this book was confined to the living room, as it was too darn heavy to read holding it in bed. While there were some gems hidden away in the mass of words, the juice wasn't worth the squeeze. The concept was a good one - take 100 objects and tell the history of the world. The problem is that the 100 objects came, for the most part, from acquisitions of the British Museum, which greatly limited the story-telling. It's sort of like saying tell the history of the automobile using only what you have in your garage. The second problem with the book is the ethnocentric perspective - viewing the world through the lens of Great Britain and the British Museum. At times, I became angry reading about how the museum acquired rare and valuable artifacts through what amounted to pillage of under-developed countries. It could be argued that the British Museum was a safer harbor for some of those artifacts, especially in regions at war. And it could be argued that more people could see the artifacts if they were housed in a museum in London versus an inaccessible country in the Middle East. BUT, some of the artifacts have religious and historical significance to the people (or their ancestors) in those countries. The audacity of Western museum curators to think that they should keep possession of such artifacts! MacGregor talks about how Greece wanted some of their artifacts back, but the British Museum declined. And the very idea that "treasure hunters" would desecrate graves of ancient people in order to scavenge valuable items buried with the bodies. Anyway, this is a rather dull book that can inspire anger and even outrage, but not much interest otherwise. I don't recommend reading it (especially in bed!).

  • Sarah Bringhurst
    2018-11-18 10:42

    This book somehow migrated into our bathroom (actually, our bathroom is full of books, like most other rooms in our house), and my husband and I are both addicted to it. In fact, now whenever he's missing, I expect him to emerge full of words of wisdom about the Ain Sakhri Lovers Figurine or Hokusai's The Great Wave.Interestingly enough, the book is actually a compilation of a BBC radio series that aired in 2010. The series included short programmes (what amounts to 5-6 printed pages each) on 100 historically significant objects from the British Museum. It's a novel approach to history, and quite successful, I think. At least I've learned a lot. And now I'm dying to go to the British Museum.Although I loved the book, I couldn't help thinking with each new marvel what a terrible shame it is that the British are holding on to all these artifacts that rightfully belong elsewhere. It is heartbreaking to visit sites in the Near East and find that all the most dramatic pieces are far away in European museums. To be fair, in the chapter on the Parthenon relief, the book did mention the controversy over whether it ought to be given back to Greece (and yes, I found the British arguments pathetic at best). Despite the ethical quibble, this is a delightful resource that really brings history to life. You can also find the original radio series, along with great zoomable photos of each object on the BBC website .

  • Susan
    2018-12-01 09:44

    Five stars plus. Reading this book was like visiting an enormous museum with your own personal curator, who points out details you would not notice or be able to interpret and who paints a sometimes surprising picture of what each object reveals about the society and time it came from. The British Museum picked 100 man-made objects from its collections, beginning with an Egyptian mummy and stone tools from Olduvai Gorge and ranging all over the world up to the present day, to talk about the history of the human race. Short essays describe each pictured object and explore its significance in a broader context--religious tolerance and intolerance, exploration and colonization, trade and the global economy, among others. Each essay represents a number of voices and perspectives on the objects, so for a Benin bronze we hear from an early Dutch traveller, a British museum curator, and several contemporary Nigerian writers. The clear photographs of each object make this a beautiful book.My only niggle is that the title is a little misleading, since this is more the story of humanity than the world as a whole.

  • Stefanie
    2018-11-20 08:25

    I've been having lots of fun browsing through A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor. The book chooses 100 objects from the British Museum to tell a story about the world. The date of the objects begin about 2 million years ago with a stone chopping tool (though this is the second object featured in the book). It is astonishing to think that we have things that humans made that long ago. Trying to imagine what life 2 million years ago must have been like is hard to do and filled with guesses. In fact, much of history is frequently a big guess. This was driven home by the section on the Sculpture of Husastec Goddess dated 900 - 1521 AD.We don't know much about the Huastecs. They lived on Mexico's northern Gulf coast. Around 1400 this prosperous community was wiped out by the Aztecs. There is no trace of Huastec writing, only Aztec accounts of them that has been transmitted in Spanish after the Spanish conquered the Aztecs. So when looking at this beautiful statue of a woman, nearly life-size and very stylized, information about the people who made her comes filtered through two other languages and two other cultures. Not everything the Spanish said about the Aztecs was true so we can surmise that not everything the Aztecs said about the Huastecs is true. There is even some disagreement over whether the woman is a goddess or a sculpture of a woman from the wealthy classes.The whole book is a feast. It had me thinking about the nature of history and the stories we tell about ourselves. It had me wondering what about our history and these objects might we be overlooking because we see them with our own biases. And it had me wondering what will survive of us 500, 1000, a million years from now? We are so much better at documenting than we used to be, but even so, not everything can be noted or saved. Choices must be made and whose stories are told and whose are deemed not worth preserving says much about who we are and what we value.The last few objects in the book belong to our modern era and include a credit card and a solar-powered lamp. Utilitarian both, as well as saying much about our culture, but when compared to ancient shards of pottery or the carving of swimming reindeer (11,000 BC), these modern items are so very ugly. Which is something else of note; our modern items are often lacking in beauty. I am under no illusions that 1,000 years ago everyone carried water in gorgeous clay pots or wove baskets using artistic patterns. I am sure most items were plain and simple. But even plain and simple have a beauty to them that so much of our mass-produced world lacks. It is rather sad to think about. And maybe that is why do-it-yourself and arts and crafts have been rising in popularity over the last decade or so. Handmade and imperfect has so much more meaning and beauty than the perfect but mass-produced.But I digress.A History of the World in 100 Objects is a wonderful book. And, even better, the original BBC series broadcast is available for free download as podcasts. So if you don't want to wait in line at the library you can listen to them on your MP3 player and then look at the photos of the object online. Pretty awesome.

  • Nikki
    2018-11-28 05:29

    The people who give this book low ratings and complain of being bored, and of now knowing tons of useless facts, just stagger me. I almost wish I'd caught the original radio program -- I must look for similar things to listen to while I'm crocheting -- because I find all the information intriguing and worth keeping in my head (if not exactly useful in the sense of practical). To me museums have always been magical places, and though the provenance of all the items in the British Museum troubles me, the range of them and the accessibility of them makes me very happy. I did go to the British Museum once, and was only allowed to stay there a few hours (and got glared out of one exhibit for kissing my girlfriend by a bust of Pericles*) -- this reaaaally makes me want to go back.It's inevitably framed by a fairly Western way of looking at the world, because though the objects in the museum which are used to make this history are from all over the world, they were obtained -- bought, stolen, traded, permanently borrowed, and basically not always freely given -- by British people and for a British audience. The book does acknowledge that, though, and the series did its best to celebrate all sorts of cultures, including those long-eclipsed by colonialism. It discusses the damage done by colonialism to now vanished cultures as part of the history some of these objects embody.It's a lovely book, well laid out in chapters and sections, with black and white photographs of each object to open the chapter about it, and colour inserts of selected objects. Honestly, I wish there were full colour photos of all the objects, but that would have been prohibitively expensive to print, I imagine. I doubt everyone, or even most people, would want to read this book the way I did, cover to cover in one go, but I actually found that I couldn't put it down.*Note: I'm not talking slobber here. I'm talking a quick, affectionate peck on the lips because I was babbling about Pericles and she was listening extraordinarily patiently. Do you know the easy way to identify an image of Pericles and why that's the case...?

  • Susanne
    2018-11-22 05:18

    Eine unterhaltsame, spannende und gleichzeitig anspruchsvolle Welt- und Zeitreise! Neil MacGregor präsentiert anhand unterschiedlicher Objekte aus dem British Museum, wie sich die menschlichen Kulturen von 2000000 v. Chr. bis in die Gegenwart entwickelt haben. Dabei stellt er globale Zusammenhänge her und überrascht mit vielen faszinierenden Details aus dem Alltag längst vergangener Völker. Gerade diese Verknüpfung von Makro- und Mikrogeschichte und die hervorragende Umsetzung durch den Hörverlag (gelesen hat Hanns Zischler) haben dieses Geschichtsbuch für mich zu einem kleinen Erlebnis gemacht. Inzwischen habe ich gelesen, dass es ursprünglich nicht als Buch, sondern als Radiosendung von der BBC produziert worden ist. Wer sich das Audiobook herunterladen möchte, muss auch nicht auf die Darstellungen der Objekte verzichten: Sie werden als Pdf mitgeliefert.

  • Michael
    2018-11-27 13:20

    '100 Objects' is like one of those rich desserts that you know is too much to eat all at once and yet it's just so good that you keep eating and eating and you save it in the fridge because you're DAMN sure that you'll finish it eventually if you keep chipping away at it, and it stays fresh, and then you finish it and you're completely amazed that you ate the whole thing.And it makes you want to go out and eat other similar desserts. It's like that.It was dense and fascinating. I really enjoyed it. It can't be read quickly. You've got to savor it in small doses. I absolutely want to read more history now, although the only other history I have handy is Theodotus, and that's a different kind of density.

  • pierlapoquimby
    2018-12-06 10:22

    Il British Museum a (è) casa mia.