A History Of The World In 100 Objects
- Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 06 October 2011
- General & World History
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The genesis of this book sprung from a radio program on the BBC in which the British Museum attempted to tell the history of the world in 100 objects. The book is the fruition of the radio program. I think the book did a pretty good job of covering items from all periods all over the planet and some objects were extremely fascinating. Some favorites included the Mummy of Hornedjitef, Head of Augustus, Hoxne Pepper Pot, Lothair Crystal, The Lewis Chessmen, and the Mechanical Galleon to name a few. The objects were for the most part, things everyday people used. Coins, maps, pipes, pottery, and items of religious significance were all included in the book. I now have a burning desire to go to the museum to see the items in person. The topic of whether the British Museum should even own these world treasures was briefly glossed over in the section on the Elgin Marbles. For more information on this controversial topic pick up the excellent Loot: The Battle Over the Treasures of the Ancient World by Sharon Waxman.
Magnificent! MacGregor gives his personal history of mankind using as his touchpoints one hundred objects selected from the collections of the British Museum in London (of which he is the Director). The objects are presented in chronological order and each receives a short essay (mostly around 3 or 4 pages) putting the object in context and using it to illustrate some wider observation about the state of mankind’s development at that point in history.Of course, in any work built up in this way there are many disagreemetns. That is what makes it fun! For me, the selection is heavy on art and religion and light on technology. Perhaps this is an artificial constraint applied by the vast but finite resources of the Museum. The essays are light but erudite and call on many experts and commentators with special interests to provide a very lively debate on what these objects mean. For some objects here we do not know who made them or what they were for and the mystery of the past is never far away in the whole collection. There is something to learn on every page.The many illustrations are of a very high quality and clarity highlighting the object as a whole and focusing on telling details. Each picture merits closer and repeated examination. This brings another point home. Based on today’s technology this book cannot work in an e-book environment - Kindle, e-Reader, iBook, whatever. It is the marriage of the high quality illustrations with the text that draws the reader in to see beyond the mundane and into a special world of detail and interlocking thought and focus. A mention also for the superb binding and heavy paper, making this large 650+ page book easy to handle and read in extended chunks.This is a book that must remain an individual object of its own and perhaps become part of some future inventory. Definitely worth very second of effort required to enjoy it.
Brilliant on many levels. Best non-fiction book I have listened to this year. SRH
I so like this book! Not only does one travel in time, one also travels around the entire world, and learns so much. (if one only could remember as well!!!) Well written, accessible and clever at the same time, but never ever pretentious, just so interesting you do not like to put it down. Wonderful pictures. It does not make me want to move to London, it makes me want to move to British Museum. For anybody who likes travel and history, this is a must. For anybody who likes knowledge- I can only encourage you to either buy the book, or the DVDs, as this originally was a BBC series. My version has a downside- I have the hardback - and bragging, with autograph of the author- and it is too heavy to schlepp around.
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