A History of the World in 100 Objects

A History of the World in 100 Objects

Book - 2010
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This book takes a dramatically original approach to the history of humanity, using objects which previous civilisations have left behind them, often accidentally, as prisms through which we can explore past worlds and the lives of the men and women who lived in them. The book's range is enormous. It begins with one of the earliest surviving objects made by human hands, a chopping tool from the Olduvai gorge in Africa, and ends with an object from the 21st century which represents the world we live in today.

Neil MacGregor's aim is not simply to describe these remarkable things, but to show us their significance - how a stone pillar tells us about a great Indian emperor preaching tolerance to his people, how Spanish pieces of eight tell us about the beginning of a global currency or how an early Victorian tea-set tells us about the impact of empire. Each chapter immerses the reader in a past civilisation accompanied by an exceptionally well-informed guide. Seen through this lens, history is a kaleidoscope - shifting, interconnected, constantly surprising, and shaping our world today in ways that most of us have never imagined. An intellectual and visual feast, it is one of the most engrossing and unusual history books published in years.

Publisher: London : Penguin, 2010.
ISBN: 9781846144134
Branch Call Number: 909 MacG
Characteristics: xxvi, 707 p. : col. ill., maps (some col.) ; 24 cm.
Additional Contributors: British Museum
BBC Radio 4


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LoganLib_Phoebe Jun 22, 2016

Don't be daunted by the size, this is a very readable and fascinating history told through objects both grand and everyday.

Jan 24, 2015

The tack it takes on its subject, combined with all the chapters being short, makes this book terrific.

Nov 19, 2014

One of my favorite books! Actually, it started as an audio program, and I recommend first listening to it. The library has it on CD. Such a great concept - audio depictions of objects. The essay on each object includes comments from a contemporary perspective. For example, Dyson comments on potential uses of one of the earliest tools. After listening to it, I had to see the objects and checked out the book, then bought it for myself, and even emailed the author (who sent me a very nice reply). This is history at its best, respectful of cultural differences, accessible, and highly entertaining.

Jan 20, 2014

Best world history book - ever.

Oct 22, 2012

-a wholly enjoyable book. MacGregor makes material culture come alive through brilliant story-telling.

Sep 13, 2012

Of course this is also a history of British colonialism, but MacGregor does a good job of adding culturally sensitive insights. It's great preparation for a visit to this one of many free museums in London.

Jul 28, 2012

Well, not quite the objects I was prepared for, nor the perspective, either! Should've done my due diligence first. Still, 'twas a good, deliberate, skim. Glad to see that they chose to acknowledge more than the western world.

hgeng63 May 08, 2012

No one does history like the British! I really like how non-Western cultures were covered.

Mar 26, 2012

This book tells the history of humanity from about 2 million years ago through to last year through a selection of 100 human-made objects, from a stone chopping tool to a solar-powered lamp. The author freely admits that the selection of objects, all from the British Museum, is subjective, but he still manages to cover a wide range of cultures, times, and places. I found that I learned things about the sophistication of African and south Asian societies that I hadn't read before. Each object gets its own chapter and at least one full-page colour photo. Some objects merit additional photos to show other angles or details. Each chapter describes the object and explains its place in history. It's a very readable and enlightening work

My only complaint is that the book is HUGE... 707 pages including index and references. It's very heavy and cumbersome to tote around if, like me, you read during your daily commute on public transit.

Oct 14, 2011

I loved this book and will buy it for myself to keep on my bookshelves. It is a volume I shall return to again and again to study the colour plates of the marvellous artefacts from the British Museum and to read of the provenance and the fascinating historical context of each item. It progresses through over 5000 years of the global history of humankind and is always absorbing and easy to read. I have already placed an order to purchase my own copy. A wonderful book.

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