A History of the World in 100 Objects / Edition 2


From the renowned director of the British Museum, a kaleidoscopic history of humanity told through things we have made.

When did people first start to wear jewelry or play music? When were cows domesticated and why do we feed their milk to our children? Where were the first cities and what made them succeed? Who invented math-or came up with money?

The history of humanity is a history of invention and innovation, as we have continually created new items to use, to admire, or to leave our mark on the world. In this original and thought-provoking book, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, has selected one hundred man-made artifacts, each of which gives us an intimate glimpse of an unexpected turning point in human civilization. A History of the World in 100 Objects stretches back two million years and covers the globe. From the very first hand axe to the ubiquitous credit card, each item has a story to tell; together they relate the larger history of mankind-revealing who we are by looking at what we have made.

Handsomely designed, with more than 150 color photographs throughout the text, A History of the World in 100 Objects is a gorgeous reading book and makes a great gift for anyone interested in history.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

It began as a celebrated British Museum exhibition; then became an equally celebrated book curated by the renowned director of that institution. Now a trade paperback and NOOK Book, A History of the World in 100 Objects continues to bedazzle and fascinate us with its walking tour through two million years of human history. But this is no ordinary kings and conquests narrative: No, Neil MacGregor here presents our evolving lives through the objects that have changed them and, in most cases, made them better. The objects are various; from primitive counting devices and shards of Tanzanian pottery to Nineveh friezes, a ceremonial helmet from Sutton Hoo, and the Rosetta Stone. A book that tells us what history is really about.

Library Journal
We are what we make, and MacGregor proves it. Director of the British Museum, he uses 100 objects, ranging from a two million-year-old hand ax to a solar-powered lamp and charger, circa 2010, to survey human history. Sounds absolutely fascinating, and it comes highly recommended; the book was chosen by 11 publications as Book of the Year in the UK, and the joint BBC Radio program has been downloaded 12.5 million times. Get this one.
Kirkus Reviews

An arresting world history told through the stories of 100 objects that can be found in the British Museum.

Based on a popular BBC Radio series broadcast last year, this beautifully illustrated book demonstrates how much we can learn about past societies from the things they have left behind. British Museum director MacGregor provides insightful commentaries on each of the objects, which range from the beginning of human history (about 2 million years ago) to the present, and represent most parts of the world. Selected by the museum's curators, the objects are not associated with important historical events; rather, they are artworks and everyday things that exemplify themes and establish connections across time and space. Each part consists of objects made in different parts of the world in the same time period. Thus a section on "The First Global Economy, AD 1450-1650," when traders first brought different cultures into contact with each other, features a mechanical galleon from Germany, a brass plaque from Nigeria, a mosaic-decorated figurine from Mexico, porcelain elephants from Japan and pieces-of-eight coins minted in Bolivia. New scientific techniques help tease out stories from the objects: Researchers can now see inside the linen wrappings of Egyptian mummies and can test materials to reveal trading networks. The colors and patterns of broken pots and plates found on a beach in Tanzania around 900 show the extent of links with China and the Middle East. Many items, such as a bronze Chinese bell and silver Turkish coins, convey the power of owners and rulers. In an appealing, conversational style, MacGregor considers chess pieces, wine jugs, tablets and other objects to explain how people lived through the ages. The text also includes contributions from Seamus Heaney, David Attenborough, Martin Amis and others.

A book to savor, full of information and surprises.

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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2580670022703
  • Manufacturer: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/27/2011
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 736
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 2.19 (d)
  • These items ship to U.S. address only. No APO/FPO.

Meet the Author

Neil MacGregor has been the director of the British Museum since 2002; prior to that, he was the director of the National Gallery in London. A popular presenter on BBC television and radio, he was named Briton of the Year in 2008. He lives in England.

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Customer Reviews

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( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 14 of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2011

    Great Gift

    I got this book for my father and brother and law and they both loved it. It makes a great gift for history lover for the holidays.

    16 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2012

    An enjoyable book

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It looks at the development of humankind through the lens of representative artifacts. For the most part these artifacts are not the highly publicized treasures of popular imagination. Though some of them are spectacular, many are humble.

    Each artifact is well photographed and carefully described in a short chapter that includes comments from individuals noted in the field the artifact pertains to. I found myself appreciating objects that I ordinarily would have passed over as uninteresting.

    It is a perfect "read on the fly" book as well. Each short chapter is complete in itself and can be read in short sittings.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2013


    After years of hating to read history books, I've found one that I can actually read and enjoy. I purchased it to find out which 100 objects were chosen and I'm reading it to learn more about world history.
    I appreciate the Table of Contents as it is easy to reference other objects. I would like colored object pictures, but prefer reading it on my eReader. The one thing I like most is that Neil MacGregor talks to you as a person and not as historian.
    TRY IT . . . YOU MAY LIKE IT . . .and actually like learning more about our history no matter how old you are.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2012

    Omission of Asian language

    I read the sample, and carefully searched the table of content. No mention of Japanese, where there are different verbs for words such as give, depending on the relationship between the giver, the receiver and who's hearing about it. Didn'tt see anything on ordering of sentences, also a bog factor in understanding of language.
    Significant omissions, given the title of the book! Could only imagine other ways of being sketchy.

    3 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2012

    Dont waste your time

    This book is packed with information, yes. How ever the writing style is awful and I found that it went in allot of circles. Its a huge book and will take up allot 9fyour time. Its your choice, but i sugest saving your time.

    1 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2013


    Hey this post is so stupid

    0 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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