Praise for A History of the World in 100 Objects:
“A beautiful and absorbing book, a visual history of humanity . . . filled with equally fascinating objects, some famous, some not, nearly all of them intimate, telling and strange.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Spotlighting artworks, artifacts and documents from the British Museum’s vast collections, Neil MacGregor—the museum’s director—brilliantly elucidates and connects items ranging from Zhou Dynasty bronze vessels to Victorian tea sets, from the Rosetta Stone to etchings by David Hockney, from pieces of eight to the modern credit card. Traversing continents, cultures and epochs with perfect aplomb, it is ultimately a defense of why the universal museum remains a vital institution in today's world. This is an enthralling and profoundly humane book that every civilized person should read.”
—Jonathan Lopez, Wall Street Journal
“A brave and original undertaking . . . Each of the sections has something interesting to say, and prior knowledge of a given topic does not prevent us from gathering new insights from the text and the illustrations, and new angles of vision. Some of the images scattered through the book are so astonishing and so far from our usual perceptions that I don’t think I will ever forget them. . . . MacGregor writes with energy and flair, and this is an entertaining and informative book.”
—Jonathan Spence, The New York Review of Books
“Arresting . . . 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 in an appealing, conversational style. . . . A book to savor, full of information and surprises.”
“MacGregor has done more to capture the magic and importance of history than any number of academic monographs. We are swept from Africa 2 million years ago to the dawn of the 21st century on a whistle-stop tour that avoids most of the obvious destinations but still feels enormously satisfying.”
—Sunday Times, History book of the Year
“Bound to be a popular present this Christmas . . . Everyone knows about the sculptures from the Parthenon. . . . but I was amazed by the boggle-eyed monster carved into the base of a wooden stool that once belonged to a chieftain of the largely forgotten Taino people of the Caribbean, who gave us words such as hurricane, barbecue, hammock and tobacco . . . Erudite and entertaining, monumental yet relaxed.”
—The Telegraph, Best book of the Year
“The most enlightening book of recent times.”
“Wonderful . . . The swirl and sweep of his story transports us to every corner of the globe, and illustrates how different cultures have always communicated, traded, and fought with one another.”
—Tom Holland, The Observer
“Marvelous . . . brilliant, engagingly written, deeply researched.”
—Mary Beard, The Guardian
“The style is authentic, personal and humorous. MacGregor demonstrates the power of objects to recover the place in history of lost civilisations.”
—Andrew Roberts, Financial Times
“None could have imagined quite how the radio series would permeate the national consciousness. Well over 12.5 million podcasts have been downloaded since the first programme and more than 550 museums around Britain have launched similar series featuring local history. . . . MacGregor’s voice comes through as distinctively as it did on radio and his arguments about the interconnectedness of disparate societies through the ages are all the stronger for the detail afforded by extra space. A book to savour and start over.”
This title's stated thesis is to unfurl a two million-year history of the world through 100 objects in the British Museum. Each chapter features a handmade object or set of objects that tells a story about previous civilizations. Starting with one of the earliest surviving hand tools from Africa's Olduvai Gorge, the span of history concludes with a 21st-century object representative of today's world (you have to finish the audiobook to learn what it is). This is not a traditional history but rather an interesting reflection on the changes in human societies. This is an alluring audiobook, one that can be listened to in short or long increments. The musical background that opens and closes each chapter is evocative the first few times you hear it but quickly becomes annoying. Some chapters include background sounds of visitors in the museum, which can set a mood or prove irritating depending on the listener. MacGregor, who provides the narration, has been the British Museum's director since 2002. Recommended for everyone who enjoys history or is interested in how humans have changed and progressed through time.—Gloria Maxwell, Metropolitan Community Coll.-Penn Valley Lib., Kansas City, MO
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.
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.