A History of the World in 100 Objects
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A History of the World in 100 Objects

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  2,375 ratings  ·  377 reviews
'In this book, we travel back in time and across the globe, to see how we humans have shaped our world and been shaped by it over the past two million years. The story is told exclusively through the things that humans have made - all sorts of things, carefully designed and then either admired and preserved or used, broken and thrown away. I've chosen just a hundred object...more
Hardcover, 707 pages
Published November 10th 2011 by Allen Lane (first published October 27th 2010)
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Petra X
Jun 16, 2013 Petra X rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kitchen book method for people with a very low boredom threshhold. Like me.
Shelves: history, 2013-reviews
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) or even I...more
Nandakishore Varma
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 (
...more
Zanna
In the British Museum, where I go often, 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 also 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 get my foot off the neck as it were. Reading this is perhaps too soothing at times, and I tried not to be soothed, and to keep seei...more
Chris
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...more
Tony
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...more
Cecily
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 voi...more
Jsavett1
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 (lovel...more
Annette Abbott
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...more
Caroline
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 o...more
Hadrian
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...more
Nancy
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...more
Sarah Bringhurst
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 10...more
Nikki
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...more
Michael
'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...more
pierlapo  quimby
Il British Museum a (è) casa mia.
Pete daPixie
I followed this series of programmes when they were broadcast on BBC Radio Four. Every week day morning featured one artefact from the British Museum, which was described in detail by the museums director, Neil MacGregor. Reading this mighty tome, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects', published in 2010, is much more of an arduous task than listening to those short radio broadcasts. From cover to cover there are over seven hundred pages, where Mr MacGregor's selected museum pieces are placed i...more
Vanessa
This is a collection of the transcripts of all 100 episodes of the excellent BBC 4 series of the same name hosted by Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum. I can't give it less than 5 stars because the content is so good-although it really is enlivened by MacGregor's presentation.

The concept was simple-take 100 objects from the Museum's collection ranging from some stone tools that are nearly 2 million years old (yeah, we're getting Homo habilis up in here) found in present-day Tan...more
Don Christie
This book is a history dilettante's delight. The director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor has taken 100 objects from their vast collection of looted artefacts and in just a few pages for each, uses them to plot the progress of humanity from early the stone ages through to the present day.

So, did you wonder about Ice Age sex or what the Romans thought of homosexuality? Look no further than Ain Sakhri lovers and the beautiful Warren Cup, a silver goblet illustrating older Greek guys shagging...more
Michael
This book was an ambitious undertaking. I can't say that he's certainly failed, nor succeeded. MacGregor tells the story of mankind's history through objects on display or owned by the British Museum. I've spent several days wandering through the British Museum so I can certainly confirm its vast collection and millions of stories to tell.
MacGregor wrote a very compelling introduction that motivated the use of objects to tell history rather than relying on the history that is typically told thro...more
Stefanie
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...more
Jill Manske
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...more
Procyon Lotor
Un libro simile nasce sbagliato ed inattuale per definizione. Qualsiasi elenco � incompleto, qualsiasi elenco � ideologico, qualsiasi elenco � morto prima di nascere, ma il coraggio del direttore del British Museum ha vinto. Col limite ampio ma serio che gli oggetti dovessero essere parte della collezione, raccolse materiale per un centinaio di conferenze radiofoniche alla BBC. Gi� un bell'esempio di servizio pubblico, il successo di cui godettero per� dimostra che dipese pure dal pubblico. Evid...more
Michael
The BBC in Britain commissioned a series of radio broadcasts that were to show the history of the world in 100 objects selected from the British Museum displays in London. These objects had to be from different countries and had to have significance effect on how our modern world has evolved. From a 2 million year-old cutting object made of stone through to a solar powered lamp of 2010, Neil McGregor (the Director of the British Museum) has converted the BBC radio series into a large book. By la...more
Adam Higgitt
From the broadcasting event of the decade comes one of the books of the year. A History of the World in 100 Objects, a extraordinary collaboration between the BBC and the British Museum, wowed Radio 4 audiences for most of this year, tracing humanity’s story from two million years ago to the modern era through the technologies we have developed and the things we have deemed precious. What made the series so special was not the concept (though it was innovative enough) but the curatorial brillian...more
Jay
If I look around my office at home, I see books that I have bought over the past 30 years; a few objects that date back to my childhood in the '70s (and two that I acquired in 1967, when I was 5); and photos of my ancestors that go back to the first decade of the 20th Century. If you had a little bit of background to guide you, you could trace my history and that of my family for the last 100 years by closely examining the objects in my office.

Neil MacGregor, a curator at the British Museum, has...more
Louise

5 Stars

A History of the World in 100 Objects started life as a radio programme by the BBC (podcasts still available to download for free here) in which the director of the British Museum used 100 very varied objects from the museum’s collections to emphasise key points and ideas throughout human history. Although I didn’t listen to it at the time (I have now dowloaded the podcasts), as a history student with an interest in archaeology and museum’s I was aware of it, so a few years later when I s...more
Jennifer
I thought this was a lovely idea for a radio series - a set of delicious short programmes which enrich your life, the sort of thing BBC Radio 4 excels in. However, life being life, I didn't hear all of all of them by any means. I have enjoyed this less ironic way of catching up with the 100 objects from the British Museum collections and sometimes the pictures on the page are better than ones I might have created in my head, other times not. It is obviously a superb book to dip into, but I found...more
Leah
‘This really was a discovery worth taking your clothes off for.’
It is Neil MacGregor’s passion for sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge that makes this book such an enjoyable read. I heard a few of the programmes when he presented ‘A History of the World…’ on Radio 4 and was surprised at how interesting he could make a discussion of objects that we couldn’t see. The same thing applies to the book. Although there are small black and white pictures of each of the objects and a few colour plates o...more
Todd Nemet
Dec 10, 2013 Todd Nemet rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Humans of Earth
You gotta hand it to the British. For a nation of shopkeepers they are pretty good collectors too. They went around the world pillaging and pillaging (having gotten the raping out of their system in Eton, I guess) and looting all the priceless artifacts from all the cultures of the world. Then like pale, effeminate magpies they brought these artifacts back to a one-square-city-block nest they call the British Museum.

Some people can't get past the moral issues associated with this, or rather the...more
Laurel
This is an amazing book based on what must have been an impressive, entertaining, and educational radio series. It demonstrates brilliantly how much information we can glean and teaching we can do with objects. Loved the popular writing style, much like what you would find in Smithsonian magazine. You would think that after about 25 or 50 objects the gimmick would fade but I was newly blown away by just about every thing and the learning curve for each. If anything, the more recent objects prese...more
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