Kent's Reviews > A History of the World in 100 Objects

A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor
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Jun 10, 11

bookshelves: history-world
Read from June 02 to 10, 2011

During 2010 I became aware of the BBC Radio 4 broadcasts of Neil MacGregor's series of the same title as this book. I listened to quite a few of the episodes via the internet, which were 15 minute vignettes wherein the Director of the British Museum described the history of various eras and peoples of the world through an object on display at the museum. Each object seemed to be telling the story by its own individual characteristics.

Here, those vignettes have been assembled in book form with each episode forming one of 100 chapters. Two of my favorite objects are the Olmec Stone Mask and the Rosetta Stone. The mask informed me about an ancient civilization that inhabited geography that is now Mexico between 1400 to 400 B.C. In this vignette, McGregor tells of a vast and complex civilization of massive cities and advanced technologies, which suddenly disappear, leaving the cities unoccupied and in ruins. The Rosetta Stone informs us that that were two forms of Egyptian hieroglyphics, one more common than the other. Apparently, this second form was a reformatted version that was used primarily by priests. I find these objects fascinatingly informative, in light of some of my religious beliefs.

While the 100 objects attempt to cover the entire span of human history, the 100th being a solar-powered lamp and charger made in China in 2010, noticeably absent were any objects from the culture of the people of the United States of America. Of course, this is a program showing objects held in the British Museum, but I thought it somewhat revealing that there are apparently no redeeming objects from our modern U.S. culture - at least none that have made it into the museum as yet. How positively disappointing!

The book is enjoyable and very informative. Obviously, MacGregor has the benefit of scholarly researchers and staff who pull the histories together. But, the amount of massive research and scholarly insights shared in this book are astounding in their comprehensiveness and breadth of coverage.
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