Sarah Bringhurst'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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Jul 02, 12

bookshelves: history, britain
Read from April 25 to July 02, 2012

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 100 historically significant objects from the British Museum. It's a novel approach to history, and quite successful, I think. At least I've learned a lot. And now I'm dying to go to the British Museum.

Although I loved the book, I couldn't help thinking with each new marvel what a terrible shame it is that the British are holding on to all these artifacts that rightfully belong elsewhere. It is heartbreaking to visit sites in the Near East and find that all the most dramatic pieces are far away in European museums. To be fair, in the chapter on the Parthenon relief, the book did mention the controversy over whether it ought to be given back to Greece (and yes, I found the British arguments pathetic at best).

Despite the ethical quibble, this is a delightful resource that really brings history to life. You can also find the original radio series, along with great zoomable photos of each object on the BBC website .
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Jared I just finished it! I ended up getting it because of your review. :)


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