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A History of the World in 100 Objects

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,081 Ratings  ·  485 Reviews
Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects takes a bold, original approach to human history, exploring past civilizations through the objects that defined them.

Encompassing a grand sweep of human history, A History of the World in 100 Objects begins with one of the earliest surviving objects made by human hands, a chopping tool from the Olduvai gorge in Africa,
Paperback, 614 pages
Published June 28th 2012 by Penguin (first published October 25th 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nandakishore Varma
Jan 21, 2016 Nandakishore Varma rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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 (
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
Petra X
May 05, 2015 Petra X rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kitchen book method for people with a very low boredom threshhold. Like me.
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
Mar 24, 2016 Edward rated it really liked it
Preface: Mission Impossible
Introduction: Signals from the Past

--A History of the World in 100 Objects

List of Objects
Text Acknowledgements
Mark Lawrence
Feb 28, 2016 Mark Lawrence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I've been reading for a year at least. I think I got it for Christmas 2013. It's divided into 100 sections so it's ideal for dipping in to. It starts with objects of great antiquity from pre-history and moves forward, ending up with an object from 2010. There are black and white pictures of each object and periodically a bunch of coloured pages with photos of the items too.

The objects are interesting and well chosen to illustrate the cultures they came from and the changing techno
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
Mar 09, 2016 Cecily rated it really liked it
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
Dec 16, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is a marvelous book that looks at the history of the world by taking a look at 100 objects that now reside in the British Museum in London. The objects range from a crudely carved rock used as a tool to a solar powered lamp and charging unit.

By the objects we learn who made it and how they used it. We learned where the object was used and when. Each object was presented with a photo and short text. It's one of those books that does not have to be read from front to back all at once. I read
Oct 17, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
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
Dec 29, 2011 Jsavett1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 21, 2015 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Annette Abbott
Nov 09, 2011 Annette Abbott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 11, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Five stars plus. Reading this book was like visiting an enormous museum with your own personal curator, who points out details you would not notice or be able to interpret and who paints a sometimes surprising picture of what each object reveals about the society and time it came from.

The British Museum picked 100 man-made objects from its collections, beginning with an Egyptian mummy and stone tools from Olduvai Gorge and ranging all over the world up to the present day, to talk about the hist
Sarah Bringhurst
Jul 02, 2012 Sarah Bringhurst rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, britain
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
Oct 10, 2012 Nikki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Aug 06, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
'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
Oct 08, 2015 Ray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a great book. In some ways a light read - organised into a chapter of a few pages on each object - it nonetheless provides insights and analysis which catapults us into history. It brings history to life using everyday objects rather than lists of "great leaders", kings or battles.

Well worth a read.
pierlapo  quimby
Il British Museum a (è) casa mia.
Pete daPixie
Jun 18, 2013 Pete daPixie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
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
Jun 09, 2012 Stefanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 24, 2011 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Don Christie
May 16, 2012 Don Christie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 09, 2012 Leyoh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a great coffee table poser or male bathroom accessory but also a fantastic read. I brought it for my brother in law after hearing the BBC Radio 4 series and mostly read it myself in the lost days between Christmas and New Year. I felt there could have been a little more diversity in the objects although not being a historian have no alternatives to offer, nor do I expect history to be rewritten for one readers fancy. My favourite object was the IFE Head. I'm itching to visit the Nat ...more
Ale Vergara
Bajé este libro porque, me pareció, conjugaba dos elementos que me gustan un montón: por un lado, la idea decimonónica de la "Historia del mundo"; por el otro, la idea de lo cotidiano, de los objetos con los que vamos dejando registro de nuestra existencia.

Leyendo el prólogo me enteré de un par de cosas que me entusiasmaron más. En primer lugar que MacGregor no se planteó LA historia del mundo sino, más bien y de manera más sensata, UNA historia del hombre. Segundo: la selección de los objetos
Jun 19, 2013 Fraser rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ambitious, clever, my kind of history focused on the everyday cultural clues and not just the spectacular exhibits it could so have easily done. Great work and something to be highly recommended in its unorthodox premise.
José Vicente
Sep 16, 2014 José Vicente rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: más-como-estos
El libro es transcripción de un programa de BBC Radio en colaboración con el British Museum. Cada día dedicaban un miniespacio a comentar un objeto del museo, ordenados cronológica y temáticamente. Cada cinco objetos tratan un momento clave de la historia de la humanidad.

Tiene el sello de los buenos documentales de la BBC, muy interesante y divulgativo.

Si estás leyendo esto en un dispositivo poco amigo de las imágenes, están todas (y el audio de los programas originales) aquí ->
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Neil MacGregor was born in Glasgow to two doctors, Alexander and Anna MacGregor. At the age of nine, he first saw Salvador Dalí's Christ of Saint John of the Cross, newly acquired by Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery, which had a profound effect on him and sparked his lifelong interest in art. MacGregor was educated at Glasgow Academy and then read modern languages at New College, Oxford, where he ...more
More about Neil MacGregor...

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“It is, as we know, the victors who write the history, especially when only the victors know how to write.” 6 likes
“And the more you look at the history of Homo sapiens, it’s all about movement, right from the very first time they decided to leave Africa. It is this restlessness which seems a very significant factor in the way the planet was settled by humans. It does seem that we are not settled. We think we are, but we are still looking for somewhere else where something is better – where it’s warmer, it’s more pleasant. Maybe there is an element, a spiritual element, of hope in this – that you are going to find somewhere that is wonderful. It’s the search for paradise, the search for the perfect land – maybe that’s at the bottom of it all, all the time.” 4 likes
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