A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor, Allen Lane (Penguin NZ), ISBN 9781846145117, RRP $45, Available now.
A History of the World in 100 Objects from the BBC was one the best podcasts I listened to throughout 2010 (they’ve also been broadcast on Radio NZ) and this accompanying book is the perfect version of those shows in book form.
A bit of background: A History of the World in 100 Objects is a different approach to history. Rather than focus on places and times Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, has chosen 100 objects that live in the museum to explore themes of human history – from pre-historic to the present. This approach turned out to be the perfect way to show how everyday lives of people in cultures around the world and throughout time have interconnected and how everything we do, know and think today has been shaped by the people before us.
The objects he’s chosen aren’t the most famous or necessarily the most groundbreaking either (some, such as the Kilwa pot sherds, were actual rubbish during their own time) but they all have something to tell us.
What can I say? It’s simply gorgeous. Every object is photographed in full colour, often with close ups and each chapter is reasonably short – great for dipping into. It works as well as a stand-alone book, as in conjunction with the BBC show (I couldn’t read it without hearing MacGregor’s particular intonation in my head) and it is as beautiful an object in itself as many of the objects within. Follow?
$45 is reasonably pricey but frankly it’s actually damn good value here. You will learn. You will marvel. You will enjoy!