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A History of the World in 100 Objects [Hardcover]

Neil MacGregor
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (231 customer reviews)

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A History of the World in 100 Objects A History of the World in 100 Objects 4.6 out of 5 stars (231)
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Book Description

25 Oct 2010

'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 objects from different points on our journey - from a cooking pot to a golden galleon, from a Stone Age tool to a credit card, and each object comes from the collection of the British Museum.' [from the introduction]

This book takes a dramatically original approach to the history of humanity, using objects which previous civilisations have left behind them, often accidentally, as prisms through which we can explore past worlds and the lives of the men and women who lived in them. The book's range is enormous. It begins with one of the earliest surviving objects made by human hands, a chopping tool from the Olduvai gorge in Africa, and ends with an object from the 21st century which represents the world we live in today.

Neil MacGregor's aim is not simply to describe these remarkable things, but to show us their significance - how a stone pillar tells us about a great Indian emperor preaching tolerance to his people, how Spanish pieces of eight tell us about the beginning of a global currency or how an early Victorian tea-set tells us about the impact of empire. Each chapter immerses the reader in a past civilisation accompanied by an exceptionally well-informed guide. Seen through this lens, history is a kaleidoscope - shifting, interconnected, constantly surprising, and shaping our world today in ways that most of us have never imagined. An intellectual and visual feast, it is one of the most engrossing and unusual history books published in years.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 732 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (25 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846144132
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846144134
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 16.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (231 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 45,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A History of the World in 100 Objects ... has been a triumph: hugely popular, and rightly lauded as one of the most effective and intellectually ambitious initiatives in the making of 'public history' for many decades. (John Adamson Sunday Telegraph )

Highly intelligent, delightfully written and utterly absorbing (Timothy Clifford Spectator )

Allen Lane has done Mr MacGregor proud... The objects have been beautifully photographed, Mr MacGregor's voice comes through distinctively and his arguments about the interconnectedness of disparate societies through the ages are all the stronger for the detail afforded by extra space. A book to savour and start over (Economist )

This is a story book, vivid and witty, shining with insights, connections, shocks and delights (Gillian Reynolds Daily Telegraph )

The style is authentic, personal and humorous. MacGregor could not have skewered our pretensions better...Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair (Andrew Roberts Financial Times )

Brilliant, engagingly written, deeply researched (Mary Beard Guardian ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Neil MacGregor has been Director of the British Museum since 2002. Before that he was Director of the National Gallery from 1987 to 2002. He was 'Briton of the Year' in 2008.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
190 of 201 people found the following review helpful
By Big Jim TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
If I had to choose only one medium in which to explore these 100 objects then I'd choose the radio series over this book - all 100 podcasts are still available for free at the time of writing - this may not last. They are superb! Of course we are now in the fortunate position of having access to those and this beautifully produced book as well and it certainly compliments the series. Some criticisms have been raised that the book has pictures of the 100 objects, on the basis that radio listeners preferred to imagine what they look like, but as they have always been available on the BBC website if you cared to look, I think this is a positive addition and they definitely add to the overall experience of this book.

There is no doubt that this is going to be a succesful book and any popularity granted to such an erudite work is to be welcomed but I have to say that some of the writing appears a bit dry and, well the only word I can think of is, worthy. Without the narration of the various experts on the radio series I think the life goes out of some of these stories.

That is a minor quibble though and will prove a matter of taste but otherwise this is still a fine book and destined to become a "classic", especially if the BBC have their way. If you only had one history book to choose this Christmas, I'd go for Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey but why not splash out and get this one as well, especially at the bargain Amazon price.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideal for Dipping into 27 Sep 2012
By JoMaynard VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I loved the Radio programme when it was first aired, although I didn't hear every episode. I am sure like a lot of people I would delay leaving the car, just to listen to the daily edition.
The podcasts are still available, together with images of the objects themselves on the BBC website. Hopefully they will remain accessible for a very long time.
So why do I need this book? Firstly, I certainly find it easier to take in detail by reading, rather than just hearing. The original Radio shows painted a general impression of the objects, the book gives you a chance to read about them or study them in a far more leisured way, and gives small pictures of each object by each written exploration. I often listened to the radio shows and wished I could see a picture.
This leads on to the second reason for the book, despite having easy access to the internet (even on my phone). It is not always there, maybe I'm out of coverage or on holiday. So it is not always easy to see the images from the internet. Neither do I always have access to podcasts or the radio.
Thirdly it is so much easier to share, which leads on to my last reason, serendipity. Today my teenage daughter just picked up the book, dipped in and found something of interest, she probably wouldn't have bothered to go to the website, but books are so easy just to dip into.
I would highly recommend this as a book to dip into, and find out something new. To leave lying around for others to encounter; and most crucially for us all to learn about the richness of human history from all around the world, recorded in our objects.
The only thing to do next is maybe visit the British Museum to see the objects themselves.
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192 of 210 people found the following review helpful
By Red on Black TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Let me shout it as loudly as I can "I LOVE RADIO 4". Apologies for this show of blatant and raw emotion but it is the one Radio channel which makes life more bearable, it challenges, it provokes and gets as near to that much sought after but rarely achieved quality "the heart of the matter" as is humanly possible (the probing questions of presenters on the Today programme makes me think that democracy still has a fighting chance). The channel also carries brilliant series of which "A History of the World in 100 Objects" by Neil MacGregor is a prime example, even the trailers leading up to its broadcast in January this year were great. What a pleasure therefore to have copy in the written word of this weighty book (738 pages) to accompany the series and to revisit the passion and authority of Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum and cultivator of fabulous facts.

The whole premise underpinning this epic journey was predicated on a wicked idea conceived by Mark Damazer, then head of Radio 4 to challenge our hugely knowledgeable bods at the British Museum to undertake a somewhat mischievous and loaded exercise. Indeed on the surface any attempt to tell a rather large tale like the history of the world over a modest 2 million years in this manner seems like a piece of First Class honours inspired lunacy. "Baby and bathwater" is the phrase that comes to mind and even if the radio series and the following book were outright bilge you would at least have to give Neil MacGregor three stars for accepting the challenge and embracing with gusto the humongous concept.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Mark Meynell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Neil McGregor's original radio series (from which this book derives) must have been a tough pitch: a 100-part documentary series about *objects* that the audience won't be able to see. Doesn't sound that promising! And yet it was a fantastic achievement. But it was crying out for a book. Of course, hardback was the obvious medium for such a treasure trove - but having it in paperback now makes it much more useful for any wanting to make good use of the British Museum itself (for the initial parameter of the concept was that everything had to be in the archives or on display).

Inevitably, the quality of the b/w images for each item is not going to be as high as in the hardback version - but there are still a number of colour plates which do their job well. For better quality images, it is worth checking out the BBC/BritishMuseum website for images and the original programmes (with their great music by Steven Faux).

But the greatest value in having this book is Neil McGregor's prose. It is informative, witty and full of insight. It is a perfect book to dip into in idle moments, or to work systematically through. But however it is read, it is nothing less than a pure joy and delight.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely quality photos and potted histories make this a lovely ...
Lovely quality photos and potted histories make this a lovely book to dip into..just don;t ask your friends to carry it when they come overseas to visit (it weighs 2 kgs ;)
Published 12 days ago by Branwen Patagonia
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Got this book to go with the radio series!
Published 17 days ago by Dorothy Armstrong
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Bought for a history buff and loves it
Published 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
I long for images but the narrative is so engaging, you don't even realise you are reading. It's hard to put this book down.
Published 2 months ago by Lotli
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating books
I absolutely love this book and recommended it to many friends. I has opened up a new way of looking at history and is really wonderful
Published 4 months ago by S.H. Troutman
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
Most people here seem to be disappointed with the picture quality and attack the books depth. I have found the pictures to be be more than adequate. Read more
Published 4 months ago by NKW
3.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition
An intelligent, interesting book. The kindle edition includes great colour photos (better than the paperback version),

Unfortunately, although links from the Table of... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Robert Evans
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable but a publishing curiosity
This is an exquisite attempt at penning down a world history. Tying the key historical epochs to objects bookmarks the chronology in a reader's mind with more impression than the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by coronaurora
5.0 out of 5 stars Object achieved
I bought this after hearing the series on BBC Radio 4. Great to see the real objects, not just the pictures conjured up (quite effectively) by the radio.
Published 5 months ago by Martyn Neale
5.0 out of 5 stars Good christmas present
I have been listening to the podcast. Gave this to my uncle who was very happy. No complaints and i would recommend this to anyone who likes history
Published 6 months ago by Harvey Washbrook
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