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A History of the World in 100 Objects Paperback – 28 Jun 2012
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About the Author
Neil MacGregor was Director of the National Gallery, London from 1987 to 2002 and of the British Museum from 2002 to 2015, and Chair of the Steering Committee of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin from 2015 to 2018. His previous books include A History of the World in 100 Objects, Shakespeare's Restless World and Germany: Memories of a Nation, all available in Penguin and now between them translated into more than a dozen languages. In 2010, he was made a member of the Order of Merit, the UK's highest civil honour. In 2015 he was awarded the Goethe Medal and the German National Prize. In 2018 the radio series Living with the Gods received the Sandford Saint Martin Award for Religious Broadcasting.
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Each object gets about five pages each, so the chapters are a bite-size insight into each era of history that the object relates to. Remember that this project started as a radio series, and so each week they would have different guests on the show, experts in the fields that each item relates to; in the book there are little snippets of what each guest had to say.
Whilst the book might be a bit too heavy and full on to read in one go, it’s one of those books you can dip in and out of, and the chapters are short and punchy which makes it all the more easier.
This book is a must for anyone who considers themselves a history enthusiast, no matter what period of history interests you. One of the cleverest things about the book is how it connects each epoch. When you think about the Romans, or Greeks, or Egyptians, you don’t necessarily know how time transitioned from one to the other, but this book covers the in-between phases too.
I would also recommend this book to anyone who has interests in social sciences, philosophy, and politics too. This book is invaluable in giving an objective view of the world’s history as we know it. If you want to understand how and why we are the way we are, then you need to know where we came from, and this history connects all of us.
Not only does this book fill in the blanks between dynasties and eras, but all of the objects are to be found in the British Museum. It really brings each artefact to life, instead of just reading the two lines next to each artefact which never truly does it justice.
I'd recommend reading the book, highlighting the chapters/items you want to see, and take the book with you on a visit to the British Museum. Don’t be surprised if you find people following you, having a book in your hand and looking determined like you know where you’re going usually makes an impression on other visitors.
The book, like the series, puts history in a human context, not a series of dates of kings and battles, but bringing peopleand societies from the past to life, and as such buys much more involvement from the audience. That, to me, is why the project is so important-engagement with people, not dry academia. This remains a part of my bookshelf as long as I have one, or maybe until I can trust and cope with an e-book format. I guess a mulimedia experience for this- text, podcasts and 360 degree illustrations will come.
It is because of this brilliant educational capability that I truly love Radio 4; one can forgive the blatant socialist bias of much of the current arrairs and light entertainment (and some factual programmes) because every few years they come up with a gem like this; a real contribution to our collective education; an achievement that ranks with the best that broadcast media has ever offered- "The Descent of Man"; "The World At War"; "Life on Earth"; "This Sceptred Isle"; "AHOW" is up there with the very best.
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