| BOOK REVIEW:|
History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor
Review by Tyler Steele
Neil MacGregor is the Director of the British Museum. In 2010, the Museum and BBC created a radio series- one hundred 15 minute programs, each describing an object in the Museum and its impact on human history. The book is a written summary of the one hundred programs. It is a fascinating journey through human history. Objects as varied as a spear tip from 11,000 B.C., the Rosetta Stone and a credit card. The book does a great job of covering not simply European history but strives to touch all cultures and corners of human civilization.
What I found most interesting was how the author was able to touch on many aspects of the objects which may not be immediately apparent from simply looking at them. For example, Object 93 is a famous Japanese Print called the Blue Wave by an artist named Hokusai. It show a large blue wave breaking in the sea with Mount Fuji in the background. The painting was composed during Japan’s isolation period (the early 1800s) but the blue of the ocean is from a Prussian made synthetic dye. Showing that Japan was more connected to the rest of the world via trade than one would have thought. The author made a point of showing multiple connections between cultures through these objects. With the intention of highlighting our shared humanity.
The book is very readable as it is essentially a collection of one hundred short essays. It is well written and obviously deeply researched. Each object has an amazing story to tell and Neil MacGregor has does a great job helping tell their story. My personal favorite object is number 40, the Hoxne Pepper Pot. It was from around 400AD in England and is a luxury item which was likely buried to hide it, as Roman rule in England was collapsing. It makes me think of small heirlooms that families still treasure today. The pepper for the pot had to travel from at least India, which is an amazing thought for so long ago. To me it enforces one of the key themes of the book, humans have been trading over very long distances for many thousands of years. And not just goods but language and ideas.
If you prefer you can listen to all 100 episodes via the BBCs website or the British Museum’s website. The BBC still has a website up in which you can do further exploration into each of the objects and the rest of the Museum. The website and the audio clips can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld