Every now and then you run across something and say you wish you’d discovered that years ago. That’s what happened to me when I discovered a really remarkable book. It’s entitled, “A History of The World in 100 Objects”. The book is written by Neil MacGregor who is the director of the British Museum. What he did is to go through the museum and pick out 100 objects of art that basically tell the history of the world. But it’s not like the history books that I read in school. Yes, it has tons of facts and goes over many of the major civilizations, but it does it through the eyes of artists. I learned 100 times more about world history reading this book than I ever did from going to school. Let me give you a few examples.
I’d always figured that up until the time of Columbus, most civilizations stuck pretty much to themselves. Yes, there were the Vikings and the Venetians, but I was taught that they had a few small ships that ventured out on a few expeditions. What I didn’t realize is that for the last several thousand years, people moved around—a lot. Art, coins and other objects have been found all over the place. For instance, in Africa, traders regularly traded items from China and Europe. It seems like the Vikings went everywhere. And the silk trade took people from China to the Middle East and to England.
I was also quite surprised about how much the major religions have evolved and how art tracked these changes. And, I also learned how many advanced civilizations existed outside of Europe during the middle ages. Art from China, Japan, India and Africa could rival that in ancient Greece and Rome. And one more thing I learned: people have been creating art for a long time. Objects tens of thousands of years old show how humans have had the desire to create from the earliest generations.
I’d rate the book an easy five stars. There’s lots more information if you are interested, including programs from the British Museum and the BBC. Kudos to MacGregor for putting this together in such a brilliant way.