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A History of the World in 100 Objects

Woke this morning in some discomfort due to minor but inconvenient medical complaint, and in the course of driving to doctor and then the pharmacy and then back home, I finished listening to the last few installments of A History of the World in 100 Objects, which has been my recourse when I run out of Doctor Who audios since I finished a rather unimpressive BBC history series on the British Empire four months ago.

A History of the World in 100 Objects is really excellent. A hundred thirteen-minute programmes - so 22 hours in total - each taking a single exhibit in the British Museum and telling its story. By concentrating on the material goods, Neil MacGregor, the British Museum's director, is able to take us on a journey across cultures, taking them on their own merits, knocking down preconceptions and prejudices about pre-industrial and non-Western societies. He starts with an Egyptian mummy (as a methodological marker - the rest of the first tranche of programmes are about the stone age) and ends with a solar-powered lamp, reflecting on hos that is changing the world, especially the developing world. All of the programmes are excellent and it feels a bit invidious to single out any, but I felt MacGregor's own excitement when describing two of the best-known items in the BM - the Rosetta Stone and the Sutton Hoo helmet, the latter of which features Seamus Heaney - an attractive feature of these programmes is the number and quality of the guest speakers, alternating between experts and celebrities (most of whom are of course experts in some way anyway). But really the whole set of audios is absolutely superb, and if you have the sort of lifestyle where the occasional thirteen-minute gap could be filled with some enlightenment about matters historical, you can't do better than start with this. My only serious complaint is that it is now over and I'll have to find something else to listen to.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 17th, 2011 09:01 am (UTC)
I loved this, and the supporting book (which comes with the radio series on cd) is also excellent. (I bought the book for my mother, whose hearing is no longer good enough to cope with radio, and she reports that reading one section a day is very satisfying.)
Apr. 17th, 2011 09:47 am (UTC)
My copy of the book didn't come with a CD! I have missed out!

(Only on the object. I did download all the podcasts as they aired.)

Edited at 2011-04-17 09:48 am (UTC)
Apr. 17th, 2011 09:25 am (UTC)
I loved it too. My personal favourite -- due to *my* medical complaints, was the one about the cow statues.

If you're looking for something else, the Guardians "Science Weekly" podcasts are worth a shot.
Apr. 17th, 2011 01:32 pm (UTC)
I agree with this.

I listed to as much as I could when it was broadcast, and have the entire run on this laptop meaning to relistn fromt he beginning, I guess I ought to figure out some audio playing software with a UI I don't hate to do so.

A really well put together series, and his enthusiasm was palpable, very impressive and definetly what the BBC is there for. That there were complaints about it and the cost makes my mind boggle.
Apr. 17th, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
I'm big on the Royal Society's lunchtime history-of-science lectures. Particularly recommended:

Ruth Belville (The Greenwich "Time Lady")

Marine Archaeology and 'Hunting the Beagle'

Palmer's Penguins
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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