Can’t get to the British Museum right now? Never mind—let it come to you, in the extraordinary sampling of its collections that is A History of the World in 100 Objects (Viking, $45). First presented as a BBC Radio 4 series, the book has been curated by a team of experts headed by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum. Chronicling material culture from a circa-240 BC Egyptian wooden mummy case to a solar-powered lamp made in China last year, this volume showcases the astounding variety of things humans have created. Here are mosaics and mirrors, ivory labels and gold capes, the Rosetta Stone and Hokusai’s The Great Wave. Arranged chronologically in twenty sections from the Olduvai Gorge era on, the volume presents each of the hundred objects in a full-color photograph accompanied by commentary describing the item’s role in its original culture as well as the significance it has gained in later ones. Most important, unlike conventional text-based histories—the ones written by the victors—this one is drawn from tangible relics and strives to convey what peoples lacking written records made of their experiences.
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