The Complete History of the World (and Human Creativity) in 100 Objects

While we’re catch­ing up with his­tor­i­cal pod­casts, note that BBC Radio 4’s The His­to­ry of the World in 100 Objects (iTunes – RSS Feed – Web Site) has wrapped up and cov­ered all 100 objects. And not, mind you, just any old objects: these objects come straight from the col­lec­tion of the British Muse­um, and thus almost cer­tain­ly reveal the sto­ry of mankind more effec­tive­ly than most. For that has con­sti­tut­ed the pro­gram’s project since its incep­tion: to tell, for just under fif­teen min­utes at a stretch, one chap­ter of human his­to­ry as the trained eye can read it in an object like an ear­ly writ­ing tablet, a Chi­nese bronze bell, or an Egypt­ian clay mod­el of cat­tle. Don’t let the seem­ing plain­ness of these arti­facts fool you; the show approach­es them with all the most advanced audio pro­duc­tion tech­niques. And after you’ve lis­tened, you’ll real­ize that, looked at from a suit­ably his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, there’s not a plain object in this bunch.

Since A His­to­ry of the World in 100 Objects has fin­ished its jour­ney to the present day, the new lis­ten­er has no oblig­a­tion to begin in the ancient world and work their way for­ward. You might well pre­fer to begin at the end, as it were, and draw insights from one of our every­day objects like a cred­it card (albeit, in this broad­cast, one that con­forms to Shar­i’a law), or a slight­ly futur­is­tic object now enter­ing our every­day lives like a solar-pow­ered lamp. From there, you can delve deep­er and deep­er into our cul­ture and tech­nol­o­gy’s past: the nifty lamp gives way to the cred­it card which gives way to a David Hock­ney paint­ing, which gives way to the HMS Bea­gle’s chronome­ter to the mechan­i­cal galleon and a Kore­an roof tile until you’re back at the Mum­my of Horned­jitef. If you get back that far and still find your­self long­ing for more from host Neil Mac­Gre­gor, be aware that he’s got a new, 20-part his­tor­i­cal series going called Shake­speare’s Rest­less World. The range of source mate­r­i­al may have nar­rowed, but the depth remains.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Rome in 179 Pod­casts

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any Gaps – Peter Adamson’s Pod­cast Still Going Strong

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • Gundula says:

    This is indeed the most won­der­ful and com­pre­hen­sive pod­cast series about the his­to­ry of mankind I have encoun­tered so far.nBUT the way you adver­tize here just twists the cre­ators’ inten­tion as I under­stand it: “A His­to­ry of the World” cel­e­brates cul­tur­al diver­si­ty and inter­pre­tive openness.nBy re-nam­ing it “THE COMPLETE His­to­ry of the World”, you close off the project of his­to­ry writ­ing — as if it was com­plete and fixed, noth­ing new or dif­fer­ent to add.nThis is an utter­ly anti-cre­ative dis­cur­sive move. Pity.

  • Jorge Enrique Gonzalez Reyes says:

    I join the won­der­ful and com­plete His­to­ry of the World.
    I express my spe­cials feel­ings.
    Thank so much.

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