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A History of the World in 100 Objects (2010) (wikipedia.org)
53 points by tagawa on Jan 17, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 12 comments

I listened to the entire series and it's absolutely fantastic; one of my favorite things ever. It's interesting on two levels.

One, the history itself is fascinating, even for somebody like me that's generally not a big history buff. (Perhaps it helps that the episodes are short!)

Two, the central conceit -- snapshots of history as told via examinations of various historical artifacts -- actually changed the way I look at things around me. Every single object we hold, mundane or otherwise, holds so much information and is shaped by so many things.

Here's one example I remember well: the famous "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" print. We tend to think of it as the most quintessential Japanese print. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa

But it's more complex and interesting than that. It actually marks a big turning point in Japanese culture, as it actually incorporates major European influences: the rich blue inks and a European use of perspective to depict the mountain in the distance. So this unmistakably Japanese print represents a crossroads...

I love the way that this series shows how much can be revealed by the simplest of objects. For example, the Oxus chariot - http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/sbCfsq5kSFak... - transcript: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/about/transcripts/ep...

It's a tiny (but intricate) model of a chariot, rider and passenger, and yet through this, the program explains how it reveals the vast orderly road network of an empire, the functioning of a state and the diversity of its religions and regions.

You can get all the audio episodes for free at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00nrtd2/episodes/downloads....

    wget  -i <(curl -s http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00nrtd2/episodes/downloads.rss | grep -Po 'http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/.*?mp3' | sort | uniq)

It's also available as a podcast via iTunes, which is how I've been enjoying it:


Is there a way to get the results "sorted" ? The filenames don't help much

They are tagged so you can use something like easytag to rename them based on that. Alternatively just use a proper podcast client to download them all, I like gpodder 2.

Not a very great list for the history of the world in 100 objects in my opinion. Neil could have picked anything but nope. Take the last 5 items representing the past 100 years. No objects representing WW1, WW2 and the computer revolution probably three of the most seminal moments in human history are left out. In its stead is the painting "In the dull village" and a Sharia compliant credit card. The whole list seems painfully diverse and mundane.

The title's a bit tongue in cheek; obviously a complete history of the world could never be told in 100 short snapshots, and it was not meant to be a complete synopsis of all that has ever happened.

It also seemed apparent to me that the objects were chosen based on their ability to reveal something unexpected. WWII is fairly well understood by most in the West at this point, at least when compared to some things that were explained in the Sharia credit card episode.

There are several billion Muslims in the world and Islamic beliefs prohibit moneylending for profit -- in other words, the charging of interest. That's something Jesus is depicted as opposing in the Bible, as well, so this is actually a bit of common heritage between Christian and Islamic cultures.

Yet the charging of interest is a practice so deeply ingrained in the Western financial system that we hardly think about it. When we learn that, it certainly makes us think about a few things. So I thought that was actually an excellent episode.

He picked objects in the British Museum.

Wars have their own museum in London - the Imperial War Museum - and the computer revolution is somewhat represented in the Science Museum.

The Credit Card probably contains a 8051 core, anyhow.

The entire story of the HMS Beagle's chronometers is fascinating. She carried 22 where most vessels of time only one or three.


Skip Wikipedia - it doesn't add anything. Go straight to http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/

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