A book to savor, full of information and surprises.



An arresting world history told through the stories of 100 objects that can be found in the British Museum.

Based on a popular BBC Radio series broadcast last year, this beautifully illustrated book demonstrates how much we can learn about past societies from the things they have left behind. British Museum director MacGregor provides insightful commentaries on each of the objects, which range from the beginning of human history (about 2 million years ago) to the present, and represent most parts of the world. Selected by the museum’s curators, the objects are not associated with important historical events; rather, they are artworks and everyday things that exemplify themes and establish connections across time and space. Each part consists of objects made in different parts of the world in the same time period. Thus a section on “The First Global Economy, AD 1450-1650,” when traders first brought different cultures into contact with each other, features a mechanical galleon from Germany, a brass plaque from Nigeria, a mosaic-decorated figurine from Mexico, porcelain elephants from Japan and pieces-of-eight coins minted in Bolivia. New scientific techniques help tease out stories from the objects: Researchers can now see inside the linen wrappings of Egyptian mummies and can test materials to reveal trading networks. The colors and patterns of broken pots and plates found on a beach in Tanzania around 900 show the extent of links with China and the Middle East. Many items, such as a bronze Chinese bell and silver Turkish coins, convey the power of owners and rulers. In an appealing, conversational style, MacGregor considers chess pieces, wine jugs, tablets and other objects to explain how people lived through the ages. The text also includes contributions from Seamus Heaney, David Attenborough, Martin Amis and others.

A book to savor, full of information and surprises.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02270-0

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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