A History of the World in 100 Objects

I rarely link to TV and radio programmes, because they’re often not accessible in other countries, but I want to make an exception for an unusual history project currently on the BBC. A History of the World in 100 Objects started off as a radio series about objects in the British Museum, but now is developing ever more offshoots. For example, there are sites showcasing treasures from particular regions, including items from the Fitzwilliam Museum’s collection, and the chance to add images of your own historical objects.

The idea of radio programmes about material culture may seem peculiar, but actually works well, especially when it’s possible to go to the website and see images of the object afterwards or while listening. The focus on objects rather than texts also means that the programmes can offer a world-wide focus and go back into prehistory. As a way of thinking about comparative history, it’s eye-opening. I don’t know whether the website will remain up after the end of the year, when the series finishes: I hope so, because it’s definitely worth some detailed exploring.


3 thoughts on “A History of the World in 100 Objects

  1. It’s a superb series. You can download all the broadcasts free of charge, to keep for yourself. Whether that means you can still see the images for infinity is dubious. Although other objects are mentioned, the majority discussed are in The British Museum. Today’s cup was well explored. It is great to have other thoughts and light shone on antiquity.


    • I don’t know whether the images will stay on the BBC website permanently. But all the 100 objects come from the British Museum and they already have images on their website of most of their more spectacular objects. So I suspect that if they created any new images for this series they’ll eventually put them up there as well.

      It also means that if you ever go to the British Museum, you can go and find the actual object (they include floor plans on the BM website, so you can find where a particular object is). I’m going to London this week, so I’m tempted to pop in and look for some of the objects I’ve been hearing about (though whether there will be vast crowds doing the same, I don’t know).


      • Gosh! You’re popping in to see some the objects at the BM. Envy…envy..!

        Even so, it is a wonderful concept and the series still has a way to go. I have listened again to the last 30 programmes. The BBC are still advertising that you can download all of it, past, present and future. So, unless the objet d’art pictures are part of the download (forever) which, again, I doubt, the series is a remarkably good reference to have.


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