Sometimes a book comes into our house and almost immediately becomes part of the family and this is one of those books. The History of the World in 1000 Objects was published by DK Books and given to us for review purposes by Penguin Book South Africa.
In fact, while most new and favourite books live on the coffee table for weeks and weeks and then are swapped out and exchanged and rotated… this book reached a new and higher status and has found its way onto our kitchen counter. We are reading a page a day at breakfast time and it is beyond fascinating.
This is a book that is filled with pages and pages of beautiful, it is a DK Book after all, photographs of objects that are significant to the history of man. Regular things that might have been used every day by families of olden times… and significant objects that changed the history of the world in a moment. There are mysterious objects that we have never ever encountered before and some objects that we have always thought we should learn about someday. Well “someday” appears to be now.
This is not just a book about dusty old stuff, neither is it a book about pure treasure… it is a pleasant mixture of ordinary and extraordinary, deeply significant and apparently insignificant items. Imagine the eclectic treasure of family history you might find in your grandparent’s attic… things that would fetch a fair price at an auction, something deeply symbolic, passed down from generation to generation, and other things that would only be signifiant to the family, a love letter between a mother and her small child. This book is exactly like your grandparent’s attic… but the attic of the whole wide world.
Immediately, upon opening up this book, we were sent us on a family treasure hunt, looking for traces of history in our home where we never expected to find any. Usually we have little trinkets collected from traveling, little artefacts gathered from museum visits and our ever growing postcard collection is also filled with significant photographs.
There is nothing quite as exciting as the discovery that a piece of chipped stone found on a hike could really be something significant and the digging stone that were found on family holidays when I was a child were vital to ancient cultures. The miniature turkish carpet pinned on the fridge takes on a whole new meaning when you read about carpets just like it in the pages of this book.
It isn’t just ancient history here… everyone was amazed to see what granny’s hip-replacement really looked like. Not to mention the espresso pot, that my Italian lecturer gave me as a parting gift, as she returned home to Rome, is an icon of our time.
The book is divided into six categories:
- Early Societies
- Ancient Civilisations
- Trade and Empire
- Enlightenment and Imperialism
- Industry and Independence
- A Shrinking World
Each section is then divided into cultures and sub-cultures and those sections are divided into pages of agricultural tools, household tools, weapons, art and clothing. Every couple of pages is a huge spread, carefully looking at a specific item. I love that this book is really large, there are no pokey little pictures… you can get a good feel of the greatness of many of the artefacts.
This is not the sort of book that you read from cover to cover… though there is one potential historian in our house who did just that, and then went on to memorise great chunks of it, but that is a whole ‘nother story! This book is great for dipping into, any page that you open… randomly throughout the book, will have something fascinating to read on it. Interesting photographs draw you in and the small snippets of writing that are packed with information, keep you reading. This book is a great read for readers of all ages, the snippets of writing means that it is a manageable read for new and experienced readers.
This book has been instrumental providing plenty of topics of conversation around the table. We have so enjoyed visitors from far and wide dipping into the book and then telling us about items in the book that are significant to them… places they have been, things they remember from their childhood. This book is a book for remembering the past and it is presented in a way that leaves you saying “ooh and aah.” It opens itself up to sharing, because we want to know more about the kitchen tools that our great parents used, or the artefacts spotted in museums and the actual story behind them. This is literally a museum in a book, whoever has time to read all the tags in a museum… but these artefacts you can return to again and again and read all about them, at your leisure, at home.
We have spent time imagining living and traveling in Ancient times… and I imagine many projects inspired by this book. There is already someone with an eye for these royal crowns… and I fear even in modern times there may not be enough glitter and glitz in the world!!!
If this sort of history grabs you then these links to will interest you as well:
- A History of the World in 100 Objects, the Podcast. We have just begun listening to these and they are fascinating… Each podcast is about fifteen minutes and includes, interviews and reminiscing, and expla nations by experts… Here is a list of all the objects for your perusal. If you click on an object, you can read quite a few details about the object and listen to the podcast right there. Corresponding to the list you can virtually visit all the items in the British Museum…
- The British Museum’s History of the World in 100 Objects: We have browsed around this site, some of the objects overlap with the book, which is fun. The Lewis Chessman, for instance… I can see we are going to have to dig a little deeper here. One or two items I chose not to show my younger kids, just be aware that it is the internet and you can’t just let them go.
- And BBC Schools Has a page with quite a few of the Items on the list, and a very kid friendly approach to exploring them.
In a nutshell The History of the World in 1000 Objects is a great book for learning more about history, not just the distant past, but the more recent past as well. This book is fabulous for dipping in and out of, perfect for a quick explore. We are really looking forward to wandering through this book for school this year but I can see we are going to have to stop and linger many times along the way as we explore it in more detail.
We were given this book for review purposes by Penguin Books South Africa, we were not paid to write the review and the opinions expressed are as usual, entirely our own. You can read more about this book on the DK Website and look at full page speeds for inspiration.