In our homeschool classroom this fall, every mid-morning we enjoy a break for a warm beverage, and a light snack – of history.
We are enjoying A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum. It is, as MacGregor says, not the history of the world, but rather a history of the world. Each morning, we take a breather and listen to a 15-minute podcast about an ancient object that helped shaped the world as we know it today.
This is a distinction I really appreciate, because while it does cover some fabulous and clearly significant objects (swimming reindeer, the Rosetta Stone, Maya relief of blood letting), it also includes some seemingly less-seminal items (Parthenon sculpture, pieces of eight, solar-powered lamp). As a whole, however, it’s like a fun guided tour through one of the world’s more fabulous museum collections.
MacGregor presented this series of lectures as part of a joint project with the BBC (all available for free on iTunes) in 2010, each no more than about 15 minutes long. His style is easily grasped by middle school aged children, and is a great way to spark their interest in history. Bear in mind that his commentary bears definite hallmarks of modern British academia – slightly sneering towards Asia, and interprets with a typically liberal academic flavor (global warming, decidedly pro-homosexual, etc). I tell you this not to put you off, but rather to remind you: there is no such thing as objective history. History, by its nature, is always subjective. It is written by the winners. This doesn’t make this series of lectures any less interesting, fascinating, or relevant. It is simply important to understand your historian as well as the history he presents.
Note: certain topics may strike parents as controversial or otherwise questionable for their own family. To be blunt, some lectures and objects are specifically in the realm of sex and sexuality. There are other things too, of course, but the topics most likely to stir the cauldron are typically mainly to do with sex, in its various aspects. You’ve been warned.