A History of the World in 100 Objects

Welcome to A History of the World. Below you can find all 100 episodes in the series. Although the series has ended, you can continue to listen to the episodes.

Solar-powered lamp and charger (10/2010)

The very last episode in Neil MacGregor's history of humanity as told through the things that time has left behind. The director of the British Museum in London has spent the past year choosing objects from the museum's vast collection to represent a two million year story of humanity. Throughout this week he has been with objects that that speak of the great shifts in human organisation and thinking in the modern world. Here he describes the object that he has picked as his last; it's a solar-powered lamp and charger that he believes can revolutionise the lives of poor people around the globe. The portable panel can provide up to 100 hours of light after just 8 hours of direct sunlight. It can also charge mobile phones and help bring power to millions of people around the world who have no access to an electrical grid. Simple, cheap and clean - this is revolutionary technology for the future. Nick Stern, the expert on the economics of climate change, describes the potential impact of new solar technology. Neil explains why he has chosen a solar-powered lamp and charger as his final object - with examples of how it is already being used in rural Bengal and urban Kenya. Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Credit card (10/2010)

Neil MacGregor's history of the world as told through things. Throughout this week he is examining objects that speak of the great shifts in human organisation and thinking in the modern world - objects that raise questions about human lives, the environment and global resources. So far this week he has chosen things that deal with political and sexual revolution and that confront the disaster of global arms proliferation. In today's episode he considers the morality of modern global finance and its implication for the future. He tells the story with a credit card that is compliant with Islamic Sharia law - what does that mean and how does it work? He talks to the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, and to Razi Fakih of the HSBC bank. Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Throne of Weapons (10/2010)

The history of humanity, as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London, is drawing to an end. Throughout this week, Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum in London, has been with things that help explain the modern world. He has explored political and sexual politics and freedoms, and now reflects on the impact of guns and weapons in the modern world - especially in Africa where thousands of children have been participants in brutal conflicts. He tells the story through a work of art - a sculptured throne made from decommissioned guns like the ubiquitous AK47. We hear from Kester, the artist from Mozambique who created the Throne of Weapons and test the reaction to the piece of Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations. Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Hockney's In the Dull Village (10/2010)

This week Neil MacGregor's history of the world is examining the forces that helped shape our way of life and ways of thinking today. He began with the political revolution that exploded In Russia in the 1920s and today he moves on to the sexual revolution of the 1960s. He explores the emergence of legally enshrined human rights and the status of sexuality around the world. He tells the story with the aid of a David Hockney print, one of a series that was made in 1966 as the decriminalisation of homosexuality was being planned, at least in Britain. We hear from David Hockney on the spirit of the decade and from Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights group Liberty Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Russian revolutionary plate (10/2010)

Neil MacGregor's history of the world as told through things that time has left behind. Throughout this closing week he is examining some of the major social and political movements that have helped shape our contemporary landscape. Today he tells the remarkable story of a Russian plate. It was made in 1901 in the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St Petersburg. Twenty years later it was painted over as a propaganda tool for the new Communist Revolution - decorated in the same factory that had become the State Porcelain Factory and in a city renamed as Petrograd. The director of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Mikhail Piotrovsky, and the great historian of modern Russia, Eric Hobsbawn, help piece together this momentous history. Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Suffragette-defaced penny (10/2010)

Neil MacGregor's world history told through objects from the British Museum in London. The objects he has chosen this week have reflected on mass production and mass consumption in the 19th century. Today' he is with the first object from the 20th century, a coin that leads Neil to consider the rise of mass political engagement in Britain and the dramatic emergence of suffragette power. It's a penny coin from 1903 on which the image of King Edward V11 has been stamped with the words "Votes for Women". The programme explores the rise of women's suffrage and the implications of the notorious suffragette protests. The human rights lawyer and reformer Helena Kennedy and the artist Felicity Powell react to this defaced penny coin. Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Sudanese slit drum (10/2010)

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London. This week Neil MacGregor, the Director of the Museum, is looking at Europe's engagement with the rest of the world during the 18th Century. Today he is with an object "freighted with layers of history, legend, global politics and race relations". It is an aboriginal shield from Australia, originally owned by one of the men to first set eyes on Europeans as they descended on Botany Bay nearly 250 years ago. This remarkably well-preserved object was brought to England by the explorer Captain Cook. What can this object tell us about the early encounter between two such different cultures? Phil Gordon, the aboriginal Heritage Officer at the Australian Museum in Sydney, and the historian Maria Nugent help tell the story. Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Hokusai's The Great Wave (10/2010)

The history of humanity - as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London - is once again in Japan. This week Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, is looking at the global economy in the 19th century - at mass production and mass consumption. Today he is with an image that rapidly made its way around the world - Hokusai's print, The Great Wave, the now familiar seascape with a snow topped Mount Fuji in the background that became emblematic of the newly emerging Japan. Neil explores the conditions that produced this famous image - with help from Japan watchers Donald Keene and Christine Guth. Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Early Victorian tea set (10/2010)

This week Neil MacGregor's history of the world is looking at how the global economy became cemented in the 19th century, a time of mass production and mass consumption. He tells the story of how tea became the defining national drink in Britain - why have we become so closely associated with a brew made from leaves mainly grown in China and India? The object he has chosen to reflect this curious history is an early Victorian tea set, made in Staffordshire and perfectly familiar to all of us. The historian Celina Fox and Monique Simmonds from Kew gardens find new meaning in the ubiquitous cuppa. Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Ship's chronometer from HMS Beagle (10/2010)

Neil MacGregor's history of the world as told through things. Throughout this week he is examining the global economy of the 19th century - of mass production and mass consumption. Today he is with an instrument that first helped Europeans to navigate with precision around the world - a marine chronometer. The one Neil has chosen actually accompanied Darwin on his great voyage to South America and the Galapagos Islands - a journey that was to help lead him to his revolutionary theories on evolution. The geographer Nigel Thrift and the geneticist Steve Jones celebrate the chronometer and the profound changes it prompted. Producer: Anthony Denselow.