Books of the year 2011: Paul Muldoon

A History of the World in 100 Objects - Neil MacGregor

 

Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects (Allen Lane, £20) is a book that I have been reading and rereading if only in the jingoistic hope that one of those objects might hail from Ireland. I wonder if something from the recently discovered Viking village of Annagassan might have put us on the map in the way that a chess set of walrus ivory and whales' teeth now has us sticking a pin on the Isle of Lewis.

"We know that similar chess pieces have also been found in Ireland," writes MacGregor with customary clarity, conciseness and non-condescending conviction, "and Lewis was a staging post on the thriving sea route between Trondheim and Dublin." This book is worth many times its weight in walrus ivory and whales' teeth. It tells more about the world we live in than any number of longships loaded with conventional volumes of history - never mind geography, sociology, economics, psych­ology and, I fear, poetry.

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