From Neil MacGregor, the author of A History of the World in 100 Objects, this is a view of Germany like no other
For the past 140 years, Germany has been the central power in continental Europe. Twenty-five years ago a new German state came into being. How much do we really understand this new Germany, and how do its people now understand themselves?
Neil MacGregor argues that uniquely for any European country, no coherent, over-arching narrative of Germany's history can be constructed, for in Germany both geography and history have always been unstable. Its frontiers have constantly floated. Königsberg, home to the greatest German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, is now Kaliningrad, Russia; Strasbourg, in whose cathedral Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany's greatest writer, discovered the distinctiveness of his country's art and history, now lies within the borders of France. For most of the five hundred years covered by this book Germany has been composed of many separate political units, each with a distinct history. And any comfortable national story Germans might have told themselves before 1914 was destroyed by the events of the following thirty years.
German history may be inherently fragmented, but it contains a large number of widely shared memories, awarenesses and experiences; examining some of these is the purpose of this book. Beginning with the fifteenth-century invention of modern printing by Gutenberg, MacGregor chooses objects and ideas, people and places which still resonate in the new Germany - porcelain from Dresden and rubble from its ruins, Bauhaus design and the German sausage, the crown of Charlemagne and the gates of Buchenwald - to show us something of its collective imagination. There has never been a book about Germany quite like it.
A major new series from the makers of A History Of The World In 100 Objects, exploring the fascinating and complex history of Germany from the origins of the Holy Roman Empire right up to the present day. Written and presented by Neil MacGregor, it is produced by BBC Radio 4, in partnership with the British Museum.
Whilst Germany’s past is too often seen through the prism of the two World Wars, this series investigates a wider 600-year-old history of the nation through its objects. It examines the key moments that have defined Germany’s past - its great, world-changing achievements and its devastating tragedies - and it explores the profound influence that Germany’s history, culture and inventiveness have had across Europe.
The objects featured in the radio series range from large sculptures to small individual artefacts and items that are prosaic, iconic and symbolic. Each has a story to tell, a memory to invoke.
The Elizabethan age was a tumultuous time, when long-cherished certainties were crumbling and life was exhilaratingly uncertain. Shakespeare's Restless World uncovers the extraordinary stories behind twenty objects from the period to re-create an age at once distant and yet surprisingly familiar. From knife crime to belief in witches, religious battles to the horizons of the New World, Neil MacGregor brings the past to life in a fresh, unexpected portrait of a dangerous and dynamic era.
'Fascinating ... filled with anecdotes and insights, eerie, funny, poignant and grotesque ... another brilliant vindication of MacGregor's understanding of physical objects to enter deep into our forefathers' mental and spiritual world' Christopher Hart, Sunday Times
'Enjoyable and intriguing, an absorbing evocation ... he draws us into the minds of the Elizabethan and Jacobean audience. Next time you see one of the plays reading this book will make those first audiences seem real to you' Peter Lewis, Daily Mail
'How gripping are these tales from a lost world. And what a world Shakespeare's was - adventurous, melancholy, rich and plagued by beggary, courteous and quarrelsome, sceptical and credulous' Daily Telegraph
'Elegant, informative ... provides stimulating insights' Anne Somerset, Spectator
Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects takes a bold, original approach to human history, exploring past civilizations through the objects that defined them.
Encompassing a grand sweep of human history, A History of the World in 100 Objects begins with one of the earliest surviving objects made by human hands, a chopping tool from the Olduvai gorge in Africa, and ends with objects which characterise the world we live in today.
Seen through MacGregor's eyes, history is a kaleidoscope - shifting, interconnected, constantly surprising, and shaping our world today in ways that most of us have never imagined. A stone pillar tells us about a great Indian emperor preaching tolerance to his people; Spanish pieces of eight tell us about the beginning of a global currency; and an early Victorian tea-set speaks to us about the impact of empire.
An intellectual and visual feast, this is one of the most engrossing and unusual history books published in years.
'Brilliant, engagingly written, deeply researched' Mary Beard, Guardian
'A triumph: hugely popular, and rightly lauded as one of the most effective and intellectually ambitious initiatives in the making of 'public history' for many decades' Sunday Telegraph
'Highly intelligent, delightfully written and utterly absorbing ' Timothy Clifford, Spectator
'This is a story book, vivid and witty, shining with insights, connections, shocks and delights' Gillian Reynolds Daily Telegraph
Neil MacGregor was the Director of the British Museum 2002-2015. He was Director of the National Gallery in London from 1987 to 2002. His celebrated books include A History of the World in 100 Objects, now translated into more than a dozen languages and one of the top-selling titles ever published by Penguin Press, Shakespeare's Restless World and Germany: Memories of a Nation.
Author image © Camera Press