Thursday, 14 October 2010

campaign for real history

A History of the World in 100 Objects - big up the BBC and the British Museum - has been breathtaking. My favourite so far I think was about Pieces of Eight. Will Gompertz, the BBC's Arts Editor, wrote about the series today:
We did not need to see them. [Neil MacGregor's] real purpose was to tell the stories locked inside the things. The history of the world is not best told through pre-existing books or verifiable accounts. Even where such documents exist, they are partial and subjective.

Objects are much more reliable story-tellers.
How, Will Gompertz? Pick up a piece of eight and tell me its story. Tell me that you got there without using partial and subjective documents. Objects are one type of source. They are all we have where paper documents don't exist, and they help us ask questions and help unlock the stories of unlettered peoples. But they do it in ways that are as least as partial and subjective as 'documents'. I like Will Gompertz, but this is nonsense.

2 comments:

rachel bagelmouse said...

Well, quite. Without documents, I do believe history would just be "making shit up".

Claire said...

or as it is also known "archaeology" .