History of Ireland in 100 objects

In this next installment of his Night Shelf blog, Stephen Town takes a look back at how objects can help tell the story of our past.


O'Toole, F., History of Ireland in 100 Objects, in the University Library at Q 41.5 OTO

Neil MacGregor’s History of the World in 100 Objects started as a broadcast and became a very popular book (in the Library at Q09 MACG). It is a true night shelf book, and I have been reading it to my wife in bed for some time now. Unfortunately not even my inventive mimicry of the voices of the experts commenting on the objects can stop her falling asleep after a few sentences, so it has taken several years to get even half way through the chunky tome.

Fintan O'Toole, History of Ireland in 100 objects. Royal Irish Academy, 2013.
My next donation, however, is a more manageable imitator. The National Museums of Ireland are of a more human scale than the British Museum, and spread their wares across a number of locations across the island. The History of Ireland in 100 Objects does not limit itself to items in the museums either but recognises that some objects are best left in situ.

Also, the proportion of documentary history is greater in this work, with the great libraries of Dublin contributing entries. The illustrations are pleasingly larger than in McGregor’s work, with equal prominence to the text, which is less academic in expression, given that the author is a journalist. The book is Irish in the best possible way: it tells the story of people in Ireland reflected in the beauty of their created artefacts, but it also faces the darker moments of their history, especially in the final two entries. You will need to read the book to learn more.

Comments