Germany: Memories of a Nation

Book & Exhibition Review

Germany: Memories of a Nation, 2014

germanyI was somewhat aware of the complicated history of the German peoples. Over many years I had dipped into history books about various aspects of German histories. But despite this I had still not quite got my head around just how the German state as we know it today came into being.

This book by Neil MacGregor is recommended not only because it deals very well with the layers of history, but because he does this in a very accessible and enjoyable method. I cannot say the same for the exhibition.

Neil MacGregor takes the reader through the history of the German people by using objects around which he builds the story. The British Museum, for which he is the director, holds a large cache of objects to do with the history of German peoples.

The book is a great read, well-edited and has a host of marvelous illustrations. As each chapter deals with an object, event or social movement, this makes for a great book to dip into whenever you have time. As it was, I bought this book late last year, but only recently picked it up to read. Having done so, it was in my hands regularly over a week till I had it finished. It is that sort of book.

And yes, I now have a far better comprehension of German history.

But, I did not enjoy the exhibition as much. I visited this at the British Museum in November. The exhibition was cramped and actually was more frustrating than enlightening. I do not like exhibitions whereby you get the feeling that all you are doing is being educated with too much to read. Many of the objects were great to see but overall the layout and selection was just far too disjointed for me. On the positive side, it did encourage me to seek more, and therefore I ended up buying the book.

I could have done with just reading the book and maybe visiting the museum to see some of the objects at another time.

The book is also available in chapters as downloadable radio programs from the BBC.

Recommendations for Germany: Memories of a Nation:

The exhibition: rating 6/10

The Book: rating 10/10

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Paul Costigan

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