Timothy Clifford enjoys the British Museum director’s tour of human history – but misses the beauty of Kenneth Clark’s ‘Civilisation’‘Mission Impossible’ is how Neil MacGregor, in the preface to this book, describes the task set for him by Mark Damazer, controller of BBC Radio 4. MacGregor was to introduce and interpret 100 objects chosen by colleagues from the British Museum and the BBC. They had to range in date from the beginning of human history, around two million years ago, right up to the present day. The objects were intended to cover the whole world equally, as far as it is possible. They would necessarily include the humble things of everyday life as well as great works of art. As five programmes were to be broadcast each week, objects would be grouped in clusters of five, ‘spanning the globe at various points in time and looking at five snapshots of the world through objects of that particular date’.