• Tag: benin bronzes

  • Historical apologists should beware bloody history of Benin Bronzes


    ‘Benin is a city of blood, its pits full of dead and dying; human sacrifices were strewn about on every hand, hardly a thing was without a red stain.’ That was how the Illustrated London News recorded the destruction of Benin City – in what is modern-day southern Nigeria – when, in 1897, a British naval expedition was raised to avenge the deaths of nine officers killed during a trade dispute between the king of Benin and Britain. That dispute was, in turn, part of the wider 19th-century struggle between the European powers as they competed to carve up the riches of the African continent. Britain sent a force of 500 men to destroy the city, with one eye-witness describing how the British troops turned their newly manufactured Maxim machine guns on the local defenders, who fell from the trees ‘like nuts’. After ten days of fierce fighting, the British burnt down the palace and looted the royal treasures: delicate ivory carvings and magnificent copper alloy sculptures and plaques – now known as the Benin Bronzes.

    journalism, Keeping Their Marbles