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Who Owns History?: Elgin’s Loot and the Case for Returning Plundered Treasure

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  70 ratings  ·  14 reviews

The biggest question in the world of art and culture concerns the return of property taken without consent. Throughout history, conquerors or colonial masters have taken artefacts from subjugated peoples, who now want them returned from museums and private collections in Europe and the USA.

The controversy rages on over the Elgin Marbles, and has been given immediacy by fig

Kindle Edition, 340 pages
Published November 5th 2019 by Biteback Publishing
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I got as far as page xix...
When Robertson, discussing his interventions to prevent scientists from the Natural History Museum in London wanting to do tests on the bones of Tasmanian Aborigines from the Black Wars of the 1830s, wrote this:
'What they are going to do,' I replied, 'is to experiment with the bodies of victims of genocide.'
That way of describing the exercise did not look good in the next day's papers, neither to the museum's donors, nor to the judge, who extended the injunction and e
Lucy Newlinds
Geoffrey Robertson makes a passionate case for the return of stolen cultural objects. Robertson has a way of writing legal theory that is very accessible and dissects the arguments for and against reuniting the Parthenon Frieze and returning the 'Elgin Marbles' from the British Museum to Greece in a very methodical way. Robertson also briefly touches on the cases for the return of the Benin Bronzes, Rosetta Stone, the Gweagal Shield and the Bust of Nefertiti.

I enjoyed expanding my knowledge aro
Mr Siegal
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Law Fights Back

One of the few books that doesn't offer moralistic arguments, but instead combs the evidence to see if there is any legal case to be made in favour of the marbles returning to Athens; and there is. Most notoriously, the firman that Elgin supposedly acquired which, he claimed, gave him permission to take the marbles never existed! Indeed, the only thing that he had was a letter from a sergeant or something permitting him to take stones from the floor. I don't know the level of
Jun 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Robertson is of course an Australian great and it's nice to see him lending his powerful, eloquent voice to this debate. Robertson sets out an ordered argument for a new global compact on returning artifacts to their country of origin. For this theoretical tribunal, he lists a series of criteria, largely focusing around whether a work was stolen (implicitly or explicitly) and situations in which, even if a work was given legitimately many moons ago, it may have greater historical resonance in it ...more
Ian Smith
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you’ve ever sought a can of worms without success, try looking in this work. It could be argued that Geoffrey Robertson is our greatest legal mind ever; his recognition on the international stage tells us that. Here he looks into the restitution of stolen historical items or, more specifically, the possibility of their restitution.
The famous Elgin Marbles that were seconded from the Parthenon feature in this argument, one I’ve had o
Jul 24, 2020 rated it liked it
I really tried to like this book. I like the way that Robertson writes, and I agree with 99% of the points he makes, but I just cannot get past the fact that this reads like a first draft.

It's rife with repetition, often within pages of each other, which at first is a little annoying, but by the 6th or 7th occurrence becomes just plain condescending. Yes, I remember that you said the 6th Karyatid was stolen by Elgin. you don't need to add that fact again in brackets when discussing the Erechthio
Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Feb 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this factual book. As a kid I absorbed ancient Roman history at school and I can remember asking my father why some of the most famous marble statues were in London. He tried to explain the ‘spoils of war’ concept but I remember being sceptical even then. This book elaborates on that theme in a readable and interesting way and you don't have to be a history buff. I particularly enjoyed Chapter 7 and the section on The Bust Of Nefertiti; some pretty outrageous things are done wit ...more
Sam Crock
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A cogent and compelling explanation of the importance of repatriating stolen cultural heritage. Robertson's argument focuses on the Parthenon Marbles, providing a comprehensive rebuttal of the justifications used by the British Museum (both historically and presently) for the legality of their acquisition by Lord Elgin and the imperatives for keeping them in Britain. Combines insights from history, anthropology, and domestic and international law, in a way that is accessible to a wide audience. ...more
Theodora Zourkas
Comprehensive, passionate and interesting. Robertson builds a compelling case for the return of the Parthenon marbles and shares information about many other cultural heritage treasures stolen from various other countries. His recommendation for a convention for repatriation of important cultural heritage sounds very fair and reasonable, however it will take much courage from the current museums who have these stolen items in their custody to do the right thing.
Oliver Pestalozzi
Apr 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Incredibly interesting take on historical artefacts and their place in modern society. If anything, it gave me a little bit of a pessimistic, but realistic view of the world!

It goes into quite detailed legal jargon surrounding the proposition of an international legal framework to enforce the return of stolen artefacts. I am no lawyer, so this didn't interest me as much as the stories themselves about how famous treasures came to be where they are today.
Trent Shepherd
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Robertson gives his views on the stolen booty of war, colonisation and conquering. Unveiling the lies that still persist that allows institutions and states to hold onto the cultural property of other states.
One of Australia's greatest legal minds tackles the world of Nation States, property law, Human and Indigenous Rights in highlighting the current and ongoing injustices.
Bookie Monster
Dec 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Worth reading, even if you don’t accept the central arguments. Very much a barrister for the prosecution; stressing (and repeating) the stronger arguments and ignoring and down playing the weak points.
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
It was fascinating to see what the "great powers" got away with. It gives insight into why countries might not have got over having been colonised. ...more
May 07, 2021 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2021
'This is a book about culture - the word that made Hermann Goring reach for a gun and Chairman Mao misdescribe a revolution which almost destroyed it.' (xi) ...more
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Geoffrey Ronald Robertson QC (born 30 September 1946) is a human rights barrister, academic, author and broadcaster. He holds dual Australian and British citizenship.

Robertson is a founder and joint head of Doughty Street Chambers. He serves as a Master of the Bench at the Middle Temple, a recorder, and visiting professor at Queen Mary, University of London.

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