HJISTORIAN David Olusoga has urged Britain to return artefacts stolen from her former colonies to foster better international relationships after Brexit.
The historian made the comments in an appearance at the Hay literary festival.
He said: “If our relationship with the Commonwealth after Brexit [is] going to be more important, they remember what happened, and they remember the things that were taken. There are real senses of loss in those countries – it’s beneficial to us as a nation to listen to those appeals.”
Olusoga highlighted the case of the the Benin bronzes, plaques and sculptures taken from the Palace of Benin in 1897, of which a number are held in the British Musuem.
He said: “I think it’s a very, very clear case of appropriation and theft.
“They were taken in 1897 during the raid on the Palace of Benin. The palace was destroyed; they were taken and then sold to pay for the cost of the military adventure. Everyone was open about this – steal this stuff, send it to pay for the cost of the bullets. It’s just such a stark case of theft.”The British-Nigerian author and broadcaster added:
“The idea that your national treasure would be in the museum of another country is something that as British people we would find absolutely impossible to get our heads around but that’s what Nigerians have to think about.”He also said: “The things that we regard as the greatest cultural artefacts, the greatest things we ever produced, our greatest works of art are in the museums of other countries, and we know the date they were taken and the circumstances they were taken.”
The historian has described the collection in the British Museum as a “very clear case of appropriation and theft”