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For millennia, conquerors and oppressors have plundered precious art and artefacts from their creators and owners, from the Parthenon Marbles of Greece; to the treasures looted from the Old Summer Palace during the British Opium Wars with China. For centuries they have been admired in national museums worldwide, away from their cultural home. This includes the thousands of artefacts taken for Belgium’s Africa Museum (mostly appropriated by force from the Congo); to the art and precious objects stolen from the Jews by the Nazis and their willing helpers whi have ended up in private and public collections. France’s President Macron has pledged to restitute stolen African treasures to their cultural home. This has yet to happen. In today’s increasingly culturally sensitive society these issues highlight the tensions between the moral imperative for restitution of cultural heritage property and the practicalities of doing so.

In Association with the Oxford Literary Festival.

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