A former BBC correspondent from Africa offers a history of the Benin Bronzes. Looted from the Kingdom of Benin in what is now Nigeria by British soldiers at the end of the 19th century, the Bronzes are now on display at the British Museum. But whether they should be returned to their homeland is a matter of debate among Brits and Nigerians alike.
... [a] gripping work of live history ... The storytelling is crisp, balanced and authoritative ... It is the handling of this seeping undertone of racism that makes this book so valuable, a primer for the debate on colonial guilt and echoing white supremacy ... It is this incremental change of attitudes that stands out in this telling book ... this book’s laser-sharp focus on the casenotes from one instance of colonial cruelty allows for a much more informed understanding of the wider issue.
... sobering ... The author...can barely conceal his shock at the views and comments expressed in letters, interviews, and obituaries ... As Barnaby Phillips’s well-balanced and highly readable account explains, some people have taken matters into their own hands ... That others have not done so, and still claim the fruits of empire, pillage, and suffering, shows how many more lessons still need to be learned from history.
Mr. Phillips has written a humane and thoughtful book, devoid of the sort of posturing that mars the debate over the repatriation of objects brought to the West during the colonial era ... Mr. Phillips is much more nuanced than the authors of a report commissioned by President Macron of France, who said that their country should give back 'any objects taken by force or presumed to be acquired through inequitable conditions' ... By contrast, Mr. Phillips regards the return of stolen artifacts—today preserved in world-class museums in conditions their native lands couldn’t match—as a process of gradual and civilized negotiation.