Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction


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EUROPEAN STATES TO RETURN BENIN BRONZES TO NIGERIA: TOWARDS A DECOLONISED LEGAL BASIS FOR ANCHORING CULTURAL RESTITUTION CLAIMS

Anh Nguyen

Introduction and Historical Background of the Benin Bronzes

In 1897 over 3000 plaques and sculptures known as the Benin Bronzes were looted by British troops in an armed “punitive expedition” against the Benin Kingdom after its ruler, the Oba, massacred a British delegation for not heeding his warning not to enter the kingdom during a sacred period. The Benin Bronzes were brought back to Britain, where they were transferred to the British Museum, which still houses the largest collection of Benin Bronzes in the world, as well as to other European and US institutions and private collectors.

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