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For thousands of years, conquerors and oppressors have plundered precious artifacts 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. They include the thousands of artifacts 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 helpers which have ended up in private and public collections.
France’s President Macron pledged to restitute 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.
Geoffrey Robertson QC has had a distinguished career as a trial counsel, human rights advocate and United Nations judge.
Dr Christopher Foster is Stanley Ho Junior Research Fellow in Chinese Studies at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. He received his A.B. from Dartmouth College (2006), and both his A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University (2017). Chris is interested in the the manuscript culture of early China, and on the concept of authenticity as it relates to China’s cultural heritage. He has published on the authentication of purchased manuscripts (Early China 2017), and co-authored (with William French) a translation of Liu Guozhong’s Introduction to the Tsinghua University Bamboo-strip Manuscripts.
Karen Sanig is head of Art Law at Mishcon de Reya. She founded this specialist area of practice, the first of its kind in the UK, in 1995. Karen is a trustee of Camden Arts Centre and on the advisory board of the Hermitage Foundation, Israel.
In association with Oxford Literary Festival.