Blood and Bronze
The British Empire and the Sack of Benin
An incisive history revealing Britain’s conquest of the Kingdom of Benin and the plunder of its fabled Bronzes.
The Benin Bronzes are among the British Museum’s most prized possessions. Celebrated for their great beauty, they embody the history, myth and artistry of the ancient Kingdom of Benin, once West Africa’s most powerful, and today part of Nigeria. But despite the Bronzes’ renown, little has been written about the brutal imperial violence with which they were plundered. Paddy Docherty’s searing new history tells that story: the 1897 British invasion of Benin.
Armed with shocking details discovered in the archives, Blood and Bronze sets this assault in its late Victorian context. As British power faced new commercial and strategic pressures elsewhere, it ruthlessly expanded in West Africa. Revealing both the extent of African resistance and previously concealed British outrages, this is a definitive account of the destruction of Benin. Laying bare the Empire’s true motives and violent means, including the official coverup of grotesque sexual crimes, Docherty demolishes any moral argument for Britain retaining the Bronzes, making a passionate case for their immediate repatriation to Nigeria.
Paddy Docherty is a historian of empire, with a particular interest in the British Empire, anticolonial resistance, and the cultural impact of imperialism. He was educated at the University of Oxford and is the author of The Khyber Pass: A History of Empire and Invasion.