The History of the Benin Bronzes w/ Paddy Docherty, Luke Pepera and Jason Okundaye

10 Apr 2022 – 15:00 - 16:15 GMT
The British Library
Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Luke Pepera and Paddy Docherty talk to Jason Okundaye about the history of the Benin Bronzes, the world in which they were first created and the era in which they were stolen. 

This event takes place in the British Library and will be simultaneously live streamed on the British Library platform. Tickets may be booked either to attend in person, or to watch on the British Library’s platform (online) either live or within 48 hours on catch up. Viewing links will be sent out shortly before the event.

The online version of this event will be live captioned.

Historian Luke Pepera details the Kingdom of Benin (now modern Nigeria) during the medieval and early modern period, a place flourishing with trade and where thousands of beautiful bronze sculptures adorned the Palace of Benin. You will also hear from Paddy Docherty who draws on research from his new book Blood and Bronze to tell the harrowing story of the 1897 sacking of Benin by the British and the eventual looting of the Bronzes.

More about Blood and Bronze

An incisive history revealing Britain’s conquest of the Kingdom of Benin and the plunder of its fabled Bronzes.

‘A powerful and thoughtful exploration of the deep history behind the looting of some of Africa’s greatest artistic treasures. If you want to understand why the Benin Bronzes must be returned to Nigeria, read this book.’ — David Olusoga, historian, broadcaster, and author of Black and British

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.

‘Revealed: How Lord Salisbury hid rape by his British consul in Benin’ — Paddy Docherty’s research highlighted in The Guardian
About Paddy Docherty

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.

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