Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

[op-ed snap] Retrieving the spoils of colonialismop-ed snapPriority 1


Mains Paper 1: History | All syllabus

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Anglo-Sikh war

Mains level: The longstanding demand of bringing historical artefacts back from British and how to achieve that


History & national pride

  1. National and cultural pride and the ambiguities of history are a tricky combination
  2. The question of whether treasures and artefacts taken by colonial and conquering powers should be restored to their countries of origin raises hackles
  3. The issue has gained in prominence over the past few years

Demand for bringing Kohinoor back

  1. The Kohinoor has become in the lapse of ages a sort of historical emblem of the conquest of India
  2. The Archaeological Survey of India in response to a right to information request noted earlier this month that the Kohinoor was “surrendered” and not “handed over”

The history of Kohinoor

  1. The Second Anglo-Sikh War had ended in all but name less than a month previously on 12 March 1849
  2. The Sikh empire had been dismantled within a decade of its creator Ranjit Singh’s death
  3. At the end of March, his 10-year-old son and nominal ruler of the empire, Duleep Singh, had signed the Treaty of Lahore with the victors, the British East India Co
  4. He had ceded all claim to Punjab and surrendered the Kohinoor to the queen of England

International practise of bringing artefacts back

  1. Since the turn of the millennium, Chinese billionaires have been on a spree of acquiring China’s plundered artefacts
  2. Greece has battled for decades for the return of the Parthenon frieze from the British museum—part of the Parthenon Marbles taken from Greece at the beginning of the 19th century by Thomas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin
  3. Egypt has pushed for the return of Nefertiti’s bust, and Nigeria for the Benin Bronzes

Response of European nations to such claims

  1. Earlier this year, French President Emmanuel Macron stated his wish to return looted treasures to former French colonies in Africa
  2. Germany has come up with a code of conduct for museums that includes how to deal with restitution claims

Opportunity for India

  1. With the economic rise of erstwhile subjects has come assertion and redressing historical humiliation is a means of such assertion
  2. New Delhi and Indian museums should take advantage of the turn in public opinion to work with European institutions for repatriation in cases where the evidence is clear

Watch this fantastic video by Mr Shashi Tharoor (Member of Parliament) on understanding India’s demands for reparation from British in a better way:

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