From Plunder to PreservationBritain and the Heritage of Empire, c.1800–1940

From Plunder to PreservationBritain and the Heritage of Empire, c.1800–1940

Astrid Swenson and Peter Mandler

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780197265413

Publisher: British Academy

Abstract

What was the effect of the British empire on the cultures and civilizations of the peoples over whom it ruled? This book takes a novel approach to this important and controversial subject by considering the impact of empire on the idea of ‘heritage’. It reveals a dazzling variety of attitudes on the part of the imperialists — from frank ‘plunder’ of American, Asian, African, and Pacific peoples' cultural artefacts and monuments to a growing appreciation of the need for ‘preservation’ of the world's heritage in the places it originated. But it goes beyond the empire-centred view to consider how far colonized peoples themselves were able to embed indigenous understandings of their heritage in the empire, and how indeed the empire was very often dependent on indigenous knowledge for its own functioning. This book's case studies and unusual illustrations range from an extraordinary Anglo-African cathedral in the Sudan to palm leaf manuscripts in Sri Lanka, from Mayan and Indian temples to Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-on-Avon.