The Prince and the Plunder

A book on how Britain took one boy and piles of treasures from Ethiopia

Category: Uncategorized

The monster list of plunder studies

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Colonial collections in British military museums: Of objects, materiality and sentiment
By Henrietta Lidchi and Nicole Hartwell
from Museums, Society and the Creation of Value, 2021, Routledge – £33/£120


Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture and the Museum
Edited by Tim Barringer, Tom Flynn
Routledge, 1997 – £35/£105 (Limited free preview)

Dividing the spoils: Perspectives on military collections and the British empire
Edited by Henrietta Lidchi and Stuart Allan
Manchester University Press, 2020 – £25/£80 (Free preview)

Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture, and Popular Imagination in Late Victorian and Edwardian England
By Annie E. Coombes
Yale University Press, 1994. $35 (Free preview, cheaper second hand editions available online)


Legacies of Empire
The National War Museum, Edinburgh Castle
27 Nov 2020 – 29 Jan 2023
Examines the histories connected to objects brought back from colonial conflict by the military forces of the British Empire.


Baggage and Belonging: Military Collections and the British Empire, 1750 – 1900
A collaborative research partnership between the National Museums of Scotland and the National Army Museum that reappraises motivations for military collecting. It investigates cultures of collecting by members of the British armed forces while on campaign and garrison duty in Africa and India during the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Hidden in Plain Sight: Non-European collections in military culture
A series of workshops of anthropology and military history experts organised by The Royal Society of Edinburgh, held from 2013-2015, that appraised the state of research into non-European military collections.

Military Encounters – Reassessing military collecting in North America and Tibet
Researcher Rosanna Nicolson surveyed military collections from two British campaigns that bookend the period of high imperialism: the Seven Years’ War in North America (1754-63) and the Younghusband Mission to Tibet (1903-04). British Academy/Leverhulme Trust project – 2014.
The Museum Ethnographers Group Blog has a post on the project.



I don’t do things by halves – the incredible conservation of the James Bruce drinking horn – Part 1 :: Part 2
by Lydia Messerschmidt
A two-part article on the restoration of a drinking horn that was taken by the Scottish explorer James Bruce of Kinnaird on 21 May 1772 after the Second Battle of Sarbakusa, Ethiopia. Now in the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle. – FREE



Framing colonial war loot: The ‘captured’ spolia opima of Kunwar Singh
by Nicole M Hartwell
Journal of the History of Collections, Sept. 29, 2021– FREE

The second best crown

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‘Where is the crown of Maqdala?’, V&A asks Ethiopia
Crown that was returned in 1925 has disappeared

1st February 2010 01:00 BST

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has reacted to a restitution claim from the Ethiopian president by asking what happened to a gold crown that it returned in 1925. The crown has now disappeared.

In February 2008, Ethiopia made its first formal claim for the return of treasures looted by British troops at the battle of Maqdala in 1868. Claims were made to the V&A, the British Museum and the British Library. These included a request to the V&A for the return of a second, more important, crown made in around 1740. It had been on loan to the museum from the government since Maqdala, but only formally accessioned in 2005.

The Art Newspaper has learned that Mark Jones, the museum’s director, wrote to president Girma Wolde-Giorgis, via the Ethiopian ambassador in London, saying that he would first need to consult the other UK institutions. He concluded with a query: “We would be grateful if you could confirm the present location of the gold crown of emperor Tewodros II, returned in 1925, and whether it is currently available for public viewing.” Tewodros was defeated at Maqdala and committed suicide.

In 1925 the British government had wanted to give Ethiopian empress Zewditu an honour. British officials were unable to do this because George V was unable to award senior honours to a woman, even a head of state. It was therefore decided that the V&A should relinquish an Ethiopian crown that had been transferred to the museum in 1869, a year after the battle of Maqdala.

The crown was handed over to Zewditu at the imperial palace in Addis Ababa. On her death in 1930 it presumably passed to emperor Haile Selassie.

Richard Pankhurst, a British historian who has long lived in Ethiopia, believes the crown was “looted by the Italians” during their occupation of 1936-41. If so, it is unclear whether it was officially removed by the Italians or privately looted at that time. Ethiopian president Wolde-Giorgis has not responded to the V&A query.

The manuscripts they left behind

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On the History of the Library of Mäqdäla: New Findings.
ACADEMIC JOURNAL | Aethiopica – International Journal of Ethiopian 2014, Vol. 17, p90-95, 6p


It has been known that only a part of the parchment manuscripts of Mäqdäla library seized by British expeditionary force in 1868 entered European collections. Many of those manuscripts stayed in Ethiopia but not much was known about them. New information on these manuscripts has been recently gathered by the team of the project “Ethio-SPaRe: Cultural Heritage of Christian Ethiopia – Salvation, Preservation and Research”. Among manuscripts registered in monasteries and churches of East Tǝgray, some could have been identified as manuscripts previously coming from Mäqdäla library. The article presents these manuscripts and some of their features.

Annales du roi Tewodros

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Ethiopien 257. Annales du roi Tewodros (1853-1868)

Cote : Éthiopien 257 RéserverAncienne cote : Mondon-Vidailhet 70Annales du roi Tewodros (1853-1868)XIXème siècleParchemin et papier. 86 f.. Dimensions 0, 16 x 0, 11 m.15 lignes copiées à la page. Reliure éthiopienne.Documents en amhariqueBibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits

Documents de substitution

Il existe une version numérisée de ce document.

Numérisation effectuée à partir d’un document original.

114 missing British Library manuscripts

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OR 512, 527, 528, 530, 531, 532, 539, 540, 541, 542, 547, 549, 550, 552, 554, 555, 556, 557, 558, 559, 560, 561, 562, 563, 564, 565, 571, 574, 576, 577, 582, 583, 587, 588, 589, 592, 596, 601, 606, 610, 611 *, 612, 616, 621, 623, 625, 627, 628, 630, 632, 661 **, 669, 677, 682, 687 ***, 688 ***, 690 **, 692, 696, 703, 712, 726, 727, 734, 735, 736, 740, 742, 743, 744, 745, 747, 748, 749, 750, 751, 752, 753, 754, 755, 756, 759, 761, 765, 766, 772, 773, 774, 775, 776, 780, 781, 785, 786, 787, 788, 789, 793, 795, 797, 798, 799, 800, 802, 803, 804, 805, && 807, 810 ****, 811 ****, 813 ****, 815, 825, 829

* originally presented to Queen Vic and presented by her to the British Museum
** half a pair
*** a pair
**** possibly among last known copies of the Chronology

114 missing manuscripts
sometimes in patterns – every other one. Often when there are several copies of something, a few at the end of that section disappear

Also can’t find the miscellanea listed under OR 829*

OR 819 – Kebra Nagast, or the Glory of Kings, restored to King John, the successor of King Theodore, in 1872

Auckland’s Ethio manuscripts

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The contendings of the apostles, being the histories of the lives and martyrdoms and deaths of the twelve apostles and evangelists. (Ms. Auckland Libraries. EastMS G.116) [manuscript] Manuscript | [16th century]Available at Central City Special Collections – Manuscripts (EASTMS:G116) see all

Additional actions:

Gospel according to Saint John [and] Prayers addressed to Takla Haymanot. (Ms. Auckland Libraries. EastMS G.115) [manuscript] Manuscript |Available at Central City Special Collections – Manuscripts (EASTMS:G115) see all

Additional actions:

Gospel according to Saint John. (Ms. Auckland Libraries. EastMS G.113) [manuscript] Manuscript | [2nd half 18th century]Available at Central City Special Collections – Manuscripts (EASTMS:G113) see all

Additional actions:

The encomium of the Virgin Mary. (Ms. Auckland Libraries. EastMS G.118) [manuscript] Manuscript |Available at Central City Special Collections – Manuscripts (EASTMS:G118) see all

Additional actions:

Prayers. (Ms. Auckland Libraries. EastMS G.117) [manuscript] Manuscript | [16th century]Available at Central City Special Collections – Manuscripts (EASTMS:G117) see all

Additional actions:

Prayers addressed to Takla Haymanot. (Ms. Auckland Libraries. EastMS G.114) [manuscript] Manuscript | [17th century]Available at Central City Special Collections – Manuscripts (EASTMS:G114) see all