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The Birth of Imperial “Collecting” – Napoleon and the Pillaging of Egypt an

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The Birth of Imperial “Collecting” – Napoleon and the Pillaging of Egypt and Rome

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From the late eighteenth century, Europeans purchased antiquities, received them as gifts, or took them by force in the midst of imperial and colonial military campaigns. Perhaps no one was more famous for doing so than Napoleon I first in Rome (1798) and then Egypt (1799-1800), which resulted in the promulgation of the earliest treaties protecting European antiquities after his defeat (1815). Using examples from the Mediterranean and the Middle East, I will point to the way in which the "antiquities race" enabled imperial superpowers to extend control of territories under military occupation (or threat of such) beyond their natural and human-produced resources to the interpretation and possession of ancient remains found there. In concluding, I will point to some of the political, legal, and commercial implications of harvested archaeological “treasures”, and how these artefacts once displayed in museums contributed ideologically to the construction of European imperial identity and control.

Professor Bonnie Effros is the Chaddock Chair of Social and Economic History in the Department of History at the University of Liverpool. She is the author of several monographs and edited volumes, including most recently Incidental Archaeologists: French Officers and the Rediscovery of Roman North Africa (Cornell 2018), winner of the 2019 Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize of the French Colonial Historical Society, and (with Guolong Lai), Unmasking Ideology in Imperial and Colonial Archaeology(Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press 2018).

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