The events at the turn of the century give considerable weight to the national identity argument.   Napoleon was the first ruler "to identify the State with his proclivities, looting not to gain personal trophies, or to decorate a personal triumph, but for the greater glory of France."72  He plundered for France. Plundering itself was considered for the good of the nation, for its future progress.  In 1796, leading French artists argued that education justifies robbery: "the more our climate seems unfavorable to the arts, the more do we require models here in order to overcome the obstacles to the progress thereof.  The Romans, once an uncultivated people, became civilized by transplanting to Rome the works of conquered Greece.  Thus the French people will, by seeing models from antiquity, train its feeling and its critical sense."73

National identity explains why France was ordered to return the loot after the defeat of Napoleon.  Simply put, states throughout Europe wanted the return of objects forming their identity.

The State Interest Model

Did the emergence of the norms of protection, prohibitions against plunder, and repatriation emanate from some idealistic purpose­whether it be the common heritage of mankind doctrine or the acquired sense of national identity?  Or did states devise the rules out of their own interests?   After the defeat of Napoleon, leaders of European states met to design the future of Europe at the Congress of Vienna.  The participants at the Congress formed two alliances that resulted in the balance of power in Europe: the Quadruple Alliance consisted of Great Britain, Prussia, Austria, and Russia and the Holy Alliance was limited to the three eastern courts of Austria, Prussia, and Russia.  Since France of the 19th century in reflection was considered the Germany of the 20th century, any French tendencies would be countered by the joint force of the Quadruple Alliance.   In the design, the German Confederation proved to be too strong to be attacked by France, and too decentralized and weak to threaten its neighbors.74  The arrangement made at the Congress of Vienna secured peace between the Great Powers in Europe for almost 100 years.

In a balance of power, there is approximately equal distribution of power and resources between states; no state possesses a significant military advantage.75  In the golden age of balance of power politics (period from the end of the Napoleonic era until World War I), no state had military capabilities that surpassed those of other states.  No one state had an advantage and would not decisively prevail in a confrontation.  Hence, on the fields of battle, both sides would potentially suffer, acquiring heavy losses.  Those losses include priceless works of art, buildings, and monuments.  Therefore, it was in all of the states' interests to enter into a convention that would mandate the

protection of cultural objects.  Each state would gain some form of protection and thus, would benefit by signing onto such an agreement.

Besides, while European states agreed to abstain from plundering the cultural property of one another, they continued to loot objects in their colonies.  During the Benin massacre of 1897, the British pillaged tens of thousands of wood, ivory, and bronze objects­some of which were proudly displayed at the British Museum in 198276­even after repeated attempts by the Nigerian government to persuade the British to return the objects.  In another example, during the late 19th century, the Madrid Geographical Society of Spain appointed Jose Valero y Berenguer, of the Administrative Corps of the Army, in charge of establishing trading posts, promoting relations with the indigenous peoples, and working in the "interests of geographical science" in the Spanish possessions in the Gulf of Guinea.77  The term "interests of geographical science" symbolizes the notion that Spain held the right to seize the cultural property from its colonial holdings.  Between 1874 and 1886, well over 100 objects were brought back and deposited in the Museum of Ethnology in Spain.78 These operations occurred at the state level, sanctioned by the government for the sole purpose of plundering cultural artifacts from colonies. Obviously, such actions contradicted the provisions for cultural property protection and prohibitions of plunder advocated by European states between themselves.


During World War II, Hitler's army engaged in a massive looting operation through Nazi-occupied territories.  Anything of value was taken back to Germany.  The war also caused the destruction of cultural objects, buildings, and monuments as the towns and the cities were demolished by invading armies.   Post-World War II world witnessed the establishment of a regime governing both cultural property protection and repatriation.  The 1954 Hague Convention, ratified by most countries, prohibited the destruction and plunder of cultural property in times of war. Decolonization brought with itself the advancement of anthropological thinking, or in other words, respect for diverse cultures and the values that each contribute to the human civilization.79  In addition, decolonization gave rise to the origination and the development of human rights philosophies "which have given these peoples a basis of claim legitimate even in legal systems which have hitherto denied their rights to their own cultural materials."80  The decolonization period also witnessed the formation of a notion that "groups have intrinsic rights to exist, develop, flourish, and perpetuate themselves, and that these rights often are intertwined with groups'

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