Plundered Empire

Acquiring Antiquities from Ottoman Lands


This book concentrates on the sometimes Greek but largely Roman survivals many travellers set out to see and perhaps possess throughout the immense Ottoman Empire, on what were eastward and southward extensions of the Grand Tour. Europeans were curious about the Empire, Christianity’s great rival for centuries, and plenty of information on its antiquities was available, offered here via lengthy quotations. Most accounts of the history of collecting and museums concentrate on the European end. Plundered Empire details how and where antiquities were sought, uncovered, bartered, paid for or stolen, and any tribulations in getting them home. The book provides evidence for the continuing debate about the ethics of museum collections, with 19th century international competition the spur to spectacular acquisitions.

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Michael Greenhalgh, Ph.D. (1968), University of Manchester; Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer, Leicester University (1968-87). Sir William Dobell Foundation Professor of Art History, Australian National University, from 1987. His publications address the survival and destruction of the classical world around the Mediterranean.
"Plundered empire comes at an important juncture when discussions of colonialism, illegal export of antiquities by Western powers, repatriation, ethics of collecting, and decolonizing museum collections take center stage not only in academia, across the fields of archaeology, museum studies, and heritage studies, but also in popular media. The book is a valuable tool for both scholars and researchers working on the many issues it deals with, and for anyone who cares about the reckless and incessant plunder of the cultural heritage of the Middle East and North Africa. (...) Plundered empire is meticulously researched and deploys an exceptional number and variety of primary sources in the form of hundreds of accounts of European and American travelers, scholars, and collectors who visited the Ottoman Empire. (...) This impressive range of primary sources is what makes Plundered empire a reference book for anyone interested in the West’s ever-growing interest in the history and heritage of the Middle East and North Africa."
Oya Topçuoğlu in BMCR 2021.08.21
All interested in the survival and re-use of the classical world throughout the West, and how prestige objects were brought from the Ottoman Empire as trophies for Western museum collections.
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