Dr Lucia Gunning and Dr Debbie Challis Publish "Planned Plunder..." in the Historical Journal

23 May 2023

Dr Lucia Gunning (UCL History) and Dr Debbie Challis (The Portico Library Manchester / University of Liverpool) published their findings and analysis of the planned British plunder of Maqdala in 1868 and how it did not go to plan in the Historical Journal.

Lucia and Debbie

Their paper shows that it was a letter written on 3 October 1867 by Charles Thomas Newton, Keeper of the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, to Sir Roderick Murchison, the President of the Royal Geographical Society, requesting that an archaeologist from the museum be sent with the expedition, that put in motion the circumstances that led to the sacred objects from Ethiopia entering the British Museum’s (and a number of other museums’) collections as well as the removal of Prince Alemayehu from his country

Understanding the plunder of Maqdala, illustrates the entanglement of politics and imperialism with scientific and cultural institutions in Victorian Britain and underlines the importance of undertaking accurate and wide-ranging research on the history of collections. In addition, Dr Gunning and Dr Challis argue that this research underscores our responsibility as museum / library professionals to make the history of collecting transparent and act on what we know and uncover so that ethical issues in museums can be discussed in an informed manner. 


Top image shows Lucia (left) and Debbie (right).


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