The Return of Cultural Treasures

Jeanette Greenfield, Author Cambridge University Press $79.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-521-33319-1
Denmark's restitution to Iceland in 1971 of priceless Icelandic medieval manuscripts stands as an example of enlightened cooperation. But the ownership of many other cultural treasures is hotly disputed, such as that of the Elgin Marbles--or Parthenon Marbles, as the Greeks call them--now in the British Museum. In an enlightening, wide-angled survey of a global problem, Greenfield, a Cambridge scholar, weighs dozens of claims for the restitution of objects, from the Koh-i-noor diamond, claimed by India and Pakistan, to African gold relics, Chinese scrolls and Maori carvings. Building on the work of UNESCO and other agencies, Greenfield sets forth criteria for deciding whether a particular artifact should be returned to the country of origin. She also scans the escalating worldwide traffic in stolen art objects, noting that auction houses and dealers are subject to few legal controls. This provocative, richly illustrated study deserves a wide readership. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1989
Release date: 08/01/1989
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