The Brutish Museums

Regular price $ 17.95

by Dan Hicks

Pluto Press

10/20/2021, paperback

SKU: 9780745346229


Walk into any Western museum today and you will see the curated spoils of Empire. They sit behind plate glass: dignified, tastefully lit. Accompanying pieces of card offer a name, date and place of origin. They do not mention that the objects are all stolen.

Few artifacts embody this history of rapacious and extractive colonialism better than the Benin Bronzes - a collection of thousands of metal plaques and sculptures depicting the history of the Royal Court of the Obas of Benin City, Nigeria. Pillaged during a British naval attack in 1897, the loot was passed on to Queen Victoria, the British Museum and countless private collections.

The Brutish Museums sits at the heart of a heated debate about cultural restitution, repatriation and the decolonisation of museums. Since its first publication, museums across the western world have begun to return their Bronzes to Nigeria, heralding a new era in the way we understand the objects of empire we once took for granted.


"If you care about museums and the world, read this book" -- New York Times 'Best Art Books' 2020

"Hicks's urgent, lucid, and brilliantly enraged book feels like a long-awaited treatise on justice" -- Coco Fusco, New York Review of Books

"A startling act of conscience. An important book which could overturn what people have felt about British history, empire, civilization, Africa, and African art. It is with books like this that cultures are saved, by beginning truthfully to face the suppressed and brutal past. It has fired a powerful shot into the debate about cultural restitution. You will never see many European museums in the same way again. Books like this give one hope that a new future is possible." -- Ben Okri, poet and writer

"An epiphanic book for many generations to come" -- Victor Ehikhamenor, visual artist and writer

About the Author:

Dan Hicks is Professor of Contemporary Archaeology at the University of Oxford, Curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum, and a Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford. His award-winning research focuses on decolonisation in art and culture, and academic disciplines, and on the role of cultural whiteness in ongoing histories of colonial violence and dispossession.