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Afterword: material reckonings with military histories

September 2020

Abstract

Looking at European developments from 2017 to 2019, the Afterword situates the volume among the resurgent interest in questions of contested histories, calls for restitution, and the resurgence of provenance research. It argues that given the varied ways European nations are addressing questions of colonial collections, it seems contradictory that the collections of military museums are seemingly absent from the debate. The chapter consequently considers the affective values of objects, and the symbolic nature of return, arguing that there is a distinction to objects in UK military collections, linked to the idea of ‘sentiment’. Looking again at the conflict highlighted in the Introduction, it addresses two initiatives in 2018 in the UK which discussed the 1868 capture of the fortress at Maqdala and two items, again linked to Emperor Tewodros II, which over time have troubled their national custodians. It considers how such questions were addressed through display at the Victoria and Albert Museum and links this to the National Army Museum’s gesture of returning hair samples linked to Emperor Tewodros. Comparing these two initiatives it seeks to understand the historical moment in which such discussions, and therefore the issues addressed in Dividing the Spoils, can be more widely understood.

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