Paddy DochertyMay 17, 2022
Blood and Bronze
The British Empire and the Sack of Benin
The Benin Bronzes are among the British Museum’s most prized possessions. Celebrated for their great beauty, they embody the history, myth and artistry of the ancient Kingdom of Benin, once West Africa’s most powerful, and today part of Nigeria. But despite the Bronzes’ renown, little has been written about the brutal imperial violence with which they were plundered. Paddy Docherty’s searing new history tells that story: the 1897 British invasion of Benin.
Armed with shocking details discovered in the archives, Paddy Docherty in his latest book Blood and Bronze: The British Empire and the Sack of Benin (Hurst, 2022) sets this assault in its late Victorian context. As British power faced new commercial and strategic pressures elsewhere, it ruthlessly expanded in West Africa. Revealing both the extent of African resistance and previously concealed British outrages, this is a definitive account of the destruction of Benin. Laying bare the Empire’s true motives and violent means, including the official coverup of grotesque sexual crimes, Docherty demolishes any moral argument for Britain retaining the Bronzes, making a passionate case for their immediate repatriation to Nigeria.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.