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Material reckonings with military histories
Henrietta Lidchi

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.

in Dividing the spoils
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Perspectives on military collections and the British empire

Over 130 military museums in the United Kingdom preserve the historical collections of British regiments, corps and services (including two naval museums). Their collections contain artefacts acquired by British servicemen in colonial warfare and on imperial garrison duties across the globe. Outside military culture, the phenomenon of collecting in theatres of war is primarily associated with looting. However, those who encountered the British Army in its colonial garrisons and campaigns met with a remarkably heterogeneous enterprise.

Drawing from a series of research workshops funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and case studies developed with British Academy/Leverhulme, support, the essays in this edited collection will combine the perspectives of anthropologists and historians to test current understandings of military collecting beyond Europe. Dividing the Spoils will variously address motivations and circumstances for collecting and appropriation, the place of collected objects in the context of military organisational culture and the legacy of military collections as material witnesses of encounters between non-European peoples and imperial forces.

The book argues for an understanding of these collections within a range of intercultural relationships which embrace diplomacy, alliance, curiosity and enquiry, as well as conflict, expropriation and cultural hegemony.

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Dividing the spoils
Henrietta Lidchi and Stuart Allan

The trajectory into the collections of National Museums Scotland made by two horn cups is explored as a means to discuss military culture and collections of the non-European world. Both cups are associated with storming at the fortress city of Maqdala, Ethiopia in 1868. These objects are examined here from a shared, interdisciplinary perspective embracing museum anthropology and military history. They represent the products of one end of a range of collecting practices, running from looting through to scientific collecting, and between which the boundaries are not always clear. The stories of their acquisition, and of their afterlives as museum objects, open up some of the complexities and fascinating ambiguities which can emerge from close study of material of this kind. These, and similar objects preserved in military collections across the UK, raise questions about the relationship between the British Army and Empire, the culture and practices of appropriation, collecting and memorialisation in British military culture, about the fluidity of the terminology applied to such objects, and about the challenges and opportunities inherent in interpreting such objects for museum visitors in the post-colonial era.

in Dividing the spoils
Photograph albums in regimental museums
Henrietta Lidchi and Rosanna Nicholson

In his ‘Notes on Photography’ dated 1860 Captain Henry Shaw of the Royal Engineers itemised the uses to which photography could be applied for military and scientific purposes. He notes that over time, capturing scenes, places and persons would prove of personal interest to the photographer and more generally, justifying the physical encumbrance of carrying photographic equipment on campaign. Analysis of photographs and scrap albums recording the 1903–04 ‘Younghusband Mission’ into Tibet takes us beyond straightforward photographic representation into considering the afterlife of the images created on campaign. Evidence of practices of duplication, compilation and curation of images, shows the importance of recognising the album as acomposite artefact, drawing in official and personal photographs. Many of these albums were made after the event, and can include further visual material (eg: newspaper cutting or cartoons). A close reading of the combination of photographic prints on a page, combined with their captions, demonstrates the function of these albums as individual and collective memorials.

in Dividing the spoils
Eighteenth-century powder horns in British military collections
Stuart Allan and Henrietta Lidchi

Engraved power horns are a well-known aspect of the material culture of the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), also known in North America as the French and Indian War. In looking at collections in military museums across the UK it emerged that powder horns were a distinctive form of material culture from this campaign. Powder horns were often personalised and artistically adapted, and they feature widely in North American collecting institutions and remain of considerable interest to private collectors. Though many are decorated with detailed maps of the theatre of war, others carry more personalised imagery or inscriptions and were made ‘on the hoof’ by amateur artists as mementoes. This chapter focuses on three examples which have an additionally important feature, the carrying straps likely procured from indigenous allies, which documentary evidence suggests might have been military issue. These include straps that are cut down tumplines (burden straps), glass wampum belts, woven belts or quillwork ‘prisoner ties’. Such items are known from early antiquarian collections. This chapter reviews the possible intercultural relationships encapsulated in the survival of these objects in military museums, and discusses their symbolic value within the military culture of the eighteenth-century British Army.

in Dividing the spoils