February 24, 2013
David Cameron’s point of view on the return of the Koh-i-noor diamond has had a lot of coverage in recent days. In many ways, the view that he gives is very similar to the line taken by the British Museum on items such as Parthenon Marbles & the Benin Bronzes – that the British are ideally placed to display these artefacts as part of collections from all corners of the globe, where they can be seen by many people. This reasoning always reeks of imperialism to me however – it is an entirely self-appointed role – the artefacts weren’t generally taken with this purpose in mind originally & giving the great museums of the world this role was never something decided by the original owners of the artefacts either. Surely, if the aim is for these works to be seen by as many people as possible, then India would be an ideal location anyway. England may once have been at the centre of the world, but with the rise of the Middle East, South East Asia & China, India is ideally placed to be a hub linking these regions. There is little in reality to link the Koh-i-noor to England, although it should be remembered that is an object that has always moved from place to place. No doubt, one day it will move on, beyond England’s borders, but where it ends up at that stage, is ass yet unknown.
Daily Star (Bangladesh)
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Who owns history, Mr. Cameron?
Last Week, British Prime Minister David Cameron, during his official visit to India, made a disconcerting statement in Amritsar. He said his country would not return the 105 karat Kohinoor diamond, one of the largest in the world, which was taken in 1850 from South Asia as a “gift” to the British monarch Queen Victoria. He reiterated that the “diamond in the Royal Crown is ours.” “I do not believe in returnism, as it were. I don’t think it is sensible. The right answer is that the British Museum and other cultural institutions around the world should make sure that the things which we have and look after so well are properly shared with people around the world,” he said.
The history of the Kohinoor diamond is a fascinating one. It was mined in the thirteenth century in Andhra Pradesh, and was initially in possession of King Prataparudra in that region. Kohinoor stayed with the Mughals for a long time. Emperor Shahjahan affixed it on his Peacock Throne to add glamour to the piece. The Kohinoor fell into difficult times when it was seized by Persian King Nadir Shah when he attacked Delhi.
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