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This collaborative research partnership with the National Army Museum reappraises motivations for military collecting. It investigates cultures of collecting by members of the British armed forces while on campaign and garrison duty in Africa and India during the late 18th and 19th centuries.

In 2017 National Museums Scotland was awarded a major grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/P006752/1) to further examine the rich and diverse material legacy of late 18th and 19th-century British military campaigns.

This interdisciplinary project – Baggage and Belonging: Military Collections and the British Empire – seeks to reappraise the practices, culture and significance of British military collecting of objects from Africa and India during the period 1750 to 1900.

The project involves the examination of ethnographic material in the collections of regimental and corps museums across the United Kingdom to develop a greater understanding of the material legacies of Empire.

It has brought together an international group of military historians, anthropologists and material culture specialists to share their knowledge and expertise with corps and regimental museum curators. The project has led to a number of outputs including: conference presentations, journal and magazine articles, a book (Dividing the Spoils: Perspectives on Military Collections and the British Empire, Manchester University Press, 2020), knowledge exchange workshops, an international seminar (held at the National Army Museum in February 2020), and an exhibition at the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle which opened in November 2020, titled ‘Legacies of Empire’. A second book is currently in preparation.

Research project details

Find out more about the AHRC project and its precursors.

Project updates

Here you can find updates on the Military Collections and the British Empire Project including object stories and summaries of our workshops and events.

Supported by

National Army Museum    Arts & Humanities Research Council
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