Cultural Heritage Protection and the Reconciliation Thesis

Bülow, William and Thomas, Joshua Lewis (2023). Cultural Heritage Protection and the Reconciliation Thesis. In: Bülow, William; Frowe, Helen; Matravers, Derek and Thomas, Joshua Lewis eds. Heritage and War. Oxford Academic, pp. 92–112.



This chapter critically analyses what we label the Reconciliation Thesis, which holds that cultural heritage should be protected during armed conflict because of its instrumental use in promoting peace and reconciliation between warring groups. We begin by arguing that combatants and military decision makers have strong reasons to fight in ways that uphold the prospects of future peace. We then identify several ways in which the safeguarding of cultural heritage might plausibly contribute to post-war peacebuilding. Nevertheless, we ultimately argue that there are reasons to be sceptical of the Reconciliation Thesis, especially when it is evoked as a justification for imposing serious risks or costs on persons, or sacrificing other significant military objectives.

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