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Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities

Edited by James Cuno and Thomas G. Weiss

A pathbreaking call to halt the intertwined crises of cultural heritage attacks and mass atrocities and mobilize international efforts to protect people and cultures.

Intentional destruction of cultural heritage has a long history. Contemporary examples include the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, mosques in Xinjiang, mausoleums in Timbuktu, and Greco-Roman ruins in Syria. Cultural heritage destruction invariably accompanies assaults on civilians, making heritage attacks impossible to disentangle from the mass atrocities of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. Both seek to eliminate people and the heritage with which they identify.

Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities assembles essays by experts from the heritage, social science, humanitarian, legal, and military communities. Focusing on immovable cultural heritage, the volume’s guiding framework is the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a United Nations resolution adopted in 2005 to permit international intervention against crimes of war or genocide. R2P offers policymakers a set of laws and international norms that can and must be extended to the protection of cultural heritage. Contributions consider the global value of cultural heritage and document recent attacks. Sections on vulnerable populations as well as the role of international law and the military offer readers critical insights and point toward research, policy, and action agendas to protect both people and cultural heritage.  

Reflecting Getty’s commitment to open content, Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities is available online at and may be downloaded free of charge in multiple formats. For readers who wish to have a bound reference copy, this paperback edition is available for purchase. 

James Cuno is president emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Thomas G. Weiss is Presidential Professor of Political Science and director emeritus of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

“The book's 32 chapters provide readers with rich historical information surrounding international cases of tangible cultural heritage and threats to its preservation.”
K. M. Woosnam, CHOICE

“An informative and thought-provoking work of seminal scholarship.”
—Micah Andrew, Midwest Book Review

“This overview of endangered cultural heritage adopts an interesting viewpoint.”
—Gareth Harris, The Art Newspaper

648 pages
7 x 10 inches
58 color and 12 b/w illustrations, 9 maps, 2 tables  
ISBN 978-1-60606-807-6

Getty Publications 
Imprint: Getty Publications