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 History of Protection of Cultural Property

Actions, Laws & Treaties 1863-1977



The Lieber Code of 1863, commissioned during the Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln, was the first legislation to explicitly call for the protection of cultural property during times of armed conflict. Since that time, the international community has adopted numerous treaties that set forth similar principles.

The large scale destruction and looting of cultural property during WWII led to many measures intended to protect European cultural heritage during the war as well as to the establishment of the International Military Tribunal to try and punish those involved in crimes against cultural property.

The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Times of Armed Conflict and its First Protocol were adopted after a meeting of representatives of the United Nations under the auspices of UNESCO. Today there are 126 state parties to the convention.

More information on significant events relating to the protection of cultural property:

1863 Lieber Code »

1874 Brussels Declaration »

1880 Oxford Manual »

1899 & 1907 Hague Conventions »

1935 Roerich Pact »

5 January 1943 Declaration Regarding Forced Transfers of Property in Enemy-controlled Territory »

23 June 1943 Roberts Commission established (American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas) »

23 June 1943 Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) program of the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies established »

29 December 1943 General Eisenhower issues an order for the protection of historical monuments »

26 May 1944 General Eisenhower Issues second directive on the protection of cultural property »

1945 The London Charter of 8 August 194512 August 1949—Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War »

12 August 1949 Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War »

1954 Hague Convention »

Special Protection »

2009—United States Becomes a State Party »

1954 Hague Convention, First Protocol »

8 June 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I) »