University of Leicester
REDACTED_2022_TULLIACH_A_PhD.pdf (12.48 MB)

Art and War – Anglo-American Troops in Italy (1943-45)

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posted on 2022-09-09, 09:33 authored by Anna Tulliach

This research project presents a new perspective on the topic of art theft during the Second World War. To date, public attention has been mainly focused on the extensive art looting campaigns conducted by the Nazis in Europe. The thesis’ purpose is to tell another side of the story. Through the case studies of the requisition of the exhibition Mostra Triennale delle Terre Italiane d’Oltremare (Naples) and of Museo Stibbert (Florence), and an analysis of wartime historical records, this thesis examines a hidden World War II history: the modalities of Allied troops’ unlawful treatment of cultural heritage in occupied territories of Italy, and the responsibility of the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives sub-commission (MFAA) in preventing such acts.

This thesis argues that the issue of Allied troops’ illicit treatment of cultural assets was not related exclusively to an early phase of the Italian campaign, contesting previous research on the topic. Moreover, the analysis conducted in this research project demonstrates that one of the MFAA’s founding roles was to act against the billeting of troops in historical properties and to prevent them from stealing and damaging safeguarded artworks housed there. The investigation into the establishment of the MFAA aids in understanding broadly the role that Allied governments played in the creation of a cultural property protection system in wartime, which can have fields of application in modern conflicts. This system comprised the foundation of governmental entities and the issuing of regulations, both disciplining the protection of cultural heritage by combat troops.

This thesis contributes to subjects of study that to date have been studied only marginally, offering a new perspective on the topic of art theft and vandalism during the Second World War, re-evaluating the role that the Allies played in wartime in the treatment of works of art.



Stacy Boldrick; Simon Knell

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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