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Abstract: On Her Majesty’s Service: C. L. W. Merlin and the Sourcing of Greek Antiquities for the British Museum

Based on hitherto unpublished archival material, this paper offers a brief biographical account of Charles Louis William Merlin, who served on Her Britannic Majesty’s consular service in Greece for almost 50 years (1839-1887). His extensive correspondence (1864-1892) with the British Museum, offers the opportunity to reconstruct Merlin’s role in the sourcing and trafficking of ancient objects directly from Athens to London. The study of this material, which is currently ongoing, provides significant new insights into the value and types of objects trafficked and the structure of Merlin’s transactions. Following the Foreign Office’s 1864 directive to the consular services abroad to collect ancient objects for the British Museum, Merlin became the Museum’s most productive antiquities agent in Greece. The preliminary study of this correspondence suggests that his sourcing, collection, trafficking and sale of antiquities was not prompted solely by his “patriotic duty” or his urge of making money, but also by his progressive interest in participating in an activity that had long since been recognized as a “gentleman’s sport” among the diplomatic corps and the upper echelons of Athenian society. Abstract Based on hitherto unpublished archival material, this paper offers a brief biographical account of Charles Louis William Merlin, who served on Her Britannic Majesty’s consular service in Greece for almost 50 years (1839-1887). His extensive correspondence (1864-1892) with the British Museum, offers the opportunity to reconstruct Merlin’s role in the sourcing and trafficking of ancient objects directly from Athens to London. The study of this material, which is currently ongoing, provides significant new insights into the value and types of objects trafficked and the structure of Merlin’s transactions. Following the Foreign Office’s 1864 directive to the consular services abroad to collect ancient objects for the British Museum, Merlin became the Museum’s most productive antiquities agent in Greece. The preliminary study of this correspondence suggests that his sourcing, collection, trafficking and sale of antiquities was not prompted solely by his “patriotic duty” or his urge of making money, but also by his progressive interest in participating in an activity that had long since been recognized as a “gentleman’s sport” among the diplomatic corps and the upper echelons of Athenian society.

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