Looting, also referred to as sacking, ransacking, plundering, despoiling, despoliation, and pillaging, is the indiscriminate taking of goods by force as part of a military or political victory, or during a catastrophe, such as war, natural disaster (where law and civil enforcement are temporarily ineffective), or rioting.
Looting by a victorious army during war has been common practice throughout recorded history. Foot soldiers viewed plunder as a way to supplement an often meagre income and transferred wealth became part of the celebration of victory. On higher levels, the proud exhibition of loot formed an integral part of the typical Roman triumph, and Genghis Khan was not unusual in proclaiming that the greatest happiness was "to vanquish your enemies ... to rob them of their wealth".
In warfare in ancient times, the spoils of war included the defeated populations, which were often enslaved. Women and children might become absorbed into the victorious country's population. In other pre-modern societies, objects made of precious metals were the preferred target of war looting, largely because of their easy portability. In many cases looting offered an opportunity to obtain treasures that otherwise would not have been obtainable. Since the 18th century, works of art have increasingly become a popular target. In the 1930s, and even more so during World War II, Nazi Germany engaged in large-scale and organized looting of art and property.
Looting, combined with poor military discipline, has occasionally been an army's downfall - troops who have dispersed to ransack an area may become vulnerable to counter-attack. In other cases, for example the Wahhabi sack of Karbala in 1801 or 1802, loot has financed further victories. Not all looters in wartime are conquerors; the looting of Vistula Land by the retreating Imperial Russian Army in 1915 was among the factors sapping the loyalty of Poles to the Russian Emperor. Local civilians can also take advantage of a breakdown of order to loot public and private property, as in events which took place at the National Museum of Iraq in the course of the Iraq War in 2003. Tolstoy's novel War and Peace describes widespread looting by Moscow's citizens before Napoleon's troops entered the city in 1812, and by French troops elsewhere.
Both customary international law and international treaties prohibit pillage in armed conflict. The Lieber Code, Brussels Declaration (1874), and Oxford Manual recognized the prohibition against pillage. The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 ( modified in 1954) obliges military forces not only to avoid the destruction of enemy property, but to provide protection to it. Article 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court provides that in international warfare, the "pillaging a town or place, even when taken by assault" counts as a war crime. In the aftermath of World War II, a number of war criminals were prosecuted for pillage. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (operative from 1993 to 2017) brought several prosecutions for pillage.
Theoretically, to prevent such looting, unclaimed property is moved to the custody of the Custodian of Enemy Property, to be handled until returned to its owners.
The term "looting" is also sometimes used to refer to antiquities being removed from countries by unauthorized people, either domestic people breaking the law seeking monetary gain, or by foreign nations, which are usually more interested in prestige or previously, "scientific discovery". An example of this might be the removal of the contents of Egyptian tombs which were transported to museums in Europe. Other examples include the obelisks of Pharaoh Amenhotep II, in the (Oriental Museum, University of Durham, United Kingdom), Pharaoh Ptolemy IX, (Philae Obelisk, in Wimborne, Dorset, United Kingdom). Whether this constitutes "looting" is a debated point, with other parties pointing out that the Europeans were usually given permission of some sort, and that many of the treasures wouldn't have been discovered at all if the Europeans hadn't funded and organized the expeditions or digs that located them. Many of these antiquities have already been returned to their country of origin voluntarily.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, Soviet forces systematically plundered the Soviet occupation zone of Germany, including the Recovered Territories which were to be transferred to Poland. They sent valuable industrial equipment, infrastructure and whole factories to the Soviet Union.
During a disaster, police and military are sometimes unable to prevent looting when they are overwhelmed by humanitarian or combat concerns, or cannot be summoned due to damaged communications infrastructure. Especially during natural disasters, some people find themselves forced to take what is not theirs in order to survive. How to respond to this, and where the line between unnecessary "looting" and necessary "scavenging" lies, is often a dilemma for governments. In other cases, looting may be tolerated or even encouraged by governments for political or other reasons.
The 1834 looting of Safed (Hebrew: ביזת צפת בשנת תקצ"ד, "Plunder of Safed, 5594 AM") was prolonged attack against the Jewish community of Safed, Ottoman Empire, during the 1834 Peasants' Revolt. It began on Sunday June 15 (7 Sivan), the day after the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, and lasted for the next 33 days. Most contemporary accounts suggest it was a spontaneous attack which took advantage of a defenceless population in the midst of the armed uprising against Egyptian rule. The district governor tried to quell the violent outbreak, but failed to do so and fled. The event took place during a power vacuum, whilst Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt was fighting to quell the wider revolt in Jerusalem.Accounts of the month-long event tell of large scale looting, as well as killing and raping of Jews and the destruction of homes and synagogues by local Druze. Many Torah scrolls were desecrated and many Jews were left severely wounded. The event has been described as a pogrom or "pogrom-like" by some authors. Hundreds fled the town seeking refuge in the open countryside or in neighbouring villages. The rioting was quelled by Lebanese Druze troops under the orders of Ibrahim Pasha following the intervention of foreign consuls. The instigators were arrested and later executed in Acre.2011 England riots
The 2011 England riots, more widely known as the London Riots were a series of riots between the 6th of August and 11 August 2011, when thousands of people rioted in cities and towns across England, saw looting, arson, and mass deployment of police, and resulted in the deaths of five people.
Protests started in Tottenham, London, following the death of Mark Duggan, a local man who was shot dead by police on 4 August. Several violent clashes with police ensued, along with the destruction of police vehicles, a double-decker bus and many homes and businesses, thus rapidly gaining attention from the media. Overnight, looting took place in Tottenham Hale retail park and nearby Wood Green. The following days saw similar scenes in other parts of London, with the worst rioting taking place in Hackney, Brixton, Walthamstow, Peckham, Enfield, Battersea, Croydon, Ealing, Barking, Woolwich, Lewisham and East Ham.
From 8 to 10 August, other towns and cities in England (including Birmingham, Leeds, Coventry, Leicester, Derby, Wolverhampton, Northampton, Nottingham, West Bromwich, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Salford and York) saw what was described by the media as "copycat violence". Social media sites including Facebook also featured rumours of further disturbances or details surrounding known disturbances which were later proven to be inaccurate; for instance there were rumours of disturbances in the town of Dudley and at the nearby Merry Hill Shopping Centre, but no incidents in these areas were detected by police. Rumours of a hospital being targeted by rioters in Birmingham were also proven to be wrong, as were rumours of disturbances in the Heath Town district of Wolverhampton, which had witnessed a serious riot in May 1989.
By 10 August, more than 3,000 arrests had been made across England, with more than 1,000 people issued with criminal charges for various offences related to the riots. Initially, courts sat for extended hours. There were a total of 3,443 crimes across London that were linked to the disorder. Along with the five deaths, at least 16 others were injured as a direct result of related violent acts. An estimated £200 million worth of property damage was incurred, and local economic activity – which in many cases was already struggling due to the recession – was significantly compromised.
The riots have generated significant ongoing debate among political, social and academic figures about the causes and context in which they happened. Attributions for the rioters' behaviour include such social factors such as racial tension, class tension, economic decline and the unemployment that it had brought, as well as individual factors like criminality, hooliganism, the breakdown of social morality and the development of gang culture.Archaeological looting in Iraq
Archaeological looting in Iraq took place on the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The chaos following war has provided the opportunity to pillage everything that is not nailed down. The period between April 8, 2003 when the staff vacated National Museum of Iraq and April 16, 2003 when US forces arrived in sufficient numbers to “restore some semblance of order.” Some 15,000 cultural artifacts disappeared in that time.Caracazo
The Caracazo, or sacudón, is the name given to the wave of protests, riots, looting, shootings and massacres that began on 27 February 1989 in Venezuela's capital, Caracas, and the surrounding towns. The weeklong clashes resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people, thousands by some accounts, mostly at the hands of security forces and the military. The riots and the protests began mainly in response to the government's economic reforms and the resulting increase in the price of gasoline and transportation.Chicago Bulls Championship riots
Mass rioting and looting occurred in Chicago, Illinois in the immediate aftermath of the Chicago Bulls winning six NBA Championships in the 1990s.Huaca del Sol
The Huaca del Sol is an adobe brick temple built by the Moche civilization (100 CE to 800 CE) on the northern coast of what is now Peru. The temple is one of several ruins found near the volcanic peak of Cerro Blanco, in the coastal desert near Ericka Trujillo at the Moche Valley. The other major ruin at the site is the nearby Huaca de la Luna, a better-preserved but smaller temple.
By 450 CE, eight different stages of construction had been completed on the Huaca del Sol. The technique was additive; new layers of brick were laid directly on top of the old, hence large quantities of bricks were required for the construction. Archeologists have estimated that the Huaca del Sol was composed of over 130 million adobe bricks and was the largest pre-Columbian adobe structure built in the Americas. The number of different makers' marks on the bricks suggests that over a hundred different communities contributed bricks to the construction of the Huacas.
The Huaca del Sol was composed of four main levels. The structure was expanded and rebuilt by different rulers over the course of time. It is believed to have originally been about 50 meters in height and 340m. by 160 m. at the base. Located at the center of the Moche capital city, the temple appears to have been used for ritual, ceremonial activities and as a royal residence and burial chambers. Archaeological evidence attests to these functions.
During the Spanish occupation of Peru in the early 17th century, colonists redirected the waters of the Moche River to run past the base of the Huaca del Sol in order to facilitate the looting of gold artifacts from the temple. The operation of the hydraulic mine greatly damaged the Huaca del Sol. In total, approximately two-thirds of the structure has been lost to erosion and such looting. The remaining structure stands at a height of 41 meters (135 feet).
Looting and erosion due to El Niño continue to be major concerns to this day.Looted art
Looted art has been a consequence of looting during war, natural disaster and riot for centuries. Looting of art, archaeology and other cultural property may be an opportunistic criminal act or may be a more organized case of unlawful or unethical pillage by the victor of a conflict. The term "looted art" reflects bias, and whether particular art has been taken legally or illegally is often the subject of conflicting laws and subjective interpretations of governments and people; use of the term "looted art" in reference to a particular art object implies that the art was taken illegally.
Related terms include art theft (the stealing of valuable artifacts, mostly because of commercial reasons), illicit antiquities (covertly traded antiquities or artifacts of archaeological interest, found in illegal or unregulated excavations), provenance (the origin or source of a piece of art), and art repatriation (the process of returning artworks and antiques to their rightful owners).Looting (video gaming)
Looting (alternately, 'lewting', from a common misspelling), in video games such as role-playing video games, massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) and MUDs, is the process by which a player character obtains items (or loot) such as in-game currency, spells, equipment, or weapons, often from the corpse of a creature or possibly the corpse of another player in a PVP situation (cf. looting). These looted items will be placed into the player's own inventory. Loot is considered a reward for killing a creature or other player.Looting of the Eastern Mausoleum
The Looting of the Eastern Mausoleum was an incident in which some of the major mausoleums of the Chinese Qing dynasty in the Eastern Qing Tombs were looted by troops under the command of the warlord Sun Dianying.National Museum of Iraq
The National Museum of Iraq (Arabic: المتحف العراقي) is a museum located in Baghdad, Iraq. Also known as the Iraq Museum, it contains precious relics from the Mesopotamian, Babylonian and Persian civilization. It was looted during and after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Despite international efforts, only some of the stolen artifacts were returned. After being closed for many years while being refurbished, and rarely open for public viewing, the museum was officially reopened in February 2015.Nazi plunder
Nazi plunder refers to art theft and other items stolen as a result of the organized looting of European countries during the time of the Third Reich by agents acting on behalf of the ruling Nazi Party of Germany. Plundering occurred from 1933 until the end of World War II, particularly by military units known as the Kunstschutz, although most plunder was acquired during the war. In addition to gold, silver and currency, cultural items of great significance were stolen, including paintings, ceramics, books, and religious treasures. Although most of these items were recovered by agents of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program (MFAA, also known as the Monuments Men), on behalf of the Allies immediately following the war, many are still missing. There is an international effort underway to identify Nazi plunder that still remains unaccounted for, with the aim of ultimately returning the items to the rightful owners, their families or their respective countries.Pastry War
The Pastry War (Spanish: Guerra de los pasteles, French: Guerre des Pâtisseries), also known as the First French intervention in Mexico or the First Franco-Mexican War (1838–1839), began in November 1838 with the naval blockade of some Mexican ports and the capture of the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa in Veracruz by French forces sent by King Louis-Philippe. It ended several months later in March 1839 with a British-brokered peace. The intervention followed many claims by French nationals of losses due to unrest in Mexico.
This incident was the first and lesser of Mexico's two 19th-century wars with France, being followed by the French invasion of 1861–67 which supported the short reign of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico who was executed by firing squad at the end of that later conflict.Repatriation (cultural heritage)
Repatriation is the return of art or cultural heritage, usually referring to ancient or looted art, to their country of origin or former owners (or their heirs). The disputed cultural property items are physical artifacts of a group or society that were taken from another group usually in an act of looting, whether in the context of imperialism, colonialism or war. The contested objects range widely from sculptures and paintings to monuments and human remains.Sack of Baltimore
The Sack of Baltimore took place on June 20, 1631, when the village of Baltimore, West Cork, Ireland, was attacked by the Ottoman Algeria and Republic of Salé slavers from the Barbary Coast of North Africa – Moroccans, Dutchmen, Algerians and Ottoman Turks. The attack was the largest by Barbary pirates on either Ireland or Great Britain.The attack was led by a Dutch captain, Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, also known as Murad Reis the Younger. Murad's force was led to the village by a man called Hackett, the captain of a fishing boat he had captured earlier, in exchange for his freedom. Hackett was subsequently hanged from the clifftop outside the village for conspiracy.Sack of Constantinople (1204)
The siege and sack of Constantinople occurred in April 1204 and marked the culmination of the Fourth Crusade. Mutinous Crusader armies captured, looted, and destroyed parts of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. After the capture of the city, the Latin Empire (known to the Byzantines as the Frankokratia or the Latin Occupation) was established and Baldwin of Flanders was crowned Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople in the Hagia Sophia.
After the city's sacking, most of the Byzantine Empire's territories were divided up among the Crusaders. Byzantine aristocrats also established a number of small independent splinter states, one of them being the Empire of Nicaea, which would eventually recapture Constantinople in 1261 and proclaim the reinstatement of the Empire. However, the restored Empire never managed to reclaim its former territorial or economic strength, and eventually fell to the rising Ottoman Sultanate in the 1453 Siege of Constantinople.
The sack of Constantinople is a major turning point in medieval history. The Crusaders' decision to attack the world's largest Christian city was unprecedented and immediately controversial. Reports of Crusader looting and brutality scandalised and horrified the Orthodox world; relations between the Catholic and Orthodox churches were catastrophically wounded for many centuries afterwards, and would not be substantially repaired until modern times.
The Byzantine Empire was left much poorer, smaller, and ultimately less able to defend itself against the Turkish conquests that followed; the actions of the Crusaders thus directly accelerated the collapse of Christendom in the east, and in the long run facilitated the expansion of Islam into Europe.Sack of Rome (455)
The sack of 455
was the third of four ancient sacks of Rome; it was conducted by the Vandals, who were then at war with the usurping Western Roman Emperor Petronius Maximus.Spanish Fury at Mechelen
The Spanish Fury at Mechelen was an event in the Eighty Years' War on October 2, 1572 in which the city of Mechelen was conquered by the Spanish army and brutally sacked.Sustainable fishery
A conventional idea of a sustainable fishery is that it is one that is harvested at a sustainable rate, where the fish population does not decline over time because of fishing practices. Sustainability in fisheries combines theoretical disciplines, such as the population dynamics of fisheries, with practical strategies, such as avoiding overfishing through techniques such as individual fishing quotas, curtailing destructive and illegal fishing practices by lobbying for appropriate law and policy, setting up protected areas, restoring collapsed fisheries, incorporating all externalities involved in harvesting marine ecosystems into fishery economics, educating stakeholders and the wider public, and developing independent certification programs.
Some primary concerns around sustainability are that heavy fishing pressures, such as overexploitation and growth or recruitment overfishing, will result in the loss of significant potential yield; that stock structure will erode to the point where it loses diversity and resilience to environmental fluctuations; that ecosystems and their economic infrastructures will cycle between collapse and recovery; with each cycle less productive than its predecessor; and that changes will occur in the trophic balance (fishing down marine food webs).Turkish Abductions
The Turkish Abductions (Icelandic: Tyrkjaránið) were a series of slave raids by Ottoman pirates that took place in Iceland between 20 June and 19 July 1627. Pirates from Morocco and Algeria, under the command of Dutch pirate Murat Reis, raided the village of Grindavík on the southwestern coast, Berufjörður and Breiðdalur in the Eastern Region (the East Fjords), and Vestmannaeyjar (islands off the south coast); they captured an estimated 400–800 prisoners to sell into slavery.