environment, values, and institutions (e.g. Kennedy 1987 ; Tainter 1988 ; Diamond 2005 ; Acemoglu & Robinson 2012 ).
How and why could once powerful civilisations collapse? Examples that have exerted fascination include Ancient Rome, the Maya in Central America, Angkor in Cambodia, the Norse settlements on Greenland, Easter Island, the BritishEmpire, and the USSR. In our own time, there is a discussion about whether the US is entering a phase of decline and fall. Will China be the new superpower instead?
Ruins and wrecks are material icons of decline and decay. The
initiatives for protection and preservation across nations as early as the decades after 1870, a period characterised by colonial great powers of which the BritishEmpire was the greatest. Alongside a gradual professionalisation and the building up of protection and preservation at national level, there were also international contacts, especially in the Church, the universities, and the world of diplomacy (Hall 2011 ).
The emergence of antiquarian protection and preservation can also be traced back to the Enlightenment ideas of a public sphere and to reactions against