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Vandalism (capitalized) is hostility to the arts and literature, or willful destruction or defacement of their monuments, said to be in the spirit of the Vandals in their attacks on the Roman Empire. The first time the term was used was probably January 10, 1794 during the French Revolution, by Henri Grégoire, constitutional bishop of Blois, in his report directed to the Republican Convention, where he used word Vandalisme to describe some aspects of the behaviour of the republican army. However, the term Vandal (English) or Vandale (French) with pejorative meaning was in use in English at least since the 17th century.

Throughout history, the destruction of monuments of a previous government or power has been one of the greatest symbols of the transition of power. Recent cases of Vandalism in this vein include the toppling and destruction of Soviet monuments after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Taliban destruction of Buddhist statuary in Afghanistan. In a country with an unpopular dictator, vandalism of the leader's portraits and other elements of his personality cult can be a common form of dissent.


More generally, vandalism (uncapitalised) is willful wanton and malicious destruction of the property of others or the commons. The term is usually generalized to include non-destructive but unauthorized modification of property, that is, defacement; for example, graffiti.

With the rise and development of the World Wide Web came unauthorized and undesired modification of webpages through hacking, another form of vandalism.

Some vandalism qualifies as culture jamming or sniggling - artistic statements in their own right that are illegal and destructive from the point of view of the legal system, but are done with a creative and artistic impulse. Graffiti art qualifies in some cases at least, also billboard liberation and crop circles. Indeed the Situationist Asger Jorn founded the Scandinavian Institute of Comparative Vandalism.

Vandalism in Ireland

Nelson's Pillar, Dublin, blown up by republicans in 1966 in an act of 'political vandalism'.

Some well-known cases of vandalism in Ireland included the blowing up of Nelson's Pillar, a large monument in the centre of Dublin, by a group of republicans in 1966. Other public monuments blown up in Ireland included Gough's Statue in the Phoenix Park and King Billy's statue in College Green, both in Dublin city centre. The Irish Public Records Office was destroyed by Irish Republicans in 1922, an act which destroyed one thousand years of state and religious archives. The justification was that though there were Irish records, they had been compiled by English and British governments and thus should be destroyed, an act described by some historians as cultural genocide. (An attempt to blow up the historic Linen Hall Library in Belfast by a unit of the Provisional IRA in the early 1990s was foiled by others in the movement itself, who realised in time that the famous library actually contained some of the archives of the republican movement itself.)

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