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Fallen Idols: Twelve Statues That Made History

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Fallen Idols: Twelve Statues That Made History by Alex Von Tunzelmann

As seen:

  • The Wolfson History Prize Shortlist 2022

By Alex Von Tunzelmann

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A hugely entertaining and informative narrative on one of the key arguments raging across the globe – how does one honestly celebrate a country’s past without knocking down celebrated heroes?

Judges’ comments on the Wolfson History Prize 2022 Shortlist:
‘Intelligent, illuminating and thoroughly enjoyable. A well-researched book that uses carefully chosen case studies to shed light on a topic of contemporary debate.’

In 2020, statues across the world were pulled down in an extraordinary wave of global iconoclasm. From the United States and the United Kingdom to Canada, South Africa, the Caribbean, India, Bangladesh and New Zealand, Black Lives Matter protests defaced and hauled down statues of slaveholders, Confederates and imperialists. Edward Colston was hurled into the harbour in Bristol, England. Robert E. Lee was covered in graffiti in Richmond, Virginia. Christopher Columbus was toppled in Minnesota, beheaded in Massachusetts and thrown into a lake in Virginia. King Leopold II of the Belgians was set on fire in Antwerp and doused in red paint in Ghent. Winston Churchill was daubed with the word racist in London.

Statues are one of the most visible – and controversial – forms of historical storytelling. The stories we tell about history are vital to how we, as societies, understand our past and create our future. So whose stories do we tell? Who or what defines us? What if we don’t all agree? How is history made, and why?

Fallen Idols looks at 12 statues in modern history. It looks at why they were put up, the stories they were supposed to tell, why those stories were challenged, and how they came down.

History is not erased when statues are pulled down. If anything, it is made.

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