2021 Festival – Episode 3.
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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. Fallen Idols looks at twelve 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.
Alex von Tunzelmann is a historian and screenwriter. She is the author of five books on Cold War politics and cultural history, most recently Fallen Idols: Twelve Statues That Made History.
Hugh Linehan is Culture Editor with the Irish Times.
The Dublin Festival of History is brought to you by Dublin City Council, and organised by Dublin City Libraries, in partnership with Dublin City Council Culture Company.