Fallen Idols



Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2022
Books of 2021, The Economist,
Books of 2021, The New Statesman

In the past few years, there has been a rush to topple statues. From the USA to India, from the UK to Mexico, from Canada to Bangladesh, protesters inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement defaced and hauled down statues of slaveholders, Confederates and imperialists.

In Bristol, Edward Colston was hurled into the harbour. Robert E. Lee was covered in graffiti in Richmond, Virginia. Christopher Columbus was toppled in Minnesota, thrown into a lake in Virginia, and beheaded in Massachusetts. 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 forms of historical storytelling. The stories we tell about history as societies and communities are vital to how we understand our past and make our future. So who controls history?

Fallen Idols tells the story of twelve toppled statues around the world. It looks at why they were put up in the first place; the stories they were intended to tell; the symbolism they came to embody; and the manner and consequences of their removal.

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

“If you want to make sense of the statues debate, and the coming culture war over our history, this is where you need to start.” Dan Snow
“Alex von Tunzelmann deftly captures [that] statues are always works in progress: toppled, moved, reworked, re-erected and reinterpreted. There has never been a time when they were not contested.” Mary Beard, The Guardian
“This timely, sparkling and often hilarious book is all that we have come to expect from Alex von Tunzelmann – witty (often wickedly so), scintillating, skewering pomposity. Readers will relish her eagle-eyed knack of offering jaw dropping anecdotes while always keeping us aware of the big picture.” Michael Wood
“Alex von Tunzelmann is one of the most gifted historians writing today. Brilliant and trenchant, witty and wise, Fallen Idols is a book you will adore, devour, and talk about to everyone you know. Hesitate no longer; buy this book.” Suzannah Lipscomb

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