In 2020, there was a wave of iconoclasm – the destruction of statues – led by the Black Lives Matter movement. There had been such waves before, during the English Reformation, French Revolution, the fall of Communism and so on. What was unprecedented in 2020 was that it was global: from the US and Canada to the UK and Belgium, and across the world including Bangladesh, Columbia, South Africa and New Zealand. The political backlash was intense. Alex von Tunzelmann looks at the fascinating history of statues: why they are put up, what they mean, how their meanings shift, and why they may be pulled down (or put back up again). She asks what we should do with unwanted statues, and how to fill those empty plinths.
Alex von Tunzelmann is a British historian, bestselling author, screenwriter, broadcaster, and media commentator. She lives in London.