Search icon


09th Jun 2020

When is it okay to tear down a statue?



What goes up must come down

There are many ways to remind ourselves of our history, both the good and the bad aspects of it. One way is to listen to those who lived through it, learn their stories and take the lessons those stories give you.

Another, which society has been doing for thousands of years, is to simply write down what happened. The only downside of this is that, as the old adage goes, history is written by the victors, meaning that many of the more unsavoury elements of what ‘the good guys’ done generally gets whitewashed.

It is at this point where the societal benefit of statues and the education we’ve been given about those whom they commemorate converge right now. After the destruction of a statue commemorating slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol in recent days, many are calling for this sort of action to go a step further.

One step is to remove statues of Winston Churchill, former prime minister, a man who helped defeat Hitler, but a man who himself held many ingrained racist beliefs.

Tearing down statues of people like Churchill does not take away their positive contributions to our history, but at some point every society must decide how they want to remember that history, the sections of their population that they include or exclude by doing so, and which figures are worth putting upon a pedestal.