Fallen Idols: History is not erased when statues are pulled down. It is made. (Hardback)
  • Fallen Idols: History is not erased when statues are pulled down. It is made. (Hardback)

Fallen Idols: History is not erased when statues are pulled down. It is made. (Hardback)

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Hardback 272 Pages
Published: 08/07/2021
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Waterstones Says

With sparkling with and skewering insight, Tunzelmann looks at the tide of iconoclasm that in 2020 took down the statues of slaveholders and imperialists all around the world and delivers an absorbing meditation on statues as a controversial form of historical storytelling.

Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2022

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 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.

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

Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
ISBN: 9781472281876
Number of pages: 272
Weight: 480 g
Dimensions: 236 x 158 x 30 mm


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, author, award-winning historian and broadcaster

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 anecdote while always keeping us aware of the big picture - Michael Wood, Historian

Like all the best historians von Tunzelmann uses the past to explain what the hell is going on today. She does so with a flair, her signature mix of scholarship and succinctness that is so compelling. 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

Alexandra von Tunzelmann has chosen a subject akin to a minefield for her new book, except that the mines are statues and very much above ground . . . Tunzelmann is as skilled a guide as one could wish for; her erudition and light touch are major advantages. There is not a dull sentence in the book, which from the moment American revolutionaries topple George III in New York, grips the reader from start to finish. - Michael Burleigh, Literary Review

It's a lively, engaging and often witty exploration of why statues are put up, why they are taken down and what this teaches us about history and memory . . . If it has an agenda, it's one that urges us to see the layers, the nuance and the different points of view - The Sunday Times

Forensically unpicking polemical arguments from all sides in the debate, von Tunzelmann calmly and deftly guides us through this important issue, while never stopping being hugely informative, surprising and entertaining. - Aspects of History

Timely and necessary. - Philippe Sands, Financial Times

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, Guardian

It's a timely, well written and often entertaining look at statues that were pulled down not only in 2020's wave of iconoclasm but in other places and at other times too. - New Statesman - Books of the Year, Richard J Evans

Excellent - Professor Anna Whitelock, BBC History Magazine

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Jamie Lee at Trafford Centre

“Engaging, witty & Fascinating!”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, Alex's writing is style is perfect and feels very accessible. I felt it was easy to dip in and out of without feeling bogged down with unnecessary information, you were given all... More

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