Fallen Idols

Fallen Idols: Twelve Statues That Made History

Alex von Tunzelmann


At a time when we are struggling as a community and a nation over the appropriate way to represent our history in our public statuary, Alex von Tunzelmann has combed the historical records for famous statues that incited such public anger that they were taken down. "Fallen Idols" focuses on a geographically and politically diverse range of statues including George Washington, Joseph Stalin, King Leopold II, Rafael Trujillo, Robert E Lee, and more. In each case, von Tunzelmann explores the reasons the statue was erected and what led to its removal. "Statues are a visible form of historical memory--and historical mythmaking. When somebody is transformed from human into statue, the act of memorialization tells a story about who they are and who we are. It is possible, even likely, that neither story a statue tells--about them or us--is true...At the root of the debate over statues is an issue that is essential, even existential, to our communities, societies, and nations. Whose stories do we tell? Who or what defines us? Who gets to make those decisions? What if we don't all agree? How is history made, why and by whom?" For those struggling to answer those questions and find a common ground we can all agree on, this book is valuable food for thought. While every community must find its own compromise, "Fallen Idols" provides historical examples of how people have evaluated the tension caused but public statues and the solutions that have worked in other places and times.