“The Harder They Fall”

A number of statues have been taken down around the United States as people question who ought to be commemorated in bronze and who should go on the scrap heap. I have been interested in this issue and picked up Alex von Tunzelmann’s Fallen Idols:Twelve Statues That Made History(2021) to know more about the phenomenon.

She begins each chapter with the name, location, date of erection and date of removal of the statue. She includes ones from around the world, including Hungary’s Joseph Stalin(up in 1951 down in 1956,) South Africa’s monument to Cecil Rhodes(up in 1934 down in 2015,) and Belgium’s King Leopold II(up in Kinshasa in 1928 down in 1966, but up in Brussels in 1926 and still there.)

Each chapter thoroughly outlines the circumstances surrounding both the placing and the dismantling of each statue. The same discussions seems to take place no matter the location of the tribute, and the author challenges each statement which favors leaving the statue in place. Exploring and refuting the arguments of “the erasure of history,” “the man of his time,” “the importance of law and order,” and “the slippery slope” defense, she ultimately concludes we should simply quit memorializing people in large public bronze objects.

Whether or not you agree with her final conclusion, the author will definitely have given you more than a pat answer to any question about a statue: whether it should go up or if it is time for it to come down.

20 thoughts on ““The Harder They Fall”

  1. If we eradicate all such statues do we then move on to destroying all literature about those people and subjects? Do we take down the gates of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps? We cannot change history but we should learn from it!

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  2. This is interesting. Knowledge is power. I am sick over the statues in America that have recently come down. I’m a believer that we learn from the past. That’s why I stop to talk about Indians reading Little House on the Prairie. Thank you for introducing this book.

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  3. My take on this has always been the same. No matter how ‘nasty’ the subject of the statue, it should be left as a reminder of history, and a lesson for the future. If necessary, an information plaque can be added to explain this.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Thanks for the link,Lakshmi, it was very kind of you to think of me.
      I agree with the author’s conclusions, except for the last one. Here in Nottingham, we had an extremely famous football (soccer) manager and coach who twice made the local team champions of Europe. The people of Nottingham raised the money for a statue of him, organised a site to put it up with the oouncil,and it is still there today. To me, it is more important that the citizens of the city have the freedom to do this than a blanket “no statues” rule. But I am definitely against preserving the statues of bygone racists and tyrants, especially if the local people want them taken down.

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  4. Interesting phenomenon at the moment Elizabeth but not a new one.

    History demonstrates that the Egyptians did the same thing often when a new ruler came to power. Some Pharoahs were obliterated from the Egyptian history all together!
    But we’re preserved in archeological evidence & other cultures history of the time.
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

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  5. HI Elizabeth, an interesting book. I agree that statues that may cause offense should be removed from public places and put in museums that present the past. You can’t hide from history but you don’t have to be offensive to others.

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