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Revere or Remove? The Battle Over Statues, Heritage and History

To discuss these emotive questions and examine the broader cultural conflicts which lie behind them, Intelligence Squared joined forces with Historic England to bring together a stellar panel.

“These are the history wars we are having…Statues have become lightning rods for a struggle we are going to have to have about our history.” – David Olusoga, historian and one of the presenters of the BBC’s Civilisations series.

Statues and memorials to famous figures of the past adorn our towns and cities. But what should be done when some of these figures have come to be seen by many people as controversial symbols of oppression and discrimination?

In Britain, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign hit the headlines when it demanded the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oxford’s Oriel College, of which he was a leading benefactor, because of his colonialism. In the US, violent protests in Charlottesville were sparked by a decision to remove from a park a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general in the American Civil War, because of the association of the Confederacy with slavery.

Passions run high on both sides. Are those calling for the removal of controversial statues seeking to right an historical injustice or are they trying to erase history? And are those who object to removing memorials defending the indefensible or are they conserving historical reality, however unpalatable that may be?

To discuss these emotive questions and examine the broader cultural conflicts which lie behind them, Intelligence Squared are joining forces with Historic England and bringing together a stellar panel including historians David Olusoga and Peter Frankopan, the journalist and author Afua Hirsch and the cultural commentator Tiffany Jenkins.



Jonathan Freedland

Guardian columnist, broadcaster and author

Guardian columnist, broadcaster and author.

Afua Hirsch

Writer and broadcaster

Writer and broadcaster, Social Affairs Editor of Sky News and former specialist correspondent at the Guardian. Before journalism, she practised law as a barrister, specialising in criminal defence, public and international law. She’s the author of Brit(ish), a book about Britishness and identity, which will be published by next year.

David Olusoga

Historian, writer and broadcaster

Award-winning historian, writer and broadcaster. His latest book, Black and British: A Forgotten History, was accompanied by a BBC 2 documentary series of the same name. He is one of the presenters of the BBC’s new flagship Civilisations series.

Tiffany Jenkins

Academic and consultant on cultural policy

Writer and author of the critically acclaimed Keeping Their Marbles: How Museums Acquired Their Artefacts and Why They Should Keep Them. She is a consultant on cultural policy and Honorary Fellow in the Department of Art History at the University of Edinburgh.

Peter Frankopan

Historian and author

Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford, and Director of the Centre for Byzantine Research at Oxford University. He has lectured at leading universities all over the world, including Cambridge, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, King’s College London and the Institute of Historical Research.