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

Monday 14 May 2018, 7pm | PODCAST NOW AVAILABLE

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“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.


Peter Frankopan

Historian and author of the massive bestseller, The Silk Roads, a reassessment of world history which won ecstatic reviews across the globe. He is Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford, and Director of the Centre for Byzantine Research at Oxford University.

Afua Hirsch

Writer and broadcaster, who has worked as a barrister, the legal affairs and West Africa correspondent for the Guardian, and social affairs editor for Sky News. Her first book, Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging, was awarded a RSL Jerwood Prize for Non-Fiction.

Tiffany Jenkins

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.

David Olusoga

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.


Jonathan Freedland

Guardian columnist, broadcaster and author.



Speakers are subject to change.



About Historic England

Historic England

Historic England is the public organisation that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate our spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops. They protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we’ve come from, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us.