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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, author and broadcaster

Guardian columnist and former foreign correspondent. He is the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s contemporary history series, The Long View, as well as two podcasts, Politics Weekly America for the Guardian and Unholy, alongside the Israeli journalist Yonit Levi. He is a past winner of an Orwell Prize for journalism. He is the author of twelve books, the latest being The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World.

Afua Hirsch

Writer and broadcaster

Writer, broadcaster and author of the bestselling book, Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging, which reveals the uncomfortable truth about race and identity in Britain today. She is a columnist at The Guardian, Chair of Journalism at the University of Southern California and was a judge for the 2019 Booker Prize.

David Olusoga

Award-winning historian, writer and broadcaster

Award-winning historian, writer and broadcaster. His book, Black and British: A Forgotten History, was accompanied by a BBC 2 documentary series of the same name.

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

Professor of Global History at the University of Oxford

Professor of Global History at the University of Oxford. His books include The Silk Roads: A New History of the World and The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World, both of which are global bestsellers. He has been Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford since 2000.