We have updated our Privacy Policy Please take a moment to review it. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the terms of our updated Privacy Policy.

‘Alex von Tunzelmann is one of the most gifted historians writing today. Brilliant and trenchant, witty and wise, Fallen Idols is a book you will adore, devour, and talk about to everyone you know. Hesitate no longer; buy this book.’ Suzannah Lipscomb, author, award-winning historian and broadcaster

‘Like all the best historians von Tunzelmann uses the past to explain what the hell is going on today. She does so with a flair, her signature mix of scholarship and succinctness that is so compelling. If you want to make sense of the statues debate, and the coming culture war over our history, this is where you need to start.’ Dan Snow

‘A timely, sparkling and often hilarious book.’ Michael Wood

In the past few years, there has been a rush to topple statues. Across the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Belgium and elsewhere, Black Lives Matter protesters defaced and in some cases hauled down statues of slaveholders, Confederate icons, and imperialists.

In Bristol, Edward Colston was knocked off his plinth and hurled into the harbour. Robert E. Lee was covered in graffiti in Richmond, Virginia. Christopher Columbus was toppled in Minnesota, burned and thrown into a lake in Virginia, and beheaded in Massachusetts. King Leopold II of the Belgians was set on fire in Antwerp and doused in red paint in Ghent. Winston Churchill was daubed with the word ‘racist’ in London. The backlash from conservatives has been fast and intense.

Statues are one of the most visible forms of historical storytelling, maybe the most visible. The stories we tell are vital to how we as societies understand our past and make our future. The ultimate question is: ‘who controls history?’

FALLEN IDOLS tells the story of twelve toppled statues around the world. It will look at why they were put up in the first place; the stories they were intended to tell; the symbolism they came to embody; and the manner and consequences of their removal.

History is not erased when statues are pulled down. If anything, it is made.

Reviews

This timely, sparkling and often hilarious book is all that we have come to expect from Alex von Tunzelmann - witty (often wickedly so) scintillating, skewering pomposity. Readers will relish her eagle-eyed knack of offering jaw dropping anecdote while always keeping us aware of the big picture
Michael Wood, Historian
Like all the best historians von Tunzelmann uses the past to explain what the hell is going on today. She does so with a flair, her signature mix of scholarship and succinctness that is so compelling. If you want to make sense of the statues debate, and the coming culture war over our history, this is where you need to start
Dan Snow
Alex von Tunzelmann is one of the most gifted historians writing today. Brilliant and trenchant, witty and wise, Fallen Idols is a book you will adore, devour, and talk about to everyone you know. Hesitate no longer; buy this book
Suzannah Lipscomb, author, award-winning historian and broadcaster
Alexandra von Tunzelmann has chosen a subject akin to a minefield for her new book, except that the mines are statues and very much above ground . . . Tunzelmann is as skilled a guide as one could wish for; her erudition and light touch are major advantages. There is not a dull sentence in the book, which from the moment American revolutionaries topple George III in New York, grips the reader from start to finish.
Michael Burleigh, Literary Review
It's a lively, engaging and often witty exploration of why statues are put up, why they are taken down and what this teaches us about history and memory . . . If it has an agenda, it's one that urges us to see the layers, the nuance and the different points of view
The Sunday Times
Forensically unpicking polemical arguments from all sides in the debate, von Tunzelmann calmly and deftly guides us through this important issue, while never stopping being hugely informative, surprising and entertaining.
Aspects of History
Timely and necessary.
Philippe Sands, Financial Times
Alex von Tunzelmann deftly captures ... [that] ... statues are always works in progress: toppled, moved, reworked, re-erected and reinterpreted. There has never been a time when they were not contested.
Mary Beard, Guardian
It's a timely, well written and often entertaining look at statues that were pulled down not only in 2020's wave of iconoclasm but in other places and at other times too.
New Statesman - Books of the Year, Richard J Evans
Excellent
Professor Anna Whitelock, BBC History Magazine