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Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781472281883

Price: £14.99

ON SALE: 8th July 2021

Genre: The Arts / History Of Art / Art & Design Styles

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Over the past three years, the world has witnessed the huge social and media discussions of what figures from the past one should, or should not celebrate and commemorate with a statue. The recent removal of the statue of infamous slave transporter Edward Colston in Bristol still resonates in the UK as debates rage on race, inequality, politics and gender. The conversations, demonstrations and petitions for the removal of statues to men and women whose lives and careers are in question is not a new phenomenon, but one that has been going on for generations. Only with the arrival of online media outlets has it now come to the fore in ‘real time’.

Fallen Idols will be a nuanced and constructive appraisal of the current issues facing many towns and cities as they struggle to decide how the commemoration and adoration of statues that they hold dear (or despise) can be resolved. Von Tunzelmann focuses on key statues across the USA, the UK, Africa and to the old USSR to show the reader how the march of history can be unkind to leaders we sometime venerate at one point, and then cast aside at another – what they achieved, why their memory was celebrated in stone, and why they were then removed. A hugely informative read, supported with line-drawn illustrations of the statues chosen – that will educate and entertain in equal measure.


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
Professor Anna Whitelock, BBC History Magazine