This is a website about statues related to the colonial histories of France and Britain.
Since the mid-2010s, statues of individuals related to the history of European empires have been the target of physical attacks and public debates. Some of the most controversial and widely known of these episodes have been the Rhodes Must Fall movements in Cape Town and Oxford in Britain; the toppling of the statue of Colston in Bristol; the removal of the statue of Victor Schoelcher in Martinique and the smearing of the statue of King Leopold in Brussels with red paint. This project brings together scholars of French and British imperial history, historical geographers, legal scholars, and art historians. By pooling our expertise, we intend to study the complex histories of these statues, situating them in their local contexts, understanding their iconography, tracing the connections between sites, and gathering the conflicting emotions and memories that have built up around them. In doing so, we aim to go beyond flattened descriptions of ‘vandalism’ and ‘patriotism’ and instead produce a citizens’ archive and interpretive tool that can assist with dispassionate, positive and democratic decision-making with regards to difficult heritage.
One of the principal outputs of this project will be a free online map of all disputed statues associated with colonialism, in Britain and France. This map will be made available on this website. In addition, we shall conduct detailed research with relation to ten statues – five in France and five in Britain. These ten case-studies will also be presented on this website.
An essential aim of this project is to interact with activists, artists, museum and other heritage professionals and legal experts in France as well as Britain. Reports of these interactions will be provided on this website.