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It’s statues that edit the past—not their removal

Editing the past to tell some stories while silencing others is exactly what public commemorations do—even in the 19th century, the campaign to commission the Colston statue was met with a distinct lack of interest

By Emily Manktelow  

Cecil Rhodes statue stands at the front facade of the Oriel College in Oxford during the protest. Cecil was an English-born businessman, mining magnate, and politician in South Africa. The founder of the diamond company De Beers and the founder of the state of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) , which was named after him. The Rhodes Must Fall campaign was reignited from a 2016 campaign following recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations after the demise of George Floyd under police custody in Mineapolis. Despite the Covid19 lockdown, protesters globally have united to demand change. (Photo by David Mbiyu / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

History is not neutral. Public history is even less so. As Colston toppled and people around the country began challenging their own monuments, Boris Johnson took to social media last week to warn that “we cannot now try to edit or censor our past.” This week, writing in Telegraph, he has doubled down on…

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