History Matters Project

A Policy Exchange Project

History Matters Project Compendium 12th Edition

This is the twelfth edition of our rolling compendium, which attempts to draw together a range of recent developments that turn on the place of history in the public square – including the removal of certain statues on public display, the renaming of buildings and places, and changes to the way history is taught in educational curricula.

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Not all non-Tory councils have gone woke—Lib Dem-dominated Watford Borough Council adopts Policy Exchange recommendations on street renaming

The post-BLM trend amongst institutions across the country to take action in relation to the public representation of history on a whim, without a thoughtful and considered process, has been deeply troubling to those who care about national heritage. As at Cambridge and Kew Gardens, recent events in Watford suggest that there is reason to have hope. At a Watford Borough Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday (17 Jan), the Mayor Peter Taylor declared that “We’ve got no plans to rename any streets”. This came after suggestions that the council should rename streets such as Imperial Way and Rhodes Way; and contradicted a BBC headline a few days earlier declaring that “Watford plans to scrap slavery-link street signs” (altered a few days later to the more neutral “Watford residents could get vote on slavery street signs”).

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Kew Gardens’ move to scrap “decolonisation” initiative welcomed, after Policy Exchange report

On Saturday (15 January) Richard Deverell, Director of RBG Kew, announced that Kew would be abandoning the “decolonisation” agenda to which it had committed soon after the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. This welcome announcement comes just a fortnight after the publication of a Policy Exchange report—Politicising Plants: Does “decolonising” the botanical collections at Kew undermine its core mission?—which I co-authored with the celebrated garden historian and writer (and Kew diploma-holder) Ursula Buchan and the Oxford legal scholar Professor Christopher Forsyth QC (Hon.).

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History Matters Project: Eleventh Edition

This is the eleventh edition of our rolling compendium, which attempts to draw together a range of recent developments that turn on the place of history in the public square – including the removal of certain statues on public display, the renaming of buildings and places, and changes to the way history is taught in educational curricula.

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History Matters

Policy Exchange’s History Matters project was established in June 2020 to address widespread national concern about the growing trend to alter public history and heritage without due process. Through the regularly updated History Matters compendium, we have been documenting attempts at historical re-interpretation and re-invention, gathering evidence about the processes by which changes to the national teaching and display of history have been made.

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History Matters Project: Tenth Edition

This is the tenth edition of our rolling compendium, which attempts to draw together a range of recent developments that turn on the place of history in the public square – including the removal of certain statues on public display, the renaming of buildings and places, and changes to the way history is taught in educational curricula. In cataloguing these examples, we do not offer any judgment on the actions of the individual or institution in question, today or in the past. Our aim is simply to provide a clear documentary record of what is happening – which can help inform public debate on these issues. At present, the evidence confirms that history is the most active front in a new culture war, and that action is being taken widely and quickly in a way that does not reflect public opinion or growing concern over our treatment of the past.

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Latest Publications

History Matters Project: Tenth Edition

History Matters Project: Tenth Edition

This is the tenth edition of our rolling compendium, which attempts to draw together a range of recent developments that turn on the place of history in the public square – including the removal of certain statues on public display, the renaming of buildings and places, and changes to the way history is taught in educational curricula. In cataloguing these examples, we do not offer any judgment on the actions of the individual or institution in question, today or in the past. Our aim is simply to provide a clear documentary record of what is happening – which can help inform public debate on these issues. At present, the evidence confirms that history is the most active front in a new culture war, and that action is being taken widely and quickly in a way that does not reflect public opinion or growing concern over our treatment of the past.

History Matters Project: Ninth Edition

History Matters Project: Ninth Edition

This is the ninth edition of our rolling compendium, which attempts to draw together a range of recent developments that turn on the place of history in the public square – including the removal of certain statues on public display, the renaming of buildings and places, and changes to the way history is taught in educational curricula. In cataloguing these examples, we do not offer any judgment on the actions of the individual or institution in question, today or in the past. Our aim is simply to provide a clear documentary record of what is happening – which can help inform public debate on these issues. At present, the evidence confirms that history is the most active front in a new culture war, and that action is being taken widely and quickly in a way that does not reflect public opinion or growing concern over our treatment of the past.

Protecting local heritage

Protecting local heritage

Since the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020, a number of councils across England and Wales have stated their commitment to reviewing local street names and—where these are deemed to have a contentious history—to considering renaming them. In several instances, the decision-making process with regards street name alteration has excluded residents and locals, in spite of the immense direct impact street renaming has on a street’s residents.

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