A Public History of Monuments



Recent controversies over monuments question not only who should be represented and commemorated in the public space but also who can decide whether to remove or not the monuments. In doing so, those controversies relate to the constant making, interpretation, and use of history in the public space. This article discusses how public history – whose aim is to make history production more public by focusing on accessibility, engagement and participation – can play a role in public debates about contested monuments. Public history can set the ground for more informed decisions on the preservation, removal or destruction of monuments. Those decisions are all the more important as they relate to demands for inclusive reinterpretation and decolonisation of national pasts. The article looks at several projects (Europe, in the Americas, and in South Africa) to remove monuments and their impact on the historical understanding of the past in the public space. In addition to historicising spaces and monuments, public history can play a major role in developing collaborative practices and fostering a more inclusive approach to history production.

Keywords: Public History, Monuments, Decolonisation, Space, Coproduction

How to Cite: Cauvin, T. (2022) “A Public History of Monuments”, Studies on National Movements. 10(1). doi: