In Brief

Black Lives Matter: which slavery-linked blue plaques could be ‘toppled’?

English Heritage to review all 950 of the commemorative signs in London for links to racism

Blue plaques commemorating the lives of notable people are to be reviewed for “problematic connotations” in response to the targeting of other memorials by anti-racism campaigners.

English Heritage has told The Times that all 950 of the preservation charity’s plaques in London will be assessed to weed out those that celebrate figures who were racist or linked to the slave trade.

The aim is to offer “contextualising digital content” for the plaques on the English Heritage website and the Blue Plaque app, although there are “no plans - at present - to provide additional information at the plaques themselves”, a spokesperson said.

The charity “also wants to recognise more people from ethnic minorities in the capital and put up plaques that commemorate their history”, according to the Daily Mail.  

Although which existing plaques will be impacted by the review remains to be seen, the list might include Bernard Montgomery, the general who led British troops to victory at the Battle of El Alamein. 

Montgomery was a hard-line imperialist who described “the African” as “complete savage” who “is quite incapable of developing the country himself”. 

Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe, the author of adventure novel could also face a reckoning, says The Times. A businessman as well as a writer, Defoe held shares in the slave-trading Royal African Company and wrote that the slave business was “essential to Britain’s interests”.

Other figures whose plaques might be named and shamed in the review include German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who has been described as a proponent of “scientific racism”, and Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell.

The latter’s statue on Poole Quay in Dorset has been a source of controversy owing to his links to the Nazis and the Hitler Youth.

Baden-Powell’s effigy was due to be removed by the local council last week, but is still in place “after a crowd of people, many in Scout uniform, stood around the statue to prevent it being taken down”, The Guardian reports.

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