After rejecting the demand to pull down the statue of Robert Clive in Shropshire, the local council is considering placing a plaque beside it to explain the controversial legacy of the man credited with ruthlessly laying the foundation of British rule in India in the 18th century.
Clive’s statue has stood in Shrewsbury’s square since 1860. The first governor of the presidency of Fort William, Bengal, Clive died in London 1774. His statue was one of many recently identified across the UK for removal by Black Lives Matter campaigners.
Steve Charmley, deputy leader of the council, said on Monday: “Today, as a society, we are finally facing up to painful and shameful periods in our history and having to address subjects that cause real distress to some members of our community, especially when they aren’t managed sensitively. The way we interpret the past is hugely important”.
On July 16, in a meeting of the full council, 28 councillors voted in favour of the recommendation that no further action be taken on the demand to remove of the statue, while 17 voted against the proposal and one councillor abstained.
Charmley added: “We believe we should not erase controversial history but, rather than celebrate and glorify such people and events, find appropriate ways to mark and learn from them…(We) are currently exploring the possibility of placing a plaque next to the statue to factually bring more of his story and background to life.”
During the July 16 meeting, one of the reasons mentioned to support the recommendation that the statue should not be replaced was the existence of Clive’s statue in Kolkata (colonial Calcutta was the initial capital under the East India Company).
Clive’s statue in Shropshire has been the subject of a petition and counter-petition.
After thousands signed the petition calling for its removal, thousands more backed the counter-petition, insisting that “removing statues does not change history nor help us learn from it. Shropshire has been influenced by the actions of Robert Clive, whether we condone all of his actions or not”.
The Black Lives Matter campaign witnessed protests across the UK after George Floyd’s death in the US, gathering momentum after the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down in Bristol in early June. The campaign has prompted a review of public spaces in London and elsewhere on symbols of racism, colonialism and slave trade.
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