I know there's a great appreciation of local history in the Harringay Online community.
What do people think of this, then:
My thoughts: Rather than destroying historic landmarks or erasing names of buildings, places and streets, we can use them as a springboard for more rounded education.
For example, statues' podiums generally have 360 degrees or 4 sides, but just use a small portion to tell a tiny fraction of their story. We can use each statue's podium to tell more sides and degrees of their story. We can use the room around every street sign and name plate for further information giving more rounded and fuller information about history - both positive and negative.
Doing so will help us to de-idolise historical figures. It will help us to recognise that humans are more complicated than that. Hiding historic figures (and thus ourselves) from scandals and successes risks leaving us ignorant. That cannot be a good thing. Few if any historic figures have a completely clean record or reputation.
Admittedly, no story, however told, is complete. They can, however, be updated with facts over time. At a time when we see so much "fake news", more than ever, we need to focus on facts, and actively seek to avoid misinterpretations of history - either wilful or erroneous.
History is horrific. Being confronted with the horror helps us to avoid repeating the same mistakes of previous generations in the future. (An excellent example is Berlin's Topography of Terror, and various other installations identifying the terror that most of Germany experienced for most of the 20th Century.)
Out of sight, out of mind doesn't solve previous injustices or teach future generations. History and art is helpful when it's on our streets rather than masked by museums. Statues and other outdoor education installations are an important part of public access to education. The argument that they should be placed in museums concerns me. People from lower socio-economic groups visit museums far less than those from more advantaged groups. Removing street education will be a detriment.
This review is an opportunity to either increase ignorance or enhance education.
I hope it is used creatively for the latter.
It’s a difficult debate.
For instance do you remove a street name, as happened with the thousands named after Marshall Petain (First World War French hero and Second World War Nazi collaborator)? Or do you keep the names and explain who the person was (example from a typical Paris street sign below)?
How would you feel about living in Cecil Rhodes House (in Camden Town) if your block sign included an explanation of who he was and what he did?
Are some associations now so completely unacceptable that there is no question that they should go (a street name and memorial plaque in Scarborough commemorating Jimmy Saville were removed) but should they be held somewhere so people can understand the reasons they were put up and then taken?
So Ejiofor wants to rename an avenue and a school which are named after the apparently blameless great uncle of Cecil Rhodes just because he has the same surname as Cecil ? Will he suggest that Wightman Road be renamed because it sounds a bit like whiteman ?
The person who needs to have his education enhanced is Ejiofor.
I’m not sure that it adds anything to the debate, but by way of keeping things accurate, it's not just a case of sharing the same surname. The Rhodes family who were significant landowners locally, were related to Cecil.
To put up a statue to a politician or other person or name things after them is is to glorify them and their careers and it is right that this should be subject to historical research.
Cecil John Rhodes was a disgusting racist gentleman confidence trickster, racketeer and gun runner. Rhodesia was created after he cheated an African tribal chief into signing away half of Zimbabwe which he then took over for his mining.
But I believe there is absolutely no known evidence that Cecil John Rhodes ever came to Haringey. Rhodes Avenue and Rhodes primary school are named after a farmer who used to own the land they were built on, Tottenham Wood farm. This farmer Thomas Rhodes was the great uncle of the infamous Cecil John Rhodes but the latter was from a different branch of the family in Bishops Stortford. and Thomas had sold all the land when the other Rhodes was age 10; so long before Cecil Rhodes’s African crimes. Thomas Rhodes, therefore, did not benefit from Cecil Rhodes' crimes.
While the general aim to review names and monuments is praiseworthy, changing the name of some road or building because they came from the same family need to be debated. There is a sinister history in Europe of kin punishment, Sippenhaft, enthusiastically revived by Stalin and Hitler. We should not go down this, er, road. There are plenty of names commemorated in Haringey that were directly named after questionable people without going after their relatives.
I don't claim detailed knowledge of the genealogy of the local Rhodes family, nor do I have the penchant to improve it. What I shared above was told to me by one of the most experienced archivists in the research room at Bruce Castle, when I was researching land ownership in South East Harringay in the late nineteenth century. The Rhodes family still owned land here in Harringay in that period.
The archivists in general, and this person in particular, have a very wide and deep knowledge of the borough's local history based on years of experience. Given its source, I treated the information as likely to be true.
No criticism of you intended, Hugh. You are right that that the Tottenham Rhodes were still selling their land off later in the 19thc. But this still had nothing to do with Cecil Rhodes in Africa.
This page on the HHS site is informative, written by Albert Pinching, a well-known and eminent local historian of Wood Green.
The link is through blood lines rather than ones of action. I'm no great fan of the 'sins of the father' school of thought. So, unless some logic can be attached to even considering the local Rhodes names for removal, or unless there is another persuasive argument of which I've not thought, I'd personally dismiss the notion.
And reported here by the Hornsey Historical Society:
It does seem curious that two generations later, and from a different branch of the family to Thomas, Cecil's actions have become enough to taint great-uncle Thomas Rhodes. Unless Rhodes is to become a banned designation, just in case it *might* be Cecil rather than any other. No more Colossus of Rhodes, say I.
Gordon T, as for the Colossus of Rhodes the Punch cartoonist got there before you.
Click on cartoon image and see route maps.
The irony is that if the Brits, French and Portuguese had been interested in compromise over their rival railway/telegraph plans [Cape-Cairo, Dakar-Djibouti, Angola-Mozambique] they could have done more for modern African Unification and prosperity than all the Panafricanists placed head-to-toe from Cape to Cairo, Dakar to Djibouti, Luanda to Beira or Maputo over the past century.
But then, that probably isn't what the Scramble for Africa was all about.
John you've just stolen my thunder. I was about to enlist you as second-in-command of my new vigilate group, The Anti-Homophonic League in Defence of Wightman. No homophonia on Wightman! Let's hope all Ladder Rhodes will Raleigh to our cause.
Some village Hampden, perhaps.
ps. Meanwhile I trust that all humorous Milligan poems will be spiked henceforth at North and South Harringay Schools.