The Leopard, the Lion, and the Cock

Colonial Memories and Monuments in Belgium

Matthew Stanard

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Monograph - paperback

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Thought-provoking reflection on culture, colonialism, and the remainders of empire in Belgium after 1960

The degree to which the late colonial era affected Europe has been long underappreciated, and only recently have European countries started to acknowledge not having come to terms with decolonisation. In Belgium, the past two decades have witnessed a growing awareness of the controversial episodes in the country’s colonial past. This volume examines the long-term effects and legacies of the colonial era on Belgium after 1960, the year the Congo gained its independence, and calls into question memories of the colonial past by focusing on the meaning and place of colonial monuments in public space.

The book foregrounds the enduring presence of “empire” in everyday Belgian life in the form of permanent colonial markers in bronze and stone, lieux de mémoire of the country’s history of overseas expansion. By means of photographs and explanations of major pro-colonial memorials, as well as several obscure ones, the book reveals the surprising degree to which Belgium became infused with a colonialist spirit during the colonial era.

Another key component of the analysis is an account of the varied ways in which both Dutch- and French-speaking Belgians approached the colonial past after 1960, treating memorials variously as objects of veneration, with indifference, or as symbols to be attacked or torn down. The book provides a thought-provoking reflection on culture, colonialism, and the remainders of empire in Belgium after 1960.

Free digital appendix: detailed list of monuments in Belgium linked to the country’s colonial past

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).
List of Illustrations 
Acronyms and Abbreviations 
Chapter 1: Belgians and the Colonial Experience before 1960 
Chapter 2: Reminders and Remainders of Empire, 1960-1967 
Chapter 3: Quiescence, 1967-1985 
Chapter 4: Commemoration and Nostalgia, 1985-1994 
Chapter 5: A New Generation, 1994-2010 
Chapter 6: 2010 and Beyond 

Format: Monograph - paperback

Size: 234 × 156 × 23 mm

338 pages

ISBN: 9789462701793

Publication: April 11, 2019

Languages: English

Stock item number: 127860

Matthew G. Stanard is professor of history at Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia, USA.
The volume is handsome and well-produced. It is richly illustrated by around seventy colour photographs of particular monuments and statues. [...] a timely contribution to scholarly dialogues on identity-building in Belgium and more widely in modern Europe, as well as to debates on public monuments as vessels of historical interpretation. Above all, this book makes it clear that European nations still have much to do if they are fully to decolonise the past.
Simon John, The English Historical Review, 02 April 2021, ceaa334,


Zoals de ondertitel Colonial Memories en Monuments in Belgium verraadt, had Stanard met dit boek een dubbel doel voor ogen. Enerzijds is het boek doorspekt met uitgelichte kaders waarin enkele van de meest opvallende koloniale straatnamen, standbeelden en herdenkingsplaques worden beschreven. Zo krijgt de lezer een coherent en aangenaam leesbare introductie van de totstandkoming, de verheerlijkte actor en de huidige toestand bij de meest opvallende plekken van koloniale herinnering. Anderzijds geeft hij aan de hand van vijf chronologisch afgebakende hoofdstukken een introductie tot de belangrijkste uitingsvormen van het maatschappelijk debat in België. Hierbij plaatst Stanard het debat over kolonialisme steeds in een bredere maatschappelijke context. Met zijn verwijzingen naar de impact van de Koningskwestie, de brand in de Innovation, de Bende van Nijvel en de affaire-Dutroux roept hij op accurate wijze de sfeer van het desbetreffende tijdsgewricht op.
Gert Huskens, Belgisch Tijdschrift voor Nieuwste Geschiedenis, L, 2020, 3-4

Stanards studie van de verschuivingen in postkoloniale mentalités is verfrissend omdat ze naast de heftige emoties die met dekolonisatie gepaard gaan ook ruimte laat voor de onverschilligheid waarmee veel Belgen zich door het koloniale landschap bewegen. Het kolonialistische straatbeeld in België, met zijn patriottische lieux de mémoire, overleefde 1960 namelijk. De beelden die de revue passeren zijn relieken uit het koloniale tijdperk: hun esthetiek en thematiek ademen de Belgische beschavingsmissie. 
Kristof Smeyers, de Nederlandse Boekengids

This book is timely and will certainly be a useful contribution to the public debate. It presents, for the first time, an impressive overview of the colonial remnants in the Belgian land- and cityscape.
Guy Vanthemsche, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

L’ouvrage de Matthew G. Stanard vaut largement le détour. Il nous ouvre bien des portes sur un passé riche et controversé. A découvrir!
Chantal Kesteloot, H-Soz-Kult, 07.10.2020,
Les références à la colonisation se comptent par centaines dans l’espace public. Statues, monuments, plaques commémoratives, noms de rues… L’inventaire est sans fin. L’historien Matthew Stanard, auteur de plusieurs ouvrages sur le sujet, a entrepris de les recenser. En 2019, il publie "The Leopard, the Lion, and the Cock", dans lequel il examine les effets à long terme du passé colonial de notre pays., 12/06/2020

The book is designed to be read as a reference work as well as a continuous argument. This means that facts are often repeated, which is also a consequence of the author’s careful presentation and use of introduction and conclusion to summarize important developments. The short entries describing individual statues appear alongside the main text, and complement it, giving eighty-four colour images to support Stanard’s analysis. Of particular interest are images showing the results of mutilations of statues, including the severing of hands in commemoration of one of the more brutal practices of the early colonial period. This book provides a very useful insight into the legacy of that period, and its presentation in contemporary Belgium.
Catherine Emerson, French Studies, Volume 74, Issue 2, April 2020, Pages 333–334,

Synthetic in nature, and drawing on a wide array of primary sources as well as (inter)national scholarship, Stanard’s book sets out to illustrate, first, how over the course of the twentieth century a colonial culture was formed in Belgium and, second, how the country’s colonial endeavour has been perceived, discussed and remembered by various groups in Belgian society. In this respect, it fills a lacuna in existing scholarship.
Johan Lagae, Journal of Design History, epaa017,

The result is absolutely impressive. Stanard has succeeded in painting a many-coloured picture of the varieties and evolutions of the Belgian perception of its colony.
Goddeeris, I., BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 135(1), pp.70–94.

The book does provide a much needed contribution to scholarship and a comprehensive resource for teaching that clearly demonstrates how, despite having been ‘one of Europe’s “lesser” imperial powers’ (p. 31), the colonial period has had a lasting and pervasive effect on Belgian society and politics.


Il n’empêche : M.G. Stanard a fait le point. La lecture de son ouvrage constitue désormais un passage obligé pour tout qui voudra prendre part aux débats sociaux sur lesquels pèsent encore le passé colonial de la Belgique. Une histoire renouvelée, notamment sur la base de cet ouvrage, doit être enseignée et transmise ; une histoire connectée autant aux enjeux socio-culturels du présent qu’aux derniers résultats de la recherche en sciences humaines et sociales. Pourvu que les éditeurs saisissent l’occasion de traduire cet ouvrage afin qu’il soit lu par le plus grand nombre. Pour que les voix critiques ne soient pas à nouveau étouffées lors des prochaines commémorations…
Romain Landmeters, Contemporanea, Jaargang XLII — Jaar 2020 — Nummer 1

A bien des égards, cet ouvrage était attendu. Non seulement il contribue à rendre intelligible l’impact colonial dans l’espace culturel et public belge au travers de l’histoire des monuments coloniaux, mais il instruit toute une série de questions sur la manière dont l’identité nationale belge s’articule au passé colonial.
Sarah Demart, H-France Review, Vol. 19 (November 2019), No. 257