Global perspectives on monuments and memory are entangled in concepts of modernity, the nation, and history. This essay explores the complex and problematic relationships between monuments, collective memory, and national identity. It traces the key concepts and their origins that underpin these connections, drawing widely on diverse theories of memory elaborated during the twentieth century. It investigates the writing of history, and the embedding of progress in western concepts of history and modernity. It concludes that decisions to build memorials have entailed forgetting as much as selective remembrance, reflecting on the absence of public memorials in India and Pakistan to the genocide of Partition.