A debate is currently raging about history in the UK.
Namely the way it is taught, remembered and memoralised via everything from the curriculum in schools to statues of slave traders.
Which is why top UK historian David Starkey turned up on the Reasoned, a podcast hosted by right-wing media personality Darren Grimes, to chat about history.
Or rather history as they saw it.
The conversation turned to the recent focus on the topic of slavery in the UK and Starkey was quick to dismiss the current furore about the country’s racist and active past in the trade.
In a clip posted to Twitter, Starkey rants:
Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn't be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain would there?
He continued on, outlining his belief that we shouldn’t “argue against globalisation” or “Western civilisation” because we are “all products of it”.
By that logic, we can’t critique anything that’s shaped our society, from capitalism to sexism... But Starkey wasn't done yet.
As for the idea that slavery is this terrible disease that dare not speak its name, it only dare not speak its name Darren, because we settled it, nearly 200 years ago.
We don’t normally go on about the fact that Roman Catholics once upon a time didn’t have the vote and weren’t allowed to have their own churches, because we had Catholic emancipation [...] We don’t go on about that.
Starkey’s argument seems to suggest that if something happened 200 years ago, we must cease to discuss it, which doesn’t bode well for his career as a top Tudor historian.
Ditto, he might want to revisit some books about Northern Ireland in the 20th century to read up on Catholic disenfranchisement in the British empire that was a lot more recent…
Needless to say, his dismissal of the impact of slavery, coupled with wording like “damn blacks” has caused accusations of racism to flood in.
It’s not Starkey’s first rodeo expressing controversial views which have been perceived as racist.
His “profoundly racist views” got him dropped from a Cambridge University promotional video in 2015 after high-ranking academics urged university bosses to remove him from the clip, saying choosing such a representative suggested institutional bigotry.
In 2011 Starkey made headlines for commenting on the London riots by referencing a notoriously racist speech, Rivers of Blood, by Enoch Powell.
Appearing on BBC Newsnight, Starkey said that Powell’s ‘prophecy” was “absolutely right in one sense. The Tiber did not foam with blood but flames lambent, they wrapped around Tottenham and wrapped around Clapham," he said.
But it wasn't inter-community violence. This is where he was absolutely wrong. What has happened is that a substantial section of the chavs [...] have become black.
The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion.
Black and white, boy and girl operate in this language together. This language, which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that has intruded in England. This is why so many of us have this sense of literally a foreign country.
Hundreds of people complained in the wake of Starkey’s comments airing.
As noted by many after his latest episode, Starkey still enjoyed mainstream success following 2011, maintaining his platform while fronting several new series and publishing a new book.
A fellow Cambridge professor also denounced Starkey, saying he was “ashamed” to share a connection to him.
History does catch up to us in the end, after all.