David Starkey should not be referred to as a historian when he makes media appearances as a pundit on matters outside his area of expertise because it brings the “profession into disrepute”, according to a letter signed by 100 of his peers.
In the letter in today’s Times Higher Education, academics criticise the “reductionist argument” made by Dr Starkey during his recent appearance on BBC Two’s Newsnight, when he said that the UK riots were caused because “the whites have become black”.
Such a claim is “both evidentially insupportable and factually wrong”, the letter says.
Particular ire is reserved for the BBC for introducing Dr Starkey as a historian when inviting him to comment on matters outside his historical specialism, which is British constitutional history in the Tudor period.
“The problem lies in the BBC’s representation of Dr Starkey’s views as those of a ‘historian’, which implies that they have some basis in research and evidence,” the letter says. “As even the most basic grasp of cultural history would show, Dr Starkey’s views as presented on Newsnight have no basis in either. His crass generalisations about black culture and white culture…would disgrace a first-year history undergraduate.
“It appears to us that the BBC was more interested in employing him for his on-screen persona and tendency to make comments that viewers find offensive than for his skills as a historian.”
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