Starkey’s race theories “would disgrace a first-year undergraduate” say academics

Leading academics have savaged right-wing historian David Starkey's post-riot comments about race in which he said the problem was "whites have become black".

Leading academics have savaged right-wing historian David Starkey’s post-riot comments about race in which he championed Enoch Powell and said the problem was “whites have become black”. In a letter to the Times Higher Education magazine, more than 100 historians have asked the BBC to cease describing Dr Starkey as a “historian”, saying he is “ill-fitted” to pontificate under that title.

The signatories, who include Paul Gilroy, professor of social theory at the LSE; Steven Fielding, professor of political history at Nottingham; Richard Grayson, professor of 20th-century history at Goldsmiths; Tim Whitmarsh, professor of ancient literatures at Oxford; and scholars from Harvard, Winnipeg in Canada and Jawaharlal Nehru University in India, write:

“His crass generalisations about black culture and white culture as oppositional, monolithic entities demonstrate a failure to grasp the subtleties of race and class that would disgrace a first-year history undergraduate.

“In fact, 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. In addition to noting that a historian should argue from evidence rather than assumption, we are also disappointed by Starkey’s lack of professionalism on Newsnight.

“Instead of thoughtfully responding to criticism, he simply shouted it down; instead of debating his fellow panellists from a position of knowledge, he belittled and derided them. On Newsnight, as on other appearances for the BBC, Starkey displayed some of the worst practices of an academic, practices that most of us have been working hard to change.”

Adding:

“In our opinion, it was a singularly poor choice… The poverty of his reductionist argument… reflected his lack of understanding of the history of ordinary life in modern Britain. It was evidentially insupportable and factually wrong.

“The problem lies in the BBC’s representation of Starkey’s views as those of a ‘historian’, which implies that they have some basis in research and evidence: but as even the most basic grasp of cultural history would show, Starkey’s views as presented on Newsnight have no basis in either.”

Owen Jones, the leading left wing author left dumbfounded by Starkey’s remarks on Newsnight, had described him as “like Enoch Powell meets Alan Partridge”; as Left Foot Forward’s Daniel Elton wrote of Starkey:

Such an outlook is historically and cultural ignorant. It may be not too far to suggest that it is wicked and has the capacity to be incredibly destructive. And anyone who espouses it should be ashamed of themselves. Starkey would do well to listen to the petitioners and apologise.”

79 Responses to “Starkey’s race theories “would disgrace a first-year undergraduate” say academics”

  1. Claire

    Starkey's race theories "would disgrace a first-year undergraduate" say academics: http://t.co/1OgIv6e < @OwenJones84 pls RT

  2. Edward Keeble

    Starkey's race theories "would disgrace a first-year undergraduate" say academics: http://t.co/1OgIv6e < @OwenJones84 pls RT

  3. Emma

    Starkey's race theories "would disgrace a first-year undergraduate" say academics: http://t.co/1OgIv6e < @OwenJones84 pls RT

  4. Rory

    Superman
    Starkey stereotyped people.
    It is a shame, because I thought he would have something interesting to say about the riots, putting them in a historical, maybe even a pre-20th century, context – but no. He talked about skin colour instead.

    There are many people from the culture that talked about that did not riot or loot. Therefore it is right to stand against his views. Views by the way, that gave him more air time in the Newsnight debate than the other two people had to air thiers. On which point the chair should be ashamed to have mishandled the debate so badly – but that is another debate.
    It is not the fault of the left that Starkey has been, quite rightly, taken to task for being wrong.
    (And note – no comment of venom or insult is contained here)

  5. Theodora Anagor

    This is just intellectual dishonesty from the Left. If you look at the skinhead and mods subcultures then you’ll find that they were indeed influenced by Jamaican Black culture.
    What about Ali G? He was supposed to be a parody of the wigger-chav subculture in Britian.
    Mr Starkey clearly wasn’t the first to pick up on the idea that certain bad elements of Black culture were being widely adopted and emulated. He’s just being targeted because he fits the politically correct profile of a conservative, old-aged, White man.

    Skinheads and mods were not influenced by Jamaican black culture, Skinheads for one were influence by neo nazi’s in the states, Mods came out of the 60’s were they influenced by dandism of the regency era, it is very easy to blame black people they are natural underdogs.
    As for Ali G he was not a parody on so called Wiggas, it was a parody of East Asians, which was more of a disjointed version of cockney, of which is widely spoken by many youths in London.
    The comments are nothing more than meanderings of a person who does not know what they are talking about and in my opinion clearly race based.

  6. Nicola Perkins

    RT @leftfootfwd: Starkey's race theories "would disgrace a first-year undergraduate" say academics http://t.co/8ESIYC3

  7. stilllife

    RT @shamikdas: Starkey's race theories "would disgrace a first-year undergraduate" say academics: http://t.co/yomVJhY

  8. Peter M Boenisch

    Starkey's race theories "would disgrace a first-year undergraduate" say academics: http://t.co/1OgIv6e < @OwenJones84 pls RT

  9. Tom White

    Starkey’s claims were inaccurate, and even if they were not, there was no justification for his ludicrously inflammatory comments like ‘the whites have become black’ or ‘Enoch Powell was right, in some sense’. As well as being wrong, he’s a tedious attention-seeker.

    It also shows how lazy the BBC are in who they invite: they are plenty of academic commentators more expert in this area than Starkey – or indeed Owen Jones. Jones is not a ‘leading left-wing author’. He’s a PhD student with an OK book, and a great talent for self-publicity. On second thoughts maybe he and David Starkey have more in common than I thought…

  10. Wookie

    Starkey's race theories "would disgrace a first-year undergraduate" say academics: http://t.co/1OgIv6e < @OwenJones84 pls RT

  11. Rob

    Starkey's race theories "would disgrace a first-year undergraduate" say academics: http://t.co/1OgIv6e < @OwenJones84 pls RT

  12. Ed's Talking Balls

    Asking to cease describing Starkey, an historian, as an historian? Whatever next. Perhaps some no marks should petition the BBC to stop describing David Beckham as a footballer. Even better (indeed, less unreasonably), how about describing Harriet Harman as simply ‘annoying’, rather than ‘MP’ or ‘politician’.

    I’m sure Starkey, rightly, couldn’t care less what these people request via open letters. His academic credentials most certainly stand up to scrutiny and his success far outstrips that of the anonymous signatories.

  13. London IWW

    FYI: #londonriots: Starkey’s race theories “would disgrace a first-year undergraduate” say academics http://t.co/Cjz6oo9

  14. David

    Theodora Anagor said:
    “Skinheads and mods were not influenced by Jamaican black culture, Skinheads for one were influence by neo nazi’s in the states, Mods came out of the 60′s were they influenced by dandism of the regency era, it is very easy to blame black people they are natural underdogs.
    As for Ali G he was not a parody on so called Wiggas, it was a parody of East Asians, which was more of a disjointed version of cockney, of which is widely spoken by many youths in London.
    The comments are nothing more than meanderings of a person who does not know what they are talking about and in my opinion clearly race based.”

    I think you are the one who is talking rubbish. Skinheads were influenced by Jamaican Culture. Think of the band Madness or the Specials or the record label Trojan. Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae are the skinhead music par excellence.

    Ali G was based on the DJ Tim Westwood, son of a vicar who tries to act street.

  15. Knut Cayce

    RT @leftfootfwd: Starkey's race theories "would disgrace a first-year undergraduate" say academics http://t.co/Rj0Qann

  16. Matty

    The argument here about skinheads doesn’t support Mr Starkey either way. It’s true that skinheads did adopt a lot of elements from Jamaican youths in the late 60’s but that doesn’t mean they became black. As for Mods, a lot of their style was based on Italian and French culture. It was the Teds who partly based their style on the Edwardian era.

  17. Shamik Das

    Starkey at his charming best; a bit of sexism & condescension… Not that we shd b surprised, eh @OwenJones84?! http://t.co/kfpRSNwa #BBCqt

  18. keith ferguson

    Starkey at his charming best; a bit of sexism & condescension… Not that we shd b surprised, eh @OwenJones84?! http://t.co/kfpRSNwa #BBCqt

  19. Lindsey German

    Starkey at his charming best; a bit of sexism & condescension… Not that we shd b surprised, eh @OwenJones84?! http://t.co/kfpRSNwa #BBCqt

  20. Alan199

    Starkey at his charming best; a bit of sexism & condescension… Not that we shd b surprised, eh @OwenJones84?! http://t.co/kfpRSNwa #BBCqt

  21. Edward Vincent

    Starkey at his charming best; a bit of sexism & condescension… Not that we shd b surprised, eh @OwenJones84?! http://t.co/kfpRSNwa #BBCqt

  22. Alex Kumar

    Starkey at his charming best; a bit of sexism & condescension… Not that we shd b surprised, eh @OwenJones84?! http://t.co/kfpRSNwa #BBCqt

  23. Somayyeh M-T

    Starkey at his charming best; a bit of sexism & condescension… Not that we shd b surprised, eh @OwenJones84?! http://t.co/kfpRSNwa #BBCqt

  24. Tim Easton

    Starkey at his charming best; a bit of sexism & condescension… Not that we shd b surprised, eh @OwenJones84?! http://t.co/kfpRSNwa #BBCqt

  25. Janet Graham

    Starkey at his charming best; a bit of sexism & condescension… Not that we shd b surprised, eh @OwenJones84?! http://t.co/kfpRSNwa #BBCqt

  26. Laura Hampson

    Starkey at his charming best; a bit of sexism & condescension… Not that we shd b surprised, eh @OwenJones84?! http://t.co/kfpRSNwa #BBCqt

  27. John Baxter

    RT @leftfootfwd: Starkey's race theories "would disgrace a first-year undergraduate" say academics http://t.co/WsD9tZXY

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