Tristram Hunt: History is Where the Great Battles of Public Life are Now Being Fought

tags: Guardian (UK), history, Niall Ferguson, Tristram Hunt



Tristram Hunt is Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central. He is the author of The English Civil War: At First Hand and the critically acclaimed Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City. A regular history broadcaster, he has authored numerous radio and television series for the BBC and Channel 4. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The bullish Harvard historian Niall Ferguson cut an unfamiliar, almost meek figure last week. As reports of his ugly suggestion that John Maynard Keynes's homosexuality had made the great economist indifferent to the prospects of future generations surged across the blogosphere, Ferguson wisely went for a mea culpa.

So, in a cringeing piece for Harvard University's student magazine, the professor, who usually so enjoys confronting political correctness, denied he was homophobic or, indeed, racist and antisemitic for good measure.

Of course, Ferguson is none of those things. He is a brilliant financial historian, albeit with a debilitating weakness for the bon mot. But Ferguson is also part of a worryingly conservative consensus when it comes to framing our national past.

For whether it is David Starkey on Question Time, in a frenzy of misogyny and self-righteousness, denouncing Harriet Harman and Shirley Williams for being well-connected, metropolitan members of the Labour movement, or the reactionary Dominic Sandbrook using the Daily Mail to condemn with Orwellian menace any critical interpretation of Mrs Thatcher's legacy, the historical right has Britain in its grip....

 



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