Andrew Roberts: Bush-friendly historian has links to white supremacists

Historians in the News

... Bush, Cheney, and--in a recent, glowing cover story--National Review, have, in fact, embraced a man with links to white supremacism, whose book is not a history but an ahistorical catalogue of apologies and justifications for mass murder that even blames the victims of concentration camps for their own deaths. The decision to laud [Andrew] Roberts [the author of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, which President Bush has read and priased,] provides a bleak insight into the thinking of the Bush White House as his presidential clock nears midnight.

Andrew Roberts describes himself as "extremely right wing" and "a reactionary," and, in Great Britain, the 44-year-old has long been regarded as a caricature of a caricature of the old imperial historians. He famously lauds the British Empire--and its massacres and suppressions--as "glorious" on every occasion. He sucks up to the English aristocracy to the point that Tatler, the society journal, says, "[H]is adolescent crush on the upper classes is matched by virtually no one else in this country." One of the few things that can silence Roberts is a mention of his origins in the distinctly nonaristocratic merchant classes, with a father who owned a string of Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises. Much as he longs to be K&C (Kensington and Chelsea), to those he adores, he will always have the whiff of KFC.

Yet this Evelyn Waugh tomfoolery masks an agenda that the distinguished Harvard historian Caroline Elkins describes as "incredibly dangerous and frightening." To understand the core of Roberts's philosophy--from Waugh to war--it's necessary to look at a small, sinister group of British-based South African and Zimbabwean exiles he has embraced.

In 2001, Roberts spoke to a dinner of the Springbok Club, a group that regards itself as a shadow white government of South Africa and calls for "the re-establishment of civilized European rule throughout the African continent." Founded by a former member of the neo-fascist National Front, the club flies the flag of apartheid South Africa at every meeting. The dinner was a celebration of the thirty-sixth anniversary of the day the white supremacist government of Rhodesia announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, which was pressing it to enfranchise black people. Surrounded by nostalgists for this racist rule, Roberts, according to the club's website, "finished his speech by proposing a toast to the Springbok Club, which he said he considered the heir to previous imperial achievements."

The British High Commission in South Africa has accused the club of spreading "hate literature." Yet Roberts's fondness for the Springbok Club is not an anomaly; it is perfectly logical to anybody who has read his writing, which consists of elaborate and historically discredited defenses for the actions of a white supremacist empire--the British--and a plea to the United States to continue its work....

Related Links

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  • Read entire article at Johann Hari in the New Republic

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