Blogs > Cliopatria > David Starkey on Newsnight

Aug 19, 2011

David Starkey on Newsnight

David Starkey, a popular historian of Tudor history and a radio and TV academic celebrity, has come under severe fire for his comments on the London riots, which include the following extraordinary assertion:

What has happened is that the 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.

You can watch the full video here, and watch an entertaining (if somewhat rambling) riposte by Nabil Abdul Rashid here, which, among other things, asks Starkey to "pick up a book and read it, man". Language Log is, of course, all over Starkey's wild misfire about 'Jamaican patois', and a closed Facebook group calling itself 'Historians Against Starkey' is gathering signatures for an open letter to the BBC to be published next week in a major British paper. (Details are still under wraps, but if you would like to append your signature, you can email your name and affiliation to founder Ben Schiller at History and Policy rightly exhorts historians, despite it all, not to refrain from comment in the public sphere. Meanwhile, David Starkey is roundly defended by Lancaster tories, which is a revealing alliance, to say the least.

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