Universities, Publishers Cut Ties With British Historian David Starkey Over Slavery Comment

July 4, 2020 Updated: July 4, 2020

British historian and TV presenter David Starkey resigned from his honorary fellowship at a University of Cambridge college on Friday, after he drew outrage for his comments about black people and whether slavery should be considered genocide.

In an interview on Tuesday for YouTube show “Reasoned,” Starkey said, “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there?”

“An awful lot of them survived, and again, there’s no point in arguing against globalization or Western civilization. They are all products of it, we are all products of it,” he added.

In the description of the show on Twitter, host Darren Grimes said it was a discussion of “the scholarship behind the laudable slogan of Black Lives Matter, compared to the movement seeking to delegitimate [sic] British history.”

Starkey’s comments, circulated rapidly on YouTube and Twitter in a short clip, sparked outrage.

In a statement issued on Friday, Fitzwilliam College of Cambridge University said: “The Master of Fitzwilliam College contacted Dr. David Starkey following his comments. The Master has accepted Dr. David Starkey’s resignation of his Honorary Fellowship with immediate effect.

“Fitzwilliam prides itself in leading the way in Cambridge in opening access to higher education for under-represented groups,” the statement reads. “Our student and academic bodies are diverse and welcoming to all. We do not tolerate racism.”

Epoch Times Photo
Cambridge University in Cambridge, United Kingdom, in a file photo. (Graeme Robertson/Getty Images)

Others associated with the historian swiftly distanced themselves from him. His publisher, Harper Collins, said it would not publish future books by Starkey, and that people in the company “unreservedly condemn” the “abhorrent” remarks he made in the interview.

Canterbury Christ Church University also terminated Starkey’s role as visiting professor, saying his comments were “completely unacceptable.”

In the controversial interview, Cambridge University and the BBC were also targets of scathing criticism from Starkey. He said the English faculty of Cambridge University was no longer about academic freedom, but a programme of “Marxist indoctrination.” He said it should not be abolished, but it should not obtain any direct or indirect public funding.

Starkey, a well-known television personality in Britain, has published more than 20 books, including many on the Tudors.

Darren Grimes, host of “Reasoned,” was also criticized for giving Starkey a platform.

BBC journalist Rajini Vaidyanathan said on Radio 4 on Thursday that Grimes had described the Reasoned UK website as a “safe space for racist and homophobic views.”

However, Grimes later said the BBC had misquoted him, saying in a statement: “Reasoned UK does not support or condone Dr. David Starkey’s words. I am very new to being the interviewer rather than the interviewee and I should have robustly questioned Dr. Starkey about his comments.”

He also defended Reasoned UK’s right to present “unfiltered opinions, allowing the audience to make up their own minds.”

The BBC issued a correction on Friday, saying: “A news report stated that a conservative commentator, Darren Grimes, describes his website as a safe space for racist and homophobic views. In fact, Pink News reported on May 29 that he was talking about people labelled homophobic, transphobic, or racist on account of their beliefs. His exact quote was: ‘Do you hide your political views for fear of being called homophobic, a TERF, racist?’”

Grimes said on Twitter that the BBC needed to apologize on air or face legal consequences. He also posted a document showing he had started legal proceedings against the BBC.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.