Revoke David Starkey's Fellowship to the Royal Historical Society

Revoke David Starkey's Fellowship to the Royal Historical Society

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Dear Professor Margot Finn and Professor Michael Arthur,

We the undersigned wish to write to you today to inform you of the deeply racist comments made by David Starkey, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society (based at UCL), on an extreme online political chat show on the 30th June 2020.

We are calling on the President of the Royal Historical Society and the Provost of UCL to revoke Starkey’s fellowship.

This interview is littered with ahistorical white supremacist rhetoric that absolutely should not be tolerated by the Royal History of Society, and by proxy UCL as the host of the society.

On education and decolonising the curriculum, Starkey said: (timestamp: 20:10)

“You cannot decolonise the curriculum. Because you, Black Lives Matter, are wholly and entirely a product of white colonisation, you are not culturally Black Africans, you would die in seconds if you were dumped back in Africa because you wouldn’t know how to cope”

On slavery: (timestamp: 20:58)

“What has happened of course, is the only reason that these young Black protesters are here… isn’t it slavery? It’s only because the great African diaspora, the compulsory diaspora because of slavery. What of course that brings you up to confronting was that slavery was not the equivalent of the holocaust”

It shouldn’t require saying how disgusting, inaccurate, racist and frankly cruel this rhetoric is. Speaking to an already misinformed audience, Starkey weaponised his academic credentials to encourage attitudes that Black people should be grateful for slavery, as it ‘gave Black Brits their existence’, but paradoxically that Black people do not have any African identity. In the minds of Darren Grimes’s target audience, this exacerbates white supremacy and dehumanises Black people entirely. It is clear that these comments endanger Black lives.

Unfortunately, this was not the worst of his comments. In a clip that was deleted from the full video, Starkey comments that the transatlantic slave trade was not genocidal in nature:

‘It was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damned Blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there? You know, an awful lot of them survived’

This is completely beyond the pale for an ‘academic’ historian. It is completely and utterly incompatible with fellowship to any academic society, but especially for a society hosted by UCL. Professor Michael Arthur, you made this statement on Black Lives Matter:

“The #BlackLivesMatter campaign is galvanising people across the globe to speak out against racism and intolerance. While we have made some progress, we recognise that we must go further and have a responsibility to listen and to act.”

In order for these words to be meaningful rather than performative, you must take action against David Starkey. In order to ensure Starkey’s comments do not reflect the Royal Historical Society, we are calling on Margot Finn to review the state of diversity and equality in the RHS, alongside racial sensitivity training for its fellows.

We shall follow up this letter if we do not hear back from you by the 9th July 2020.


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