Off with your head, David Starkey – Tudor historian given the chop

By Maximus Mccabe Abel

Following ’s insightful piece about the productivity of Cancel Culture, Maximus Mccabe Abel addresses the ‘cancellation’ of David Starkey

David Starkey – esteemed Tudor historian, TV personality and controversial commentator – is the latest public figure to be fed to the media tigers after his abhorrent comments about the history of black slavery.

In an interview with far-right campaigner Darren Grimes, Starkey asserted that “slavery was not genocide” owing to the survival of “so many damn blacks.” His former academic peers are right – it is about time he’s given the boot.

David Starkey’s removal from public academia is undoubtedly a relief to many Durham students and academics who seek to promote the teaching of black history in its full and complex form

Starkey is no stranger to public controversy. From sexist comments made towards female historians, to vocalising blatant racial prejudices, it is without doubt that this career-ending move will spell out his social and academic obituary.

After his remark, which undermined the harrowing history of black slavery, Starkey has since been dropped by his publisher HarperCollins, has resigned from his honorary fellowship at Fitzwilliam College, and has seen his long-standing ties with Cambridge and Canterbury Christ University severed.

A commentator in The Independent argued that, although it was a sad way to end his career, ‘the fallout sends a clear message that racism will not be tolerated.’ The volcanic momentum that the Black Lives Matter movement has been gaining in recent months has not been impeded by Starkey’s comments; his cancellation only serves to prove that racism has no place in the 21st century.

In a spell of tragic irony, during the fatal interview with Grimes, Starkey expressed his derision of the ‘deranged’ cancel culture – the very same which now threatens to engulf his entire reputation. Once a credible historian; now the architect of his own demise.

His former academic peers are right – it is about time he’s given the boot

David Starkey is not the only public figure to have been ‘cancelled’ by the media in recent weeks. Whether it’s Harry Potter fans burning J. K. Rowling’s books over her transphobic comments, the witch-hunt against those in the public eye has become one of the central features of the modern day.

Remarkably, David Starkey has managed to cling on to his position despite his previous controversies. With the inexhaustible fuel of social media, and the appetite for change, Starkey’s cancellation is long overdue, yet, ironically, is not so different from the doomed Tudor queens he studies.

Once a credible historian; now the architect of his own demise

Rather amusingly, I met David Starkey in 2017 at a historical lecture and book signing event. He wrote someone else’s name in my copy of the book – hardly grounds for national outrage, but I’ll admit that I no longer looked upon him quite so favourably.

However, whilst it is comforting to know that both the public and the media are actively tackling racial prejudices, how far the Cancel Culture will go is unclear. Will it be a way to dismantle hatred and deconstruct bigotry, or will it manifest itself as a more sinister public witch-hunt launching daily smear campaigns?

Starkey is no stranger to public controversy

The extent to which Cancel Culture will grow is uncertain, but, regardless of the outcome, David Starkey’s removal from public academia is undoubtedly a relief to many Durham students and academics who seek to promote the teaching of black history in its full and complex form.

Image: Mark Carline via Flickr

4 thoughts on “Off with your head, David Starkey – Tudor historian given the chop

  • I, for one, shall miss David Starkey appearances. Even though he might express himself a little crudely at times, he is still far more interesting to listen to than many other academic bores. It would have been more enlightening to people interested in current thought if David starkey had been challenged over his remarks concerning Black people when he might have been given the chance to put his view in a more acceptable form. Presumably one is still allowed to say things that may be out of step with popular thinking.

    Reply
  • Perhaps we might avoid libelous smears? Mr Grimes is not “far-right” but does have good lawyers.

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  • Starkey should not have given the interview at all. He should have kept his head down during the current kerfuffle. The problem with live internet broadcasts is they cannot be edited. Obviously Starkey was using the word”damn” for emphasis but it sounds terrible. He should get back to writing and this disgrace will hopefully lead him back to his desk. He is a great historian but this outburst was a grave error. Nevertheless it cannot undo his immense contribution and I wish him well.

    Reply
  • The Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union did not expel Andrej Sakharov.

    Reply

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