Controversial British historian David Starkey has been savaged online after arguing in an interview that slavery wasn’t a genocide, because if it was “there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain.”
Speaking on Tuesday to Reasoned, a YouTube channel dedicated to against-the-grain views, Starkey accused the Black Lives Matter movement of attempting to “delegitimise British history.” The historian slammed the activists desecrating statues in London, ridiculed the “arrogant” middle classes supporting the movement, and waved away the notion that Britain’s own history of slavery was one of “genocide.”
“Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there?” he exclaimed, adding that “an awful lot of them survived.” The interview has accumulated nearly 100,000 views since Tuesday, but was only noticed by Twitter users on Thursday, when it triggered a firestorm of outrage.
Starkey told host Darren Grimes that his country “settled” the issue of slavery in the 1830s, but the damage was done. Commentators described his views and language as “hateful and racist,” and “beyond shocking.”
Cambridge University history lecturer Dr Nicholas Guyatt urged his university to “cut all ties” with Starkey. Educated at Cambridge, Starkey is an honorary fellow of Fitzwilliam College, and has fundraised for the university in the past.
The former UK chancellor, Sajid Javid, waded into the controversy, calling Starkey’s comments “a reminder of the appalling views that still exist” in Britain.
Starkey is no stranger to courting controversy. As riots swept the UK in 2011, he described them as a consequence of black “gangster” culture, and stated that “the whites have become black.” England, he said, had become “literally a foreign country.” The uproar over these comments led to a rebuke from Labour MP David Lammy and saw Cambridge University pull a fundraising video featuring Starkey four years later.
Not content to stick solely with racial controversy, he also came under fire in 2015 for comparing the Scottish National Party to the Nazis.
This time, however, Starkey’s contrarian views may have serious consequences. Fitzwilliam College said on Thursday that it would review his fellowship in a meeting next week, following his “indefensible” comments.