What should shock about these appointments is not just the suspect opinions of Roberts and Ferguson, but the fact that the Tories have fundamentally misunderstood the entire purpose of history. History, properly taught, should lead young people to question and challenge their cultural inheritance rather than simply ‘celebrating’ it. “Studying the empire is important, because it is an international story, but we have to look at it from the perspective of those who were colonised as well as from the British perspective,” said historian and political biographer Dr Anthony Seldon, who is also Master of Wellington College. “We live in an interconnected world, and one has to balance learning about british history with learning about other cultures.
In this case the victors want a nice, uniting, united narrative of the past that is entirely anglo-centric. So we’ll have to do the whole of late twentieth century historiography AGAIN, then? I’d say at least that’d mean I’d get a job, but it seems unlikely somehow. I don’t much care for Niall Ferguson (and I positively dislike Andrew Roberts) – although I think it’s good that Ferguson’s two books on empire (British and American) are provocative, because I like provoking discussion among historians and think it’s a good thing, but lately he has come to embody the worst of the Superstar Historian (how can one teach effectively when one has jobs in two different countries and turns out books like they’re cupcakes?), and I dislike his use of about a billion and one research assistants to do his legwork. One or two, to check all your references are in order, fine, but I worry that he uses his to do the original research, completely ignoring the innate subjectivity of all historical research.