UK historian David Starkey criticised for claiming 'white culture' is under threat

In hot water - historian David Starkey makes more controversial comments in conference speech
In hot water - historian David Starkey makes more controversial comments in conference speech Copyright 2010 Getty Images
Copyright 2010 Getty Images
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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The British historian made the inflammatory speech at the National Conservatism conference in London, attracting condemnation and accusations of racist rhetoric.


British historian David Starkey has caused yet more controversy after saying left-wing activists are “jealous” of the Holocaust and that groups like Black Lives Matter were attempting to destroy “white culture”.

During a speech to the National Conservatism conference in London on Wednesday, he claimed that activist groups including Black Lives Matter wanted to “do exactly what was done to German culture because of Nazism and the Holocaust”.

The 78-year-old added, “The determination is to replace the Holocaust with slavery. In other words, this is why Jews are under such attack from the left, there’s jealousy, fundamentally. There is jealousy of the moral primacy of the Holocaust and a determination to replace it with slavery”.

His comments brought immediate criticism and the Twitter account for National Conservatism swiftly deleted a tweet quoting the historian.

Daniel Sugarman, the public affairs director at the Board of Deputies of British Jews, also took to Twitter, writing that Starkey’s inflammatory comments were “pathetic attempts to drive a wedge between communities” that “will not work”, adding, “Apart from the pathetic attempts to divide communities, the ahistorical nature of this – if an accurate quote – is staggering. The Holocaust is testament to an utter failure of “Western culture”. It was supposedly “cultured” people, from a “cultured” nation, who carried it out!”

A history of controversy

This is not the first time Starkey, who was previously known as an expert on Tudor history, has attracted condemnation for his opinions, having previously made controversial statements on slavery and the Black Lives Matter movement. He has also faced accusations of racism for claiming that the British prime minister was, “not fully grounded in our culture”.

Starkey later refuted claims that he was a racist, saying that he had meant Rishi Sunak was a “typical international liberal” with no interest in British “values”.

His speech at the conference has not done anything to diminish claims that he has spoken in a racially insensitive way, especially as he used the platform to pour more scorn on Black Lives Matter, claiming that the movement does not care about Black lives.

He said, to applause from the audience, “Movements like critical race theory and Black Lives Matter are not what they pretend to be. They are attempts at destroying the entire legitimacy of the Western political and cultural tradition. The idea that they are there to defend Black lives is a preposterous notion. They do not care about Black lives, they only care about the symbolic destruction of white culture”.

The conference has drawn a great deal of criticism, despite only starting on Monday. Earlier on Wednesday, Nigel Biggar, a professor at Oxford University claimed that the British Empire had a “mixed” moral record and dismissed arguments from numerous circles saying reparations should be paid to former colonies damaged by British rule.

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Stop the boats - UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's cabinet has called for harsh curbs on immigrationWPA Rota

The London-based event has also seen government ministers including Michael Gove and Suella Braverman, who’s best known for cracking down on refugees entering the country, make speeches. After Starkey spoke, the Labour MP Christian Wakeford tweeted Rishi Sunak, asking, “Do you have anything to say about this or are you happy to have your ministers like Suella Braverman and Michael Gove share platforms with deplorable and antisemitic individuals like David Starkey?”

The conference is set to wrap up on Wednesday, with a speech by Lee Anderson, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. He’s been a divisive figure in British politics for years and, in 2022, suggested in parliament there was not a "massive" need for food banks in the UK, despite food prices rising to an all time high.

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