“There are many younger colleagues, who say that there are many things that they are afraid to say, because it will affect their position within the institutions,” said Prof. Robert Tombs, Emeritus Professor of French history at the University of Cambridge, who was a guest of “The View from Here” programme, justifying the establishment by him of the informal “History Reclaimed” group, aimed to “correct some of the misunderstandings that have been put around in recent months in Britain and other English-speaking countries.”
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“This is not the state imposing it,” Prof. Tombs said, referring to some historical narratives being imposed on the world by mostly leftist circles, pointing out that “it is something happening autonomously within certain institutions, hence it is more difficult to counter.”
“I think it is significant that this essentially is happening within the English-speaking world, mainly in America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain, where universities are not state institutions,” he said, adding that “in a country in which universities are branches of the Ministry of Education, this would probably not be happening,” he said.
“I think that many universities have now become very commercial organisations… who are very dependant on raising the money from foreign donors and attracting foreign students who are paying fees,” he pointed out, emphasising that “it is very attractive for those who run the universities… to find a corporate image that will be attractive” and that nowadays left-wing progressive ideology serves this purpose.
When asked why it is an anglo-saxon phenomenon, he answered that the matter is partly US-imported as the problems related to racism have been increasing in recent times in the country but also drew attention to the fact that universities are “being subjected to nationalist mythologies of a very international student body.”
“It is only small minorities who feel very strongly about this and have the ability to organise,” he pointed out, adding that most British students “are not willing to ally themselves with the forces of conservatism.”
“This is an old battle being refought,” the Professor said, pointing out that the reasons for the rebellions in academia can be traced back to the times of the British Empire.
“It is probably wrong to say it is an intellectual issue. It is much more about politics and about group identities and the use of certain courses to advance certain political views,” he assessed.
Prof. Tombs also raised the topic of the “History Reclaimed” group he established, which gathers various historians and scientists in a joint effort to fight against “abuse of history for political purposes.”
“We are reacting to what is said and done outside,” he said, pointing out that at the moment the group consists mostly of British personas but he hopes for it to expand.
“We are not trying to change the world but to maintain rational academic standards,” he stressed, referring to the group’s activities, adding that the response he got after establishing the group was “overwhelmingly favourable.”