David Starkey, the historian, could have his honorary fellowship of a Cambridge college withdrawn for saying there are “so many damn blacks” in Britain and Africa.
He made the comments during an online discussion about slavery, in which he dismissed “the idea that slavery is this kind of terrible disease that dare not speak its name”.
Starkey told a Right-wing website: “Slavery was not genocide. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there? An awful lot of them survived.”
In response, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, released a statement that said: “Fitzwilliam College does not tolerate racism. We support and promote freedom of speech in our academic community, but we have zero tolerance of racism. Dr David Starkey’s recent comments on slavery are indefensible.
“Fitzwilliam was founded upon values of fairness and mutual respect and we are proud of the College’s inclusive and diverse membership.
“The matter of Dr Starkey’s Honorary Fellowship will be considered by the Governing Body at its meeting next Wednesday.”
His remarks were also condemned by Sajid Javid, the former Home Secretary, who said: “We are the most successful multi-racial democracy in the world and have much to be proud of. But David Starkey’s racist comments (‘so many damn blacks’) are a reminder of the appalling views that still exist.”
Prof Kate Williams, a fellow historian who has appeared on panels alongside Starkey, said: “If he gets lots of work after saying that slavery was not genocide because there are ‘so many damn blacks in Africa’ we will all know what’s going on in this society.”
This is not the first time that Starkey has made controversial comments on race. In 2011, he told the BBC’s Newsnight programme during a discussion about race riots: “What has happened is that a substantial section of the chavs… have become black.”
That prompted more than 100 historians to sign an open letter asking that the BBC stop referring to Starkey as a “historian” on anything but his specialist subject, the Tudors, claiming he was “ill-fitted” to hold forth on other topics.