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Why shouldn’t the curriculum be ‘Eurocentric’? The case for 'decolonising' universities makes no sense, empirically or historically, yet it's winning over institutions of rational debate

Rhodes has to go because he's like Hitler-squared. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Rhodes has to go because he's like Hitler-squared. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


July 9, 2020   4 mins

Rhodes will likely fall. Late last month Oriel College’s dons decided that they want his statue dislodged from its perch above Oxford’s High Street. So, short of obstruction by the commission of inquiry they‘ve launched, or alumni rebellion, or legal restriction, Rhodes looks set to come down.

The reasons for his downfall have little to do with the truth about the past. The real Rhodes undoubtedly had a morally mixed record. But he was not South Africa’s Hitler, as the Rhodes Must Fall campaign has claimed. Far from being racist, he showed consistent sympathy for individual black Africans throughout his life. Nor did he attempt genocide against the Ndebele during their 1896 uprising — as activists have sometimes claimed — which might be suggested by the fact that the Ndebele tended his grave for decades. And he had nothing whatsoever to do with General Kitchener’s ‘concentration camps’ during the Boer War of 1899-1902, which themselves had nothing morally in common with Auschwitz.

Moreover, Rhodes did support a franchise in the Cape Colony that gave black Africans the vote on the same terms as whites. He gave financial backing to a newspaper, Izwi Labuntu, that was the voice-piece of one of several black African political associations that were the forerunners of the ANC. And he established his famous scholarship scheme, which was explicitly colour-blind and whose first black beneficiary was selected within five years of his death.

But none of this matters to the student activists baying for his downfall, or even to the professional academics who support them. Since I published my view of Rhodes, substantiated by evidence and argument, in the March 2016 issue of Standpoint, no one has offered any critical response at all.

Notwithstanding that, when the Rhodes Must Fall campaign revived four years later in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, the same old false allegations revived with it, utterly unchastened. Thus, according to the Guardian newspaper, an Oxford doctoral student (and former editor of the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal) was still slandering Rhodes as a “genocidaire” just last month.

What matters is not fidelity to the truth, but the exploitation of political advantage. The statue of Rhodes has been demonised into a totem of the colonialist mentality that allegedly feeds the ‘white supremacism’ infecting our institutions. Among these are the universities, where racial prejudice is said to manifest itself in the unequal representation of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people among students and professors, and in the ‘Eurocentric’ bias of what is taught. Pulling Rhodes down is merely the first psychological blow in the war to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum.

‘Decolonisation’ would involve admitting more BAME students, appointing more BAME professors, and increasing the quotient of BAME authors on reading lists. It would also involve correcting the national amnesia over the evils of colonialism, by promoting teaching about the history of British slavery, the historic root of the racism that reigns among us today.

Little of this makes sense, either empirically or historically. Empirically, the claim that the admission of students is racially biased doesn’t survive contact with reality. On the latest figures, the BAME population of people aged 19-26 in England and Wales is 18.3%, but the non-white undergraduate student intake in UK universities is 26.2%, and even at stereotypically elitist and hide-bound Oxford it is 22.1 per cent.

Moreover, 9.7% of BAME academic staff are professors, only 1.4 percentage points lower than their white peers. Within BAME groups, the professorial proportion of black staff is just under five per cent, but for their Chinese colleagues it is over 16% — much higher than for whites. These figures simply do not support the claim of structural racial bias in British universities.

As for curricula and reading lists, of course it’s important to grow a graduate citizenry that is aware of the riches of non-European cultures and of how the history of Britain is intertwined with the history of the globe. But that’s long been happening, and if suitable university applicants want to devote the entirety of their student careers to African, South Asian or Chinese studies, no one is stopping them.

But does racial justice truly require proportionate representation of non-whites on all reading lists, regardless of the subject? Must teachers really make the skin colour and ethnic provenance of authors a criterion for recommending them to students? For sure, if I were teaching a topic in African history, Indian economics or Chinese literature, it would be odd — and maybe even suspect — if the list of authors I assigned my students was exclusively populated by ethnic Anglo-Saxons.

But if I’m teaching Cicero, or late medieval Italian literature, or the ethics of war, or molecular biology, or linear algebra, do I really have to spend my time ferreting out BAME authors who have written on these things? And must I assign them, regardless of whether I think that what they say is worth listening to, and, since all reading lists are finite, necessarily displacing others who have better things to say? Besides, what would ‘proportionate’ representation mean here? Proportionate in relation to what? The non-white portion of the UK population, or of the world, or of authors on the relevant topic? The more one thinks about it, the less thinking it bears.

What is more, a ‘Eurocentric’ bias in British education is surely justified. Britain is not Anywhere. It is located in north-west Europe, has a particular history, and has developed particular institutions and traditions. It’s vitally important, therefore, that school education, and even undergraduate studies, should focus on helping budding citizens understand the cultural and political environment for which they are about to become directly responsible — including the contemporary fact of ethnic diversity and its history.

But whether they also need to have their noses rubbed in the facts of slavery, I doubt. It’s difficult to believe that many Britons know nothing about it or that many approve of it. But if they are going to learn more about the story of British involvement, they need to hear the whole story, not just the politically useful part. In addition to the appalling 200 years of transporting slaves to the West Indies and the American colonies, they need to hear about the dogged, 50-year campaign to abolish the trade and the institution within the British Empire two centuries ago.

And they also need to hear that British ‘colonialism’ then spent over a century in deploying the Royal Navy to stop slave-ships crossing the Atlantic and Indian oceans, and in suppressing the Arab slave-trade across Africa. Maybe they’d even learn that the Empire supported action against Arab slavers in Nyasaland in the 1880s through the British South Africa Company. And guess who ran the BSAC? Cecil Rhodes.


Nigel Biggar is Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, University of Oxford

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Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

What a splendid piece by Nigel Biggar, despite his extraordinary title, Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology.
It was Professor Biggar, who in 2016 enraged that pretentious butterfly, Ms Gopal of Cambridge, with his comments on the late, lamented British Empire.
Sadly this essay is a eulogy for an Oxford that is fast going the same way as Cambridge, to the “pit of eternal stench”. As the ‘old guard’ fade away, so the new ‘woke’ are in the ascendant, but Biggar fights on. Bravo!
What on Earth would the wonderful, Dr Jeremy Catto, late of Oriel College made of all this?

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

You are FAR too kind to Priyamvada Gopal. I don’t mean to launch into Ad Homs, but she really is the embodiment of this poisonous, divisive attitude now infecting academia.

Read her recent screed in the Guardian “We can’t talk about racism without understanding whiteness” and despair. It truly beggars belief.

Ms Gopal rails against the injustice that sees “people of colour missing from positions of influence“, yet when Boris Johnson unveiled by far the most diverse Cabinet in history, it was greeted with almost universal condemnation by progressives because somehow it was the “wrong sort of diversity”.

In terms of the age, gender and ethnicity of its members, the Boris J cabinet should tick every box that progressives have been crying out for, yet (surprise, surprise) suddenly such people were aghast to discover there are young and female and BAME Tories!

On seeing the new cabinet announced Ms Gopal tweeted, “For anyone inclined to get boners around the whole ‘oh look WE people of colour in the cabinet’, please remember that much Asian Toryism is built on anti-blackness: ‘WE are hardworking & smart, THEY are lazy & stupid.’ Asians have good line in white supremacy.”

She is intellectually dishonest, small minded and mean spirited – but over and above those things she is OVERTLY RACIST.

Yet fellow academics close ranks to protect her each time she spouts more of her racist bile, at the same time as they search out heresy from those of their number who dare to challenge the new Woke orthodoxy.

As you rightly say, “Bravo” to Prof Biggar for standing up to this. But he needs support from within the universities. Though I’m sure there are plenty of his colleagues who would agree with him, few seem brave enough to do so publicly.

John Nutkins
John Nutkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Good points. Gopal is an abomination, and the stench arising from the miasma aka Cambridge University, already nauseating and asphyxiating, has now taken on a toxic character as well in appointing this insufferable, insulting and mendacious racist creature to a professorship in the English department, a no doubt commendable recommendation for the post being her vile and foul rant that ‘white is trash.’ I wonder how much further the university can sink? David Starkey was right – in a recent interview (those ‘damned blacks’) he cut all ties to his alma mater and suggested that if this den of iniquity (my words) wants to continue along its path to utter mediocrity and ignorance, then its funding with taxpayers’ money should be withheld.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

I do apologise, but I did recently have a ‘proper go at her’ in another thread on UnHerd, and this time mistakenly decided on a magnanimous approach.Mea culpa!
However as you say, she is a chippy little attention seeking cretin, suckling on the teats of a bloated, woke infected, Cambridge.
No University in modern history has drunk so deeply from the well of academic humiliation as Cambridge. I had thought the Cambridge ‘Traitors’ was an end to it, but no, they seem hell bent on diving into that putrid well, yet again.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I should also add Gopal is a Brahmin.
I’m not ‘up to speed’ on the Hindoo class system, but I gather this not good news.
‘Old India’ hands I have spoken to over the years, universally regarded the Brahmins as a real menace.
Perhaps some other members of UnHerd could expand on this interesting topic?

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

The highest caste, which still use the caste system here in the UK, not just India, to run things the way they want, and they deem themselves higher and more righteous than British ‘whites’ too. I’ve experienced that first hand, and reportedly so have the porters at Cambridge, it’s great being a ‘Dalit’…

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil John

Thank you. Aren’t these the chaps who were/are rather keen on Wife/Bride Burning? Sati is the Hindoo word, I gather.
My ICS Handbook tell me that we had quite a bit of trouble stamping it out.
I gather since our departure in 1947,
(please forgive the irresistible pun), it has ‘flared up’ again?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

*You are FAR too kind to the racist Priyamvada Gopal.

[Edit. My apologies, you correctly identify her as OVERTLY RACIST further into your comment. I should read properly before suggesting corrections.]

randomcaprice
randomcaprice
3 years ago

I used to be on the “woke” side of things. But I was constantly jumping through mental hoops to allow myself to accept the things I needed to believe to be in the woke club.

I’d been gently nudged awake when Notre Dame burned and my leftist friends were complaining that people were donating millions towards repair–when they should have been donating it elsewhere instead–to causes the left championed. I didn’t agree…but remained quiet–for fear of losing my club card. I personally thought it was wonderful people were donating towards repair of that magnificent cathedral–honoring the work of the many generations who toiled to make itssible, the craftsmanship that went into it, the pleasure it brings people to this day. And besides—people should not be criticized for where they choose to donate money…

Articles such as these are making me realize how deeply into the abyss I’d fallen, and I am done jumping through hoops trying to “de-colonize” my mind.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  randomcaprice

Welcome back into the light!

patrickvmurphy1
patrickvmurphy1
3 years ago
Reply to  randomcaprice

Just to respond directly to Sharon. I’m in the same boat! I was a fully paid-up politically correct leftist, but now see the error of my ways.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

A very welcome article and, or course, all true. But that counts for nothing because it’s too late now. All reason will be swept away and all truth abolished in the name of wokeness and equality. That which awaits us is some combination of Zimbabwe/Venezuela/Cambodia/USSR/Mao’s China and many other horror shows.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Not at all. We have our own brand, the neoliberal oligarchy; and, it’s already well along. These are absolutely indifferent to European Heritage and Western History. The American university colleges in receipt of their munificence are Business, Engineering, and Science …all of which are non-denominational, non-ideological and colorblind. Humanities have been near starved to extinction and displaced by the profitable popcult. It is he long looked for brave new world of Thomas Gradgrind.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

It strikes me as manifestly obvious that the business of a history department in a British university should include the teaching of British history.

kenetgiles
kenetgiles
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Exactly!

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

The ‘problem’ with teaching British History is that it is just too good, too triumphant even, which is why it has been eliminated from our state schools.
Let’s take Europe as an example shall we?
How has Germany performed over say the past one hundred years? In short, barbarically. One word will do Auschwitz.Their infamy will last for at least a thousand years. Need I say more?
Italy then? Pretty atrocious, Mussolini, the Mafia, Abyssinia . Jolly good.
France then. Ran like rabbits in 1940, then almost universal support for Vichy. Then the barbarism of retribution in the immediate post war era, nearly eight hundred official executions, plus perhaps ten thousand extrajudicial killings. Then Indo -China, forty five thousand French dead for possibly one million Vietnamese. Then on to Algeria, eighteen thousand French dead for again roughly a million Algerians.
Well what was going in dear old Blighty during this period? Amritsar and Mau Mau were certainly excessive, but by comparative analysis we did rather well.
(Apologies for breaking the “self praise is no recommendation rule”)

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I’m far from woke but that’s a ridiculous summary. Just one example: if the French “ran like rabbits” then what did the BEF do? The British army ended up in Dunkirk by retreating. The french fought on. But they lost.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

You’ve answered your own question have you not?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

The retreat of the BEF is your only criticism?

Surely you can do better than that? Or is this a case Irish exceptionalism/whinging?

Europe has been a cesspit of intermittent barbarism since at least 1914, if not before. How can even you deny that? Is it perhaps a Catholic thing, denial in the face of the facts?

Fortunately for Ireland, shackled to us, this has not been the case,
despite the odd atrocities in the period 1971-97, of which you maybe aware.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

Some French fought on under DeGaul but Foch told him to stop counter-attacking because it will upset “Le Bosh”. If that aint behaving like a rabbit (or perhaps a chicken) then what is. The 51st (Highland) Division stood their ground to allow Dunkirk “to happen” – that wasn’t running like rabbits.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

Facts are not a defence against accusations of racism. Stopping the Arab slave trade is probably Islomaphobic because we are not allowed to talk about Arab slavers. Can you imagine the uproar if the mob thought we had even mentioned the fact Black African’s were an integral part of the slave trade?

These bandwagons are a no win situation for those accused of transgression of some sort of current “moral code” which is retrospectively applied!

K Sheedy
K Sheedy
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

Exactly right. The sellers of slaves to the traders were the Black kings and chieftains on the gold coast. First prisoners of war, then as demand increased, other tribes who were captured with a view to selling them.
This does not exonerate the white people involved in the trade. But it shows that slave traders come from every race.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago
Reply to  K Sheedy

Yes, but the BLM mob never discuss the global element to the slave trade (and how Britain stopped the trade globally), just trying to pin blame on anyone who is white for the actions of a few!

Stephen Crossley
Stephen Crossley
3 years ago

Thank you to Nigel Biggar for this extremely informative article. It filled in the considerable gaps in my knowledge of Cecil Rhodes and his many exploits. As an Oxford academic he demonstrates considerable bravery in expressing such views and should be applauded. The deafening silence of his fellow dons I will generously attribute to the assumption that they are waiting sagely for the BLM bandwagon to grind to a halt before it comes face to face with its inevitable conclusion, namely that in order to make reparation for centuries of racism in America, everyone who is not pure-bred Native American must leave the US, giving up all land title, wealth and natural resources gained from it. Oh wait…

Paul Theato
Paul Theato
3 years ago

You’ll be called a racist sympathiser for this piece, Professor. The people who wish to remove Rhodes (and anyone who rejects that position) from history eschew any facts that conflict with their progressive Marxist/fascist (hard to tell) view of the globe. This is an old enemy and debating with them and asking them to provide their own facts is pointless. They would rather just stand on your lawn screaming, and turning it to mud in the hope that people will be scared enough by the sight to grant them even more institutional influence than they already possess. I sense that ordinary people have had enough of them though, as they eventually had enough of Soviet Russia, Joanne Kate Swinson and Jeremy Corbyn. Time will tell.

Tony Reardon
Tony Reardon
3 years ago

Interesting that the introductory sentence about slavery talks about slaves going to “… the West Indies and the American colonies.” and the British involvement in this. While this could be argued to include both North & South America, to my mind it strongly resonates to the North American colonies perhaps minimising the Spanish & Portuguese trade that saw 50% plus of slaves going to South America.

To quote from Professor Rodney Stark’s “How the West Won” :

“From the first shipment in about 1510 until the very end when Cuba abolished the slave trade in 1868, about 9.5 million slaves reached the New World slave markets, meaning that at least 15 million (and probably more) began the journey from the African interior. The distinguished historian Philip Curtin calculated that of the roughly 9.5 million who survived the trip, about 400,000 went to North America, 3.6 million to Brazil, 1.6 million to Spanish colonies, and the remaining 3.8 million to British, French, Dutch, and Danish colonies in the Caribbean.”

I thoroughly agree with the need to tell the truth about slavery and the British efforts to outlaw it throughout the Empire. Slavery has been present in virtually every society throughout history, sometimes to the point where slaves outnumbered citizens and Britain can take pride in its contribution to abolition.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Reardon

Why are the British always blamed for slavery? seems to me the French Spanish Portuguese Dutch and others seem to keep quiet and get away withost of the criticism, when reality says British were less involved in the trade and more involved with its abolition – at no benefit to ourselves whatsoever. It also strikes me as interesting that the USA civil war between north and south was fundamentally a clash of an historically British north and a French/Spanish south.

Me The first
Me The first
3 years ago

Excellent to see someone brave enough to say this. Thank you

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago

By even debating this ridiculous issue you give credit to the inane and vicious politically motivated “arguments” and crude assertions..

We live in Europe, our civilisation is European – we are open to the world and we have explored and spread our culture and the benefits of our inventive genius and our science across the world for all to share .

We are Eurocentric and rightly so – this is our home we must protect it. We need to stay Eurocentric while reaching out to the world- just as China is Chinacentric and Africa as Africacentric. We are proud of our extraordinary achievements and fully aware of the jealousy, hatred racism and envy of many of those who do not share or respect them but increasingly seek to benefit from them by emigrating to our continent while abusing our hospitality and the opportunities we offer them in our own homeland.

This is our collective ‘European Home ‘ as Gorbachev said and we are proud of it. “Globalism” has no home Globalists no loyalties but to themselves and their own selfish interests.

Robert Flack
Robert Flack
3 years ago

Sadly universities have bowed to the mob. Universities are only interested in money and the mob bring money. It is all about money nothing to do with truth.

Pete Kreff
Pete Kreff
3 years ago

An excellent article setting out clearly how one-eyed, laughably wide-of-the-mark and self-serving many of the “decolonise the curriculum” arguments are.

The article should be required reading for ““ well, for everyone.

Though I suspect Professor Biggar would be unwilling to indulge in what he might view as gossip or talking behind people’s backs, I would be extremely interested to hear about his discussions on this topic with his fellow academics and students ““ do they really not understand the points he makes, do not they not see the sense and truth in them? Is discussion even possible?

Richard Martin
Richard Martin
3 years ago

While there are still Nigel Biggars, there is still hope.
All good people must continue to take every opportunity, however small, to make the case for sense. It is easy to give up, but if we owe it to our children to leave them a world that is not too hot for human existence, then we also owe it to them to leave them one in which hurt feelings matter, but truth matters more.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

The vast majority of UK University workers and academics, especially within STEM, are in favour of an open society. So their view of British colonial history’s good and bad points are guided by reason. Unfortunately the visible and vocal part of these institutions is guided, or even driven by hate. Their view of history is a parroting of post 1945 Soviet and National Liberation dogma based on (white) Colonisers = Bad – Colonised = Good ( unless they are white). If the silent majority in our Higher Education providers do not act soon they will find the whole ediface brought down. This will be a near replica of Thatcher’s expunging the science and engineering babies with the communist bath water in the 80s.

John Munro
John Munro
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

I studied Politics and Modern History at university so I am not one of these STEM superbeings guided by pure reason. Silly old me is a mere historian; so, presumably, guided by Cultural Marxism and ‘Woke’ prejudice. Only I object to most of the sillier aspects of new left or post modernist drivel that one finds in certain university departments. I also deplore the cowardice of certain universities and departments such as Oriel College and their cowardice in the face of ‘Rhodes must fall’.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  John Munro

I totally accept that you can study social sciences and humanities in a rigorous way and perhaps you have, though your misinterpretation of my point suggests otherwise. Sadly the highly vocal and visible parts of this tribe are idealogicallly opposed to rigour. For instance Karl Popper was happy to argue in favour of social democracy, not because he was a post modernist, but because rational altruism did not contradict his ideas on theories of knowledge. The dead hand of the technocrat is no more scientific or rigourous than the screechers in the Burn Loot Murder brigade. As Kant pointed out pure reason can be dangerous, but from what i see pure ontological thinking is even more so.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Yes indeed, well said.

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith
3 years ago

Of course the curriculem should focus on our history and circumstances. Indeed, the history or culture and science around the world is still heavily European and heavily British, however much our critics may be disappointed by the facts.

I would caution, however, that schools and Universities should not continue to be Europhile in the sense of promoting the EU and all its works.

David J
David J
3 years ago

Excellent piece.

Perhaps the woke BBC could save itself by doing a series on your work.

John Nutkins
John Nutkins
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

Good heavens no – the BBC is far too gone.

Jon LM
Jon LM
3 years ago

Well said. It might be added that introducing ever-larger spheres of non-European history etc to the curriculum of a European country actually represents a species of colonisation, albeit in the reverse direction of its ‘traditional’ form.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago

Some good points here. We will always have some kind of Eurocentric history, what with our constant skirmishes with the continent (and all those German composers they exported to us). That Christian, European identity should not be allowed to die.

It seems though that some people are subconsciously straining to increase Britain’s non-European identity with their crude attacks on Rhodes. If that continues, it would just be nice if certain non-European rulers that we had close contact with could be given a bit of room on the stage- not because they were victims, or savages in need of uplifting, but because they were willing to uplift their societies to meet standards then set by the West- certain Malay kings and South Western Indian princes some to mind. These people were natural allies, and their descendents are around today. We should be building on those historical links post-Brexit, it would be nice if people learnt about them. Its taken me years to come across them.

A purely Eurocentric education- which I had up to 6th form level- these days involves Nazis, Tudors, and Soviets. That’s it. Had I not independently branched out beyond my Eurocentric knowledge of the Roman or European empires, I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to vote for Brexit. An anglo-sphere identity is possible, and moderate decolonising could help…. but we need to stop destroying statues and only teaching the worse parts of our history.

Much of this “Rhodes must fall” stuff is part of the elite’s subconscious search for an identity (see the article on the Albert Hall for more). We need to try limit the loss of our European identity (though as a Brexiteer I am not entirely European and never will be- Britain is distinct, and should I say superior to Europe), whilst carefully cultivating the best parts of our anglo-sphere identity. That will be difficult, but I think we can do it if we put our minds to it.

David Fellowes
David Fellowes
3 years ago

Imagine the plight of the poor BAME student who, having devoted his life to getting to Oxford, is forced to study for, and accept, a degree that will forever be discounted

Andrew Hall
Andrew Hall
3 years ago

If Oxford succumbs to them how long before the STEM subjects receive similar treatment?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Hall

The STEM subjects are already receiving this treatment in the US, where science is now considered to racist and a product of white privilege etc. The Seattle school system has declared math to be racist because white kids tend to perform better than black kids. I’m not kidding.

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

And ‘white’ children are behind certain non-black BAME children. But if you want some interesting, and disturbing, illustration of just why so much is going that way have a look at ‘education’ here: https://public.tableau.com/

swallis
swallis
3 years ago

There can certainly be some benefits to decolonizing. In the social sciences, it can take the form of adding additional perspectives – which is generally considered to be a good thing. However, I suspect that an unspoken and often unrecognized reason for seeking additional views is that the social sciences are not nearly so useful as we would like (note the limitations of therapy or the frequent failure of policy). So, since the “northern” view has not been useful, why not try the “southern view?” In comparison, you will note that in teaching physics, there is no benefit to adding additional/alternative views because physics works!

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago
Reply to  swallis

Ah you mean (anti) social (pseudo) science?

swallis
swallis
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil John

not sure which part of my post you are referring to

daniel Earley
daniel Earley
3 years ago

Great article, thank you for putting together those thoughts and point so clearly and succinctly. It’s a shame that others either don’t or are unable to do so.

Dick Barrett
Dick Barrett
3 years ago

As an Irishman, I do not share in the view that Britain’s colonial role was a benign one. On a pedagogical level however I think the Rev professor is correct. Decolonising the curriculum will only replace academic merit with systemic tokenism. As for Rhodes, he was a friend and supporter of Ireland’s chef Parnell, to his eternal credit.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Dick Barrett

Of course it wasn’t benign. But it was also hundreds of years in the making, in fact Irish chiefs (probably Norse in origin themselves) invaded Wales several times. The Normans that conquered England in 1066 were also the ones who began the push into Ireland, so you could blame the French for setting us down the path of attack and recrimination that became the norm. History that far back is interesting but trying to relate it to now, as if it just happened, is daft. The reality is the Irish and the Brits have intermingled for so long now we’re pretty much the same genetically.

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago

What about the ethnic imbalance in the “canon” of the sciences? There is a huge disproportion of Jewish physics. Expunge anything discovered by Einstein, Bohr, Pauli, Feynman, Hertz, Bloch, Born… to make room for BAME luminaries.

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

and David Bohm

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago
Reply to  Diana Durham

David Bohm was a great and original thinker. The Bohm-Aharonov effect, for example, showed that the magnetic vector potential was not merely a mathematical convenience. Used today in magnetometers.

I read “Causality and Chance in Modern Physics” when I was an undergraduate in the early 1970s. Brilliant.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

If it is not too toxic a question, why is that?

Winston Churchill, KG is reputed to have described the Jews as ” the aristocracy of the human race”, and many would agree, but there must be a logical explanation, that would resolve this phenomenon.

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

There are two reasons that I can think of: one cultural and the other genetic.

Culturally, Jews are encouraged to question and debate from a very young age.

Genetics: Caveat about averages: they tell you nothing about what to expect from any individual. On average, Ashkenazi Jews have an IQ of about 115, or 1 standard deviation (SD) above the general population. This does not make any difference at all for occupations that require an IQ of 100 to 115.

But as you get to more cognitively demanding tasks, where the tail of the distribution becomes important, that 1 SD shift means there are relatively more Jews in that category. For example, if an IQ of at least 130 is needed only 2.3% of the general population meet this, but 16% of Jews (i.e. Jews “over-represented” by a factor of about 7). If an IQ of at least 145 is needed then 0.13% of the general population meets this, but 2.3% of Jews (i.e Jews “over-represented” by a factor of about 17).

I personally think the cultural factor gives Jews an important creative edge even amongst people of similar cognitive ability.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

Fascinating, many thanks indeed.

Is there any difference when
comparing Ashkenazi Jews with Sephardic Jews? I have never really understood this aspect of the conundrum about who is, and who is not a Jew.
It seems to be a rather divisive issue that baffles most outsiders.

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Ashkenazi Jews are the better studied. They form the majority of Jews in America, England and Northern Europe. Their history is a long encounter with Christianity.

Sephardi Jews are the descendants of the Jews of Spain. Their history is one of a long encounter with Islam and then with Christians as they reconquered Spain. In 1492, having conquered the last Moslem sate of Granda, Christian Spain expelled all the Jews who would not convert. Some went to the Netherlands. Others went back into the Islamic lands to rejoin other Mizrahi (eastern) Jews. For this reason, Sephardi and Mizrahi are sometimes used interchangeably.

The Sephardi Jews from Amsterdam were the first ones allowed back into England by Oliver Cromwell (the Jews had been expelled in 1290). Cromwell wanted them to provide competitive credit for the growing commerce in the country.

Sephardi Jews were also amongst the first settlers in America. In fact, Columbus had Jewish interpreters with him because they knew Arabic. He believed that they would help him communicate with the Chinese.

The 17th century philosopher, Spinoza, was Sephardi, as was the 12th century Maimonides.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

Thank you.
Is there any genetic difference between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews? From, albeit casual observation, the physiognomy of Ashkenazi Jews looks remarkably European, and not at all Semitic, unlike many Sephardic Jews.

Additionally if the Semitic input relates in any way to say IQ, why has rest of the Semitic Middle East so badly underperformed?

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

There are discernible differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi lineages. Both are heavily middle-eastern. Sephardim could be said to have started to diverge from the Ashkenazim in the 6th century BCE, because many remained in Babylonia after Cyrus conquered Babylon.

The Ashkenazim were mostly in the Roman world, spreading into Western Europe after Rome effectively annexed Judea in 63 BCE.

Gene flow from host communities is a complicated affair. One source is converts. There have always been converts to Judaism, but the numbers have been tiny in the Christian and Islamic eras because the host authorities discouraged it strongly. There were quite a lot of converts in pre-Islamic Arabia.

However, I think that rape has been a significant input. Judaism has used a maternal criterion for native Jewishness for the last 2,400 years because one can be sure of the mother.

Beyond that, the same selective pressures that lightened the skin of Northern Europeans would have acted on Jews dwelling there.

Regarding the IQ shift, a number of suggestion have been made. Scholars have always been revered, so wealthy men would marry their daughters to talented rabbis, allowing them to have lots of children. In Europe, talented Jews became wealthy as clerks to kings and chiefs (before the monasteries started producing a literate class to displace them). In addition, land ownership and the less cognitively demanding occupations were forbidden to Jews by law. All these factors are thought to have put selective pressure in a higher IQ direction.

Some people have suggested that the Church celibacy policy put opposite pressure on the Christian community, but I have my doubts, because many of the most talented churchmen had families prior to entering the church, or got round the rules.

I don’t think high IQ is a semitic thing, rather cultural factors (Jewish love of learning) and host society restriction created selection pressure for elevated IQ amongst Jews. The total numbers of Jews in the world has not grown in proportion to world population. Many Jews converted out for an easier life throughout the ages. What was left was refined in peculiarly Jewish directions.

Sorry I can’t be more definitive.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

Many thanks again for a most fulsome reply.
The idea of matriarchal descent, whilst not unique, does seem to have been pivotal.

Off course the wonders of the Pax Romana must have offered an irresistible opportunity for the
proto-Ashkenazim, despite a few cultural hurdles. I’ve heard this episode often referred to as ‘forced Diaspora’, but there is no evidence the Romans went into that sort of thing, at least not on the scale of the Assyrian or Babylonians.

One further point, if it isn’t too toxic is, let us call it Darwinian selection. It seems that when the Gods (Nature) bestow great gifts, the Goddess Nemesis (bad luck) always makes an unwanted appearance to, let us say, regulate hubris. Despite their obvious talents the Jews seem to have had an innate ability to antagonise their host communities, who off course did their level best to reciprocate! The Romans as you probably know, even had to garrison Alexandria with two, very expensive Legions to curb the problem.

Yet it continued throughout the Middle Ages, and beyond. Darwin’s idea of ‘survival of the fittest’ must have come into play here, don’t you think?
Without stumbling into the minefield that is eugenics, it does seem to me that the corollary of this must have lead to an improved IQ, which in turn encouraged other achievements such as “love of learning” which you so correctly highlight.

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

The encounter of the Jews with the Greco-Roman world was very fruitful, if sometimes turbulent. Rabbinic Judaism, Christianity and (later) Islam owe their births in that encounter (which began with Alexander’s conquest in the 4th Century BCE).

There was a huge range of Jewish expression ranging from highly assimilated to fanatically pietistic.

Some Greeks found Jewish ideas uncomfortable, leading to conflict. Many of the anti-semitic tropes originate in this era long before Christianity. (The book of Esther, although set in Persian times, was probably written in the Greek Era, and puts familiar anti-Jewish calumnies in Haman’s mouth). The Seleucid Emperor, Antiochus IV, tried to hellenise the Jews by force. That sparked the Maccabee revolt, which culminated in an independent Jewish state.

On the other hand, some Romans found Judaism very interesting, and even fashionable. It is thought that at the time of Jesus, about 10% of the empire was either Jewish or “God Fearing” gentiles. It was principally amongst the latter that Paul of Tarsus gained followers for his interpretation of Jesus which eventually became Christianity.

The big change came with the Great revolt of 66 CE. It followed a series of very arrogant and venal procurators (including Pontius Pilate of Gospel fame) who trampled on Jewish religious taboos. The suppression of the revolt was very costly, and resulted in the enslavement of tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of Jews. It killed the fashion for Judaism, and is one of the reasons for the anti-Jewish, pro-Roman slant of the Gospels (The earliest, “Mark”, was probably written just after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE).

There was an empire-shaking revolt from 132-135 CE in the time of Hadrian. When it was finally suppressed. Hadrian rename Jerusalem to “Aelia Capitolana”, and Judea to “Syria Palestina”.

The slaves generated in the wake of the various revolts might be termed the “forced diaspora”, but, as indicated, there was already a thriving diaspora throughout the empire.

In the subsequent history, it is not that the Jews did anything in particular to create enemies, but their very existence was a problem for the Church. On the one hand they represented a living refutation of Christianity. On the other hand the Church needed them as “christ killers” both to exonerate the Romans and to provide an essential element of the death-resurrection-salvation myth at the heart of Christianity.

There was also one other factor which spurred clerical anti-semitism from the 10th century on in Western Europe. Literacy amongst Jews was pretty much universal, so they provided all the clerical services to the emerging kingdoms of Western Europe. By the 10th Century, the monasteries were putting out literate Christian clerics who wanted to displace Jews from the influential court jobs. In other words, anti-semitism was a political tool.

Unfortunately, politically convenient persecution created for one purpose often acquires a life of its own. The monster once awakened is hard to slay.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

Recent research has shown, contrary to Rabbinic opinion, that Jews willingly joined the Roman Army to advance themselves.

By joining the non citizen ‘Auxilia’ and serving twenty five years (unmarried) they received the grant of Roman Citizenship on discharge. Had they had a belly warmer/common law wife, by the ‘ ius conubium’, the right of marriage, she also became a Roman Citizen, as did any children, who previously, legally, had been bastards.

Roman Citizens had enormous legal and fiscal privileges and comprised only about 10% of the population of the Empire.
Should a Jew with Roman citizenship then join the army, he would join the citizen Legions.

After discharge, on completion of twenty five years (unmarried) service he received a cash lump sum, equivalent to fourteen years service, without stoppages for food and accommodation etc. A tidy sum, not far from a million pounds in today’s money.

Enough to set himself up for the remaining ten to fifteen years of life, according to epigraphic evidence.

This was the normal route for all those non citizens (peregrinus) seeking Roman Citizenship within the Empire. A most equitable system that turned ‘others’ into Romans.

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Yes, there was a wide range of Jewish opinion. Some became tax collectors (publicans of the Gospels). Some wanted to compete in games (and even went so far as to undergo surgery to disguise their circumcisions).

Jews joining the Roman army does not surprise me at all.

Some religious Jews were very pro-Roman (mostly from the High Priest’s party). Paul or Tarsus is an interesting case. He is first encountered working as an enforcer for the High Priest. Later, he claimed to have Roman citizenship. It is unclear whether he inherited it or acquired it himself.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

One of the advantages of Roman Citizenship, that I was too squeamish to mention earlier, was that if you were executed for a capital crime, it was by the comparatively painless process of beheading.

For everyone else it was the excruciatingly painful business of Crucifixion. Paul must have been aware of this.

Incidentally, Pilate seems to have been very humane in having Christ crucified on the day before the Sabbath. Thus reducing his agony to a few hours, rather than days, as was normal. It’s something the Gospels tend to ignore, for obvious reasons, I would maintain.

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Mostly crucifixion was reserved for rebels. Jesus’ claim to messiahship would have been sufficient to earn a crucifixion.

The time-scale of the arrest and passion has been compressed in the gospels, which is why people tie themselves in knots to reconcile the last supper and his execution on the eve of the passover. (which that year happened to be Friday).

The description of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem leaps out to my Jewish eyes as Sukkot (autumn). That is when people are waving palm fronds and calling out “Hoshana”. The Zekharia prophecies that Jesus was consciously enacting are also associated wit Sukkot (which was the most widely expected time for the appearance of the Messiah). The last supper itself, was conducted in a rooftop pavilion (probably a Sukkah) and levened bread was used (definitely not Passover!). It is no accident that Jesus and his followers went to the Mount of Olives after, because one of the Messianic events (according to Zekharia) was to be the splitting of the Mount and the emergence of a heavenly army.

Most likely, Jesus was held in prison over the winter.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

Thank you for that explanation of the chronology, and what you say seems to make perfect sense.

You have demolished my theory that Pilate may have been acting humanly,
because had Passover fallen on say a Monday, Christ would have probably been conscious on the cross until at least Thursday. (based on the experience of others).

Burial after crucifixion was also not normal Roman procedure. After death the body was usually left to putrefy and the. be ‘hoovered’ up by local carrion.
Perhaps, as this would have occurred on the Sabbath, the ‘privilege’ of burial was granted instead?

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

In Jewish law, the body of an executed man must not be allowed to hang beyond sunset, irrespective of the day of the week, so leaving the body for days would have been offensive in any event.

According to Philo and Josephus, Pilate was not squeamish about cruelty in general, nor Jewish sensibilities in particular. Therefore, it is surprising that he gave permission at all for Jesus to be taken down.

My guess is that, having passed sentence, Pilate returned to Caesarea, leaving the execution in the hands of the local garrison. The Jerusalem garrison would have worked in cooperation with the High Priest’s police. They might have wanted to avoid causing more popular offence than necessary during a pilgrim festival (Passover). It is also possible that there were bribes involved.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  David Barnett

A most erudite explanation, thank you.

I agree, the picture painted by Philo and Josephus of Pilate is not particularly flattering, but a ten year stint as Prefect of Judea was a fairly onerous task. It is easy to forget he held one of the senior positions in the Empire, open to Equestrians.

Apropos crucifixion, did you know that Israeli archaeologists unearthed a crucified individual, thought to date from the first century, in 1968. ‘He’ was found at Giv’ar ha-Mivtar, just north of Jerusalem, still attached by nails and Acacia/Pistacia wood ‘washers’ to the remnants of the cross. An extraordinary find, I think you will agree,

David Jones
David Jones
3 years ago

“In addition to the appalling 200 years of transporting slaves to the
West Indies and the American colonies, they need to hear about the
dogged, 50-year campaign to abolish the trade and the institution within
the British Empire two centuries ago.”
Indeed, it’s difficult to believe that most Britons haven’t heard about both aspects. You can’t criticise the first without recognising the second, but you can’t celebrate the second without recognising the first. That seems right.
The curriculum would still be “eurocentric”, i.e. dominated by european perspectives, even with increased BAME representation. It seems fair that when studying Othello, for example, one considers how Moors saw their experiences in England, Venice and Europe – and how relations were between England and Venice, or England and the Eastern or Southern Mediterranean. This puts into perspective how Shakespeare treated these topics and how contemporary audiences may have perceived them, no?

Jeremy Stone
Jeremy Stone
3 years ago

I am really grateful to Professor Biggar for introducing me to the extraordinarily elegant epithet “genocidaire”. It is this sort of Marxisising language that is the hallmark of the agitating classes. When we hear it, we know that what is being said is almost certainly spurious, as Professor Biggar argues in relation to Rhodes. However, I regret the statistical analysis that Professor Biggar goes in for when he addresses the question about the proportion of BAME academic staff. It is surely not the case that the operative question is the percentage of BAME staff that are professors by rank (although this might be a useful statistic in a second-order discussion of glass ceilings). The prior question must be the percentage of academic staff overall (in Oxford or elsewhere) that are BAME, and whether this is close to the percentage that would obtain in a race-blind appointment process. For once, I think the Professor has got hold of the wrong question, whether consciously or as a rare instance of systemic bias. Such a pity.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Stone

I consider your approach entirely reasonable and surely should be extended to all walks of life in U.K.? It would be wonderful if a few professors of Afro Caribbean music were, for example, oriental or white. Oh, and it’s no use trying the “not many white people study it” yarn, that’s such an old & obvious device for retaining the top jobs in certain subject areas just for one elite group.

naillik48
naillik48
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Stone

Might it not be the case that because these appointments are not race-blind – i.e . they append their own names to applications – that they are over represented as a consequence of institutional guilt / wokeness /pitching for future funding . Rather like the BBC .

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
3 years ago

The whole world lives in a world built and created by the West. Maybe that is their problem. Nobody likes to be beholden .

sec7702272
sec7702272
3 years ago

A wonderful and erudite summary. Attempts by the left to decolonise western institutions make about as much sense as trying to “de-Chinese” the Great Wall of China.

P C
P C
3 years ago

Despite some of the comments here and elsewhere that it’s ‘too late’ to do anything about this scourge, I think that the results of the actions of those who ‘cancel’ people and destroy the monuments of the past (usually those erected by public subscription) will niggle at their consciousnesses in times to come as they realise what they’ve lost. When our children are forced to recite Marxist dogma as they try to understand ionic bonding (‘From each/to each’) or grapple with Afro-centric calculus, surely the teachers will be just a little worried that they’re not delivering the most credible education?

The very worst of it is the mendacity; ‘BLM’ was founded by committed Marxists, and with the explicit goals of the hard-left, although it’s quite certain that many of the useful fools who rampaged in the early stages of the insanity were wholly unaware of that fact, and probably wouldn’t have understood it anyway.

They have corrupted, by co-opting the very word ‘justice’ to their cause, so many people from commerce frightened of ‘cancellation’ that courses of indoctrination appear to be mandatory, and quotas will become the norm, despite their illegality and their deeply discriminatory nature. The inevitable result of that is a lowering of standards, leading to a loss of quality in every aspect of the corporate product. Trust in the Economist’s output has surely fallen after the disgraceful affair involving Sir Roger Scruton, for instance.

However, I don’t believe that despair is inevitable; a significant body of opinion writes and acts to counter the stupidity, here and in the more grounded of the media (I don’t include the BBC). If the 95% of cooler minds in the land read, listen and understand the words, rather than screech for effect, there should be effective resistance (although I’d like to start a ‘Smash Twitter!‘ movement).

Marie Moret
Marie Moret
3 years ago

What this entire “decolonize” curriculums seems to be in aid of colonizing western education, erasing western, specifically Christian culture, regressing fields like medicine, etc. There is no way to have honest debate with the proponents, I have tried reasoned discussion with a leftist teacher who insists that teaching 2+2=4 exclusively is racist. What is needed is cutting off public funding of schools and organizations that promote this racist, regressive attack on the culture and the people.

hamishsroberts
hamishsroberts
3 years ago

If the defence against diversification of texts is that British history should remain central to the business of teaching history, that is too reductionist.

I could not agree more with Biggar that the point is to learn about all of British involvement in things like the slave trade – the good and the bad. But to say that support for abolition was unanimous after the ‘dogged, 50-year campaign’ is to starve the historic landscape of complexity that diversification or decolonisation calls for.

K Sheedy
K Sheedy
3 years ago

Excellent toughtful article. As Karl Popper said “tolerate everything except intollerance” the version of woke that can’t hear and will not listen is the same as every other racist group.

Robin Haig
Robin Haig
3 years ago

Great article. Small point of information: I think it was the African Lakes Company, set up in association with the Christian missions around Lake Nyasa, which battled against the Arab slaver Mlozi. The missions in their turn answered Livingstone’s call to bring the gospel to the region which he described as ‘the fountain of the slave trade’. Rhodes offered to take over the African Lakes Company but in the end it didn’t happen. The slave trade there was only finally suppressed when Britain took over the Nyasa area and declared a ‘protectorate’ over it. You’d never realise it from the way the British Empire is discussed, but there is no conceivable way that slavery in Africa would have been suppressed if the British and other European empires hadn’t taken over most of the continent in the late 19th century.

Naren Savani
Naren Savani
3 years ago

The sad part is that no one with any common sense and a lack of evil intent can disagree with any of this but try and find any of these points being made on the BBC which continues to deteriorate on a daily basis.

robert1
robert1
3 years ago

Dear Nigel,
Opinion from a sympathetic perspective, reenforced with data generated from sources of the same leaning derails the notion of objectivity when presenting ‘facts’ as evidence. Much like the CCC (Crime & Corruption Commission) here in Queensland, closed shop narrative favours the locks over the keys. Not that the Eurocentric perspective is without merit, far from it. As with any framework of reference, the devil is in the motivation of the application. Eurocentric perspectives link beautifully, if not by design, into the underpinning mechanisms of paternalism which in turn aligns particularly usefully to the survival strategies of a commonwealth organism driven by relentless consumption/instant gratification. For sympathy to exist, the party offering sympathy must see itself as in an elevated position, one superior to the target subject/s. This is the key difference between sympathetic and empathetic frameworks of enterprise. The former is control based responding to the notion of polarity, whilst the latter is relationship based responding to the notion of mutual benefit. In any case, presenting a clarifying argument from a sympathetic perspective, in the defence of an allegedly vilified party, apparently awash in the application of the sympathetic doctrine in deed and duty, citing historic evidence created and lodged under a sympathetic system of education is, I suppose you might say, the meat n 3 veg thrust of many an opinion masquerading as an assertion of elevated perspective/authority. As with meat n 3 veg as the only option on the menu, at some point the diners must be forced to swallow what’s good for them. The Eurocentric curriculum more or less insists on it. Here in the colonial construct currently know as Australia, the Eurocentric curriculum insisted that I spent the first 4 years of my life under the flora and fauna act where, until the 1967 national referendum, we the Peoples of the Cultures of the greatest longevity on the planet were deemed sub-human. The Eurocentric curriculum here continues to operate as a fluid body of ‘data’ that is accountable to nobody, nor is required by anybody to provide explanation on the inclusion or omission of creative facts as suits the agenda of the past 232 years. Thank you for the meat n 3 veg.
Regards,
Birrunga Wiradyuri
Wiradyuri Nation

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
3 years ago

Great article, thank you.

Neil Colledge
Neil Colledge
3 years ago

There is no reason why future generations in The Eurozone could not (hypothetically) live in peace with one another and treat one another as equals under God. History reminds us of man’s injustice to man (usually from conqueror to conquered). This has happened in every corner of the globe. Colonial whites were not unique in dishing out inhuman treatment to others.
There is a coming truth for the Eurozone to face, which could be either good news or bad news depending on our reaction to and our perception thereof (for perception is all).
The predominant forces shaping world outcomes seem (to me at least) to be The Roschild Bank – The Rockerfeller Family – The Church of England (Headed by The Queen) – and The Vatican.
This is not a statement either for/against these institutions …. However we must accept that by sheer force of numbers, another institution populated by 1.3 billion will be added to this group, Islam!! The traditional homeland (Ouma) sought for centuries by muslims, stretching from The Atlantic Ocean to The Bosphorus could become a contemporary, cultural, spiritual & political reality sooner rather than later.
So what do European Leaders do? How do Europeans react? How can we absorb this new reality, which is coming, like it or not?
There is some shared history between Christianity and Islam. The Qu’ran recognises Jesus as a prophet and mentions him over a dozen times. The Angel Gabriel appeared to The Prophet Muhammad, reading him a text incorporated into The Bible and Qu’ran.
To return to the excellent piece by Nigel Biggar, there is nothing wrong in being Eurocentric, however it would be judicious to seriously consider mainstreaming the history of Islam into the school curriculum.
Methinks it would be equally judicious to teach at least one of the Semitic languages in main stream European schools. Why on earth not?? Colonised peoples were often compelled to speak English, French, Spanish or Portuguese. We have not been compelled to learn Arabic, Hebrew, Somali or Amharic, but in making the conscious, collective choice to do so – would offer a tremendous gesture of good faith toward civilisations older than ours. This would go some way to mitigating and intelligently accommodating a new world, which we will have to accept. In the long term, this would be the first small bite in eating the elephant.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Neil Colledge

Any student taking GCSE RE and Philosophy will learn about Christianity and one other world religion. My daughter teaches Islam which includes learning relevant Arabic words. Other schools might decide to teach Judaism, Buddhism etc.
Many parents do not understand the modern RE teaching and discourage or forbid their child to take the subject.

S Man
S Man
3 years ago

This is frankly an embarrassing article; one that I would be ashamed to pin my name to.

Firstly, I find it shameful that a distinguished professor (in theology – not history or politics) is using his title as Regus Professor to pass off as someone who is an ‘expert’ in this field to give weight to his frankly, woefully written essay completely lacking in rigorous academia.

He makes several, serious errors, that would not even be acceptable at undergraduate level.

For example:

* He appears to give greater weight to statements and evidence that supports his argument, whilst simply refusing to even acknowledge that there is an equally strong counter-argument. In fact, he doesn’t even bother to mention evidence that might mean that either him or his audience might reach an alternative conclusion – based on the evidence – not on beliefs, as the author has done.

* He accepts evidence and conclusions that support his argument, unquestionably. No serious academic would make this rookie mistake.

* Based on the above, Biggar does not present a well-thought through or constructed, balanced argument with a reasoned conclusion.

* He presents errors in reasoning – for example the ‘straw man argument’ on multiple occasions to make his case. For example: He asks rhetorically whether he should (to paraphrase) include token BAME authors on topics such as Cicero or Algebra, even if they {in his words}, are not worth listening to? He then talks about how the general British public are aware of the British Empire’s involvement in slavery and don’t need to be reminded of this – yet, simultaneously, makes the unfounded claim that the British public are unaware of the abolitionist movement in Britain spearheaded by William Wilberforce & Mary Wollstonecraft – arguably the two most prominent abolitionist of their time. He provides no evidence to support his argument that the British public are well-educated on British involvement in slavery – yet have no idea about British involvement in the abolition of slavery. Frankly, this is a bizarre and emotive premise without foundation.

* He only offers a superficial overview of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. Biggar presents it as a moral issue that Britain felt compelled to stop on an ethical premise. And, whilst, with the abolitionist movement, it is true that there was a moral force against slavery operating in Britain at this time, it was by no means universal, or even, popular. He also overlooks even more significant reasons for Britain deciding to end the slave trade. It was to do with economics. And geo-political strategy. Slavery was no longer economically viable compared to productivity that could be produced industrially. Secondly, UK-US relations were rather sour at this time and the UK wanted to prevent the US from gaining a strategic advantage over them. Hence the Royal Navy patrolling trade routes and enforcing blockades. It wasn’t because they cared about slavery per se. But because it did not benefit the UK.

* Biggar is nothing more than an apologist for ‘paternalist Imperialism’ which can be seen in Cecil Rhodes. Sure, he may have argued the case for black voters having equal rights in South Africa – but equally he believed that, in his own words as part of his last testament: “I contend that we are the first race in the world {Anglo-Saxon), and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. I contend that every acre added to our territory means the birth of more of the English race who otherwise would not be brought into existence.” He may not looked down on every individual who was of colour, but never the less, he believed in the British Imperialist ‘Civilising Mission’ that it was the duty of white Europeans (specifically, British) to education and ‘civilise’ black or {in his own words} ‘savage people’ into British cultural norms and customs – that is was the ‘white man’s burden’ to look after and care for the ‘infantile’ African. Biggar – whether he believes it or not – wholeheartedly believes in this ‘mission’, which can be seen through what he says. In addition to this, at no point did Rhodes argue for self-determination for Africans living in British colonies and his actions led to the rise of apartheid – irrespective of whether he intended them as such. So, is Biggar really arguing as his ludicrous essay implies, that we should be thanking Rhodes for his contribution to BAME rights? Or, rather, because he has done some ‘positive action’ for people of different ethnicity, should we disregard how he helped his part in ensuring the British Empire endured over her colonies? Or, how these piecemeal actions – rather than undermining British influence in her overseas territories – actually further entrenched British power over her colonial subjects and brought them more and more under the control of Westminster?

* He is again selective on the university admission stats. He is right there has been an improvement in BAME admissions to top universities, But, I’m sure even he knows, the cornerstone of the scientific method is reliability i.e. that the same results can be repeated under the same conditions – so until the next few years indicate a higher yield of BAME students, what he is exaggerating may very well be an outlier. If you look at the year on year increase, it has only been 0.5% compared to last year. An infinitesimal amount. And at a collegiate level, there is a great disparity with 12 colleges only accepting 5 or fewer black students between 2017-2019. Equally, Biggar has failed to acknowledge the success of widening access schools – such as Summer Schools – that have helped account for this increase, nor the lack of BAME academics at a senior level. Biggar is VERY selective with the facts.

* Finally, Biggar states that the curriculum should be Eurocentric, because well, we are in Europe. But, what he misunderstands is that ‘Eurocentric’ does not account for the contributions of the Indian and colonial forces during WW1 & WW2 – without whom, Britain would have almost certainly surrendered. Yet, they barely get a mention during Remembrance Weekend. That is what is meant by ‘Eurocentric’. Failing to acknowledge the contributions of non-Europeans to European history and society. In addition to this, we live in a far more globalised world that brings disparate continents closer together. We also, live in a far more complex, and multi-cultural society. Therefore, what is wrong with embracing our newfound diversity and exploring the histories of others? As much as I am sure he would love to continually explore Cicero & Suetonius, the world has moved far beyond the romanticism of the Renaissance Period.

Biggar claims that he has not received any ‘substantial critical response to his thoughts at all’. One only has to look at his Wikipedia page to know that even his Oxford colleagues – such as James McDougall (an actual British historian) – who wrote an open letter disagreeing with Biggar which was signed by over 170 International academics. Equally, Cambridge University’s Reader of Post-Colonial Literature, Priyamvada Gopal, described Biggar’s views as akin to ‘outright racist Imperial apologists’. Therefore, may I suggest that Biggar more closely inspect the work of his critics? Because it is clear that – in contrast to what he says – there are many. He just appears not to be listening.

As someone who has reached the position of Regus Professor, I cannot believe that you do not know how to construct a balanced opinion piece. For, I see it even by journalists who write for the Guardian, Spectator or the Times. The only assumption I can draw, is that you have deliberately intended to mislead your audience and have therefore shown them, utter contempt.

Stick to what you know. Theology. Don’t become another Dawkins. Talking as if you are an authority about a subject in which you know next to nothing about.

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago
Reply to  S Man

**He appears to give greater weight to statements and evidence that supports his argument,**

Judge not….

S Man
S Man
3 years ago

This is frankly an embarrassing article; one that I would be ashamed to pin my name to.

Firstly, I find it shameful that a distinguished professor (in theology – not history or politics) is using his title as Regus Professor to pass off as someone who is an ‘expert’ in this field to give weight to his frankly, woefully written essay completely lacking in rigorous academia.

He makes several, serious errors, that would not even be acceptable at undergraduate level.

For example:

* He appears to give greater weight to statements and evidence that supports his argument, whilst simply refusing to even acknowledge that there is an equally strong counter-argument. In fact, he doesn’t even bother to mention evidence that might mean that either him or his audience might reach an alternative conclusion – based on the evidence – not on beliefs, as the author has done.

* He accepts evidence and conclusions that support his argument, unquestionably. No serious academic would make this rookie mistake.

* Based on the above, Biggar does not present a well-thought through or constructed, balanced argument with a reasoned conclusion.

* He presents errors in reasoning – for example the ‘straw man argument’ on multiple occasions to make his case. For example: He asks rhetorically whether he should (to paraphrase) include token BAME authors on topics such as Cicero or Algebra, even if they {in his words}, are not worth listening to? No one has argued that we should have to read an author’s work about a subject that they are not an authority on or lacking in quality – irrespective of the colour of their skin or their ethnicity. Biggar, is also surely aware that people can be part of the BAME community and simultaneously, British and European? So, why shouldn’t they make a contribution to our understanding of our European history? It is as much ‘their’ history, as it is ‘ours’. I think Biggar needs to choose his words more carefully. Because, what he is seemingly arguing for, is not a ‘Eurocentric’ curriculum, but an ‘ethnocentric’ one – specifically an ‘Anglo-centric one’, where only white people should have the right to talk about white, historical figures and are therefore the only one’s who should be on our curriculum.

He then talks about how the general British public are aware of the British Empire’s involvement in slavery and don’t need to be reminded of this – yet, simultaneously, makes the unfounded claim that the British public are unaware of the abolitionist movement in Britain spearheaded by William Wilberforce & Mary Wollstonecraft – arguably the two most prominent abolitionist of their time. He provides no evidence to support his argument that the British public are well-educated on British involvement in slavery – yet have no idea about British involvement in the abolition of slavery. Frankly, this is a bizarre and emotive premise without foundation.

* He only offers a superficial overview of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. Biggar presents it as a moral issue that Britain felt compelled to stop on an ethical premise. And, whilst, with the abolitionist movement, it is true that there was a moral force against slavery operating in Britain at this time, it was by no means universal, or even, popular. He also overlooks even more significant reasons for Britain deciding to end the slave trade. It was to do with economics. And geo-political strategy. Slavery was no longer economically viable compared to productivity that could be produced industrially. Secondly, UK-US relations were rather sour at this time and the UK wanted to prevent the US from gaining a strategic advantage over them. Hence the Royal Navy patrolling trade routes and enforcing blockades. It wasn’t because they cared about slavery per se. But because it did not benefit the UK.

* Biggar is nothing more than an apologist for ‘paternalist Imperialism’ which can be seen in Cecil Rhodes. Sure, he may have argued the case for black voters having equal rights in South Africa – but equally he believed that, in his own words as part of his last testament: “I contend that we are the first race in the world {Anglo-Saxon), and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. I contend that every acre added to our territory means the birth of more of the English race who otherwise would not be brought into existence.” He may not have looked down on every individual who was of colour, but never the less, he believed in British colonial expansion and the brutality, terror, maltreatment and suffering that this brought to every indigenous community, in every country, that Britain, came to occupy, ‘divide and conquer’ and ultimately, displace. Rhodes, passionately supported and believed in the British Imperialist ‘Civilising Mission’ that it was the duty of white Europeans (specifically, British) to better educate and ‘civilise’ black or {in his own words} ‘savage people’ into British cultural norms and customs – that is was the ‘white man’s burden’ to look after and care for the ‘infantile’ African. The ‘Rhodes Scholarship’ can actually be seen as part of this ‘mission’ – to assimilate a few, chosen colonial subjects, into British norms, customs and values and the advantage of British citizenship that it brought to subjects of the British Empire. In order to curry favour with the British establishment, the scholar would be expected to discard their cultural origins, beliefs and traditions in place of British ones.

Biggar – whether he is aware of it or not – wholeheartedly believes in this ‘mission’, which can be seen through what he says. In addition to this, at no point did Rhodes argue for self-determination for Africans living in British colonies and his actions led to the rise of apartheid – irrespective of whether he intended them as such. So, is Biggar really arguing as his ludicrous essay implies, that we should be thanking Rhodes for his contribution to BAME rights? Or, rather, because he has done some ‘positive action’ for people of different ethnicity, should we therefore disregard how his actions helped in ensuring the British Empire endured over her colonies? Or, how these piecemeal actions – rather than undermining British influence in her overseas territories – actually further entrenched British power over her colonial subjects and brought them more and more under the control of Westminster?
It’s like arguing that Hitler’s love and care for his dog, is a fair moral comparison to Nazi Germany’s atrocities towards minority groups and their crimes against humanity. It’s just not a fair comparison. One good deed doesn’t take away a far worse one, that has had far more significant consequences for millions more people (both, directly and indirectly), than the positive contributions that Rhodes made to a few select individuals. So, why should we immortalise in monuments, and celebrate as a role model to aspire to, someone who would do any of this?

* He is again selective on the university admission stats. He is right there has been an improvement in BAME admissions to top universities, But, I’m sure even he knows, the cornerstone of the scientific method is reliability i.e. that the same results can be repeated under the same conditions – so until the next few years indicate a higher yield of BAME students, what he is exaggerating may very well be an outlier. If you look at the year on year increase, it has only been 0.5% compared to last year. An infinitesimal amount. And at a collegiate level, there is a great disparity with 12 Oxford University colleges only accepting 5 or fewer black students between 2017-2019. Equally, Biggar has failed to acknowledge the success of widening access schools – such as Summer Schools – that have helped account for this increase, nor the lack of BAME academics at a senior level. Biggar is VERY selective with the facts.

* Finally, Biggar states that the curriculum should be Eurocentric, because well, we are in Europe. But, what he misunderstands is that ‘Eurocentric curriculum’ does not account for the contributions that minority ethnic groups have made to European, or British history and society. One only has to look at the coverage during Remembrance weekend to know that the contributions of Indian and colonial forces during WW1 & WW2 – without whom, Britain would have almost certainly have surrendered and would possibly have looked at very different place in the 21st Century – are often overlooked and undervalued during Remembrance Weekend. That is what is meant by ‘Eurocentric’. Failing to acknowledge the contributions of non-Europeans to European history and society. Imposing European and British values on history, our curriculum and other cultures without acknowledging that ours isn’t perfect, and we have much to learn from other cultures. In addition to this, we live in a far more globalised world that brings disparate continents closer together. We also, live in a far more complex, and multi-cultural society. Therefore, what is wrong with embracing our newfound diversity and exploring the histories of others? As much as I am sure he would love to continually explore Cicero & Suetonius, the world has moved far beyond the romanticism of the Renaissance Period.

Biggar claims that he has not received any ‘substantial critical response to his thoughts at all’. One only has to look at his Wikipedia page to know that even his Oxford colleagues – such as James McDougall (an actual British historian) – who wrote an open letter disagreeing with Biggar which was signed by over 170 International academics. Equally, Cambridge University’s Reader of Post-Colonial Literature, Priyamvada Gopal, described Biggar’s views as akin to ‘outright racist Imperial apologists’. Therefore, may I suggest that Biggar more closely inspect the work of his critics? Because it is clear that – in contrast to what he says – there are many. He just appears not to be listening.

As someone who has reached the position of Regus Professor, I cannot believe, and do not believe, that you do not know how to construct a balanced opinion piece. For, I see it even by non-academics such as journalists, who write for the Guardian, Spectator or the Times. The only assumption I can draw, is that you have deliberately intended to mislead your audience and have therefore shown them, utter contempt.

Stick to what you know. Theology. Don’t become another Dawkins. Talking as if you are an authority about a subject in which you know next to nothing about.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  S Man

Decolonising is an excuse to lower standards.

Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther a freed African slave learnt Latin and Greek, was appointed bishop 1864 and was awarded a DD of Oxford University. Nehru attended Harrow School and Trinity College Cambridge where he read Natural Sciences.

The reality is that the vast majority of academics want an easy life and lack the ability to learn Latin and Greek and for many, early English is too difficult. Decolonisations provides an excuse to drop difficult subjects. C Northcote Parkinson said the average don in the mid 19th century had a degree in Classics and probably Maths and spoke to three to four European languages; hardly any academic can reach this standard today. To prove me wrong request students and academics write their papers and takes Vivas in Latin; I Newton did. I was taught, Latin and French by an old boy from Ghana who won scholarships to Dulwich College and Oxford University. The reality is that the vast majority of state primary and comprehensive schools lack staff who can teach BAME students to high enough standards to read Greats at Oxford, Maths at Cambridge or Engineering at Imperial. The reason why entrance exams fro Oxbridge were stopped was because comprehensives lack the staff to teach to this standard.

By the way, the population of India rose from 206,000,000 in 1872 AD to 388,997,955 in 1941, why? The rise in population meant there was greater risk from famine.

ednajanjacobs
ednajanjacobs
3 years ago

Eurocentric History is not “First among Equals” it’s just another way of perceiving facts. That being said we ought to be teaching Human history not national and Imperialistic history. Truth and Reconciliation begin with admitting the institutionalization of racism is Eurocentric.

Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
3 years ago
Reply to  ednajanjacobs

“Truth and Reconciliation begin with admitting the institutionalization of racism is Eurocentric.” Please can you give evidence for this statement?

John Munro
John Munro
3 years ago
Reply to  ednajanjacobs

You are Titania McGrath and I claim my £5.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  John Munro

Are you sure it’s not Ms Gopal?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  ednajanjacobs

Yes indeed, let’s have a bit more of “up Guards and at ’em”. This banal nonsense has no traction and will soon disappear.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  ednajanjacobs

Say that to a white girl in Rotherham.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  ednajanjacobs

Thanks for sorting her out. Excellent work.

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
3 years ago
Reply to  ednajanjacobs

that is just not true, or accurate.