It reminds one of the spat that Hari had with another distinguished right-wing scholar, Niall Ferguson. Empire, Ferguson’s critical (often highly critical) defence of British imperialism broadcast by Channel 4 in 2003 was described by Hari as ‘a startlingly obscene TV series’ which means, presumably, that he would have liked it to be banned. Ludicrously, in his critique of Ferguson, Hari described the British Empire as a ‘psychopathic form of totalitarianism’ equal to that of Stalin’s Soviet Union. Quite where one goes when historical debate has descended to that level is hard to fathom. Ferguson proposed that Hari read some Solzhenitsyn.
I often disagree with both Roberts and Ferguson, as with almost all historians, regardless of their political views. But both are extraordinarily good scholars who make compelling arguments that demand to be taken seriously. To call Ferguson ‘an apologist for mass death’, as Hari did, is to reduce serious historical debate to that of the playground.
Andrew Roberts will be writing about the first use of Blitzkrieg in the September edition of History Today.