Friday, 27 May 2016

Boris is no historian

Comments from Simon Heffer concerning the "general public" being entertained by Johnson`s "unrestrained remarks, such as about President Obama`s Kenyan heritage", reveal him to be as divorced from the real world as the Tory MPs with whom he obviously mixes (The Tory civil war,20th May, 2016). At least his views can thereby be explained, but one of those expressed by respected academic, Professor Brendan Simms, is less easy to comprehend (History lessons, 20th May, 2016). Why he refers to Boris Johnson as "my fellow historian" beggars belief. Surely not because the would-be Tory leader, with a Classics degree, has written a best-seller about Churchill? Even the review in the Telegraph described it as a "mixture of Monty Python and the Horrible Histories", whilst another said it bore as much resemblance "to a history book as a Doctor Who episode".
Churchill is still revered by the majority of people in this country, often winning accolades like the "greatest Briton" in populist polls, which, of course, is why Johnson wrote the book, hoping the creation of political association, and supposed similarity between author and subject, would advance his career. 
     That Johnson is again passing himself off as an expert historian in order to strengthen his arguments about Brexit is obvious, and Simms does well to describe it as the "blatant manipulation" of history. The truth is, however, that such misuse of the events of the past, something at which Johnson is clearly adept, perpetuates dangerous ideas about nationalism, war and racism, and deserves more criticism from the press and academia than it actually gets.


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