The group known as ‘Historians for Britain in Europe’ contains several scholars of note, including Sir Keith Thomas, sometime president of the British Academy, Robert Evans, former regius professor at Oxford, and Julian Jackson, professor of history at Queen Mary, University of London. Their professional standing ought to guarantee academic rigour and intellectual honesty. But in a recent letter to The Times they attacked “Briefings for Brexit” for opinions we have never held. They have also published in the French newspaper Le Monde (26 Jan. 2018) a historically ignorant and politically naive attack on Brexiteers in general and Robert Tombs in particular. He is accused – by innuendo of course – of defending opinions that are extreme, racist, xenophobic, ‘Bonapartist’ (yes, really!) and ‘Maurrassian’. (Charles Maurras was a French racist who repeatedly called for the murder of Jews.) These insinuations would be defamatory if they were not so ludicrous. Ironically, Sir Keith Thomas has recently published a book called In Pursuit of Civility.
We make this challenge to ‘Historians for Britain in Europe’. Stop dog-whistling and make a serious contribution to the national debate. Let one of you come out from behind the group identity and write a reasoned, historically based statement of your position. We undertake to publish it on our website, along with a reply. The public can then judge whose historical arguments are more convincing.