Thirty of Britain’s top historians have joined a campaign that calls for a fundamental rethink of the UK’s relationship with Europe.
TV historian David Starkey, Cambridge dons Prof Robert Tombs and Richard Rex and Gladstone biographer Prof Richard Shannon are among names who have pledged their support for ‘Historians for Britain’, penning pieces criticising the idea of European citizenship and the concept of a single European demos.
One historian, Professor David Abulafia, said that millions of schoolchildren in Britain and across Europe were being taught a “distorted” view of European history that promotes further EU integration. He wrote: “The search for common roots has not been ignored in Brussels and among its acolytes. School textbooks are issued that attempt to present the history of Europe as a common enterprise.
“It hardly needs to be said that this has involved a distortion of the past, by assuming that a sense of European identity has existed for centuries, and by assuming a common purpose leading to the ultimate unification of Europe.”
He later told the Telegraph: “There is a soft push to create a sense of European citizenship which is based on frankly an invented common history because the history of Europe is to a large extent the history of division, not the history of unity.
“When it has been the history of unity, as we’ve seen under Napoleon and Hitler or under the Soviets in Eastern Europe, it has gone disastrously wrong. It is a papering over the discordant elements in European history to create this idealised event.”
He added that he had even seen textbooks for teenagers that depicted the EU as a “great train” with the tracks leading to a “United States of Europe”.
“We are told that we are all members of a European ‘demos’, or people, yet there is little to no historical evidence that such a ‘demos’ actually exists or has ever done so,” he said.
“Attempts to create an artificial notion of ‘Europe’ distract from the reality of the situation and make it harder to rectify the many problems that exist within the EU’s institutions.”
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Business for Britain, which is affiliated with Historians for Britain, said that the concept of single European identity was “dangerous”.
“The EU’s official motto is “United in diversity” – a laudable philosophy. Unfortunately, many of the EU’s policies seem intent on crushing that diversity, striving to replace Europe’s many historic identities with a single, artificial ‘European’ culture.”