‘The Revolution Eats Its Own’ – Academics Fight over ‘Whiteness’ in Study of Anglo-Saxon History

Re-enactors prepare to take part in the re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings, at Battle Abbey in Battle, southern England, on October 14, 2016. 2,000 re-enactors dressed in period costume will mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. The battle, on October 14, 1066, between William of Normandy …
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Academics who specialise in Medieval History have become embroiled in a racism row over the alleged focus on “whiteness” within Anglo-Saxon history.

Historians are reportedly fighting over the supposedly problematic focus on white people within the Anglo-Saxon medieval period, with one prominent academic accusing fellow progressive-leaning authors of writing a book that “weaponises whiteness”.

Critical race theory-linked rows have reportedly become frequent within the study of medieval history, with there even being an attempt to cancel the term “Anglo-Saxon” within the discipline over accusations that “white supremacists” use the term.

Such controversy has once again reared its head, according to a report by The Times, after a particularly militant left-wing academic — University of Toronto based academic Mary Rambaran-Olm — accused former colleague Matthew Gabriele of helping to write a book which she has deemed problematic due to its focus on white people and use of “whiteness”.

Rambaran-Olm said the book, titled The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe, “weaponises ‘whiteness’ as an unquestionable authority wholly lacking in meticulousness and attention to detail demanded from marginalized scholars and/or women” in a review of the work titled ‘SOUNDS ABOUT WHITE’.

Her criticism reportedly sparked a spate of online attacks against Gabriele, as well as his co-author David M Perry, with the pair reportedly being told that they had “failed as allies”.

Gabriele appears to have bowed to at least some of the criticism, issuing an apology which reportedly condemned “all racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted attacks of any kind and for any reason”, while the editor of one academic publication that declined to publish Rambaran-Olm’s review has since deleted her Twitter account after issuing a public apology.

One academic saidthe row was an example of the “mutual firing squad among people on the radical left”, with another quipping that it could be summarised as “the revolution eats its own”.

It is not the first time that Rambaran-Olm has caused chaos within the medieval history field, with the academic pushing for the term “Anglo-Saxon” to be abandoned entirely by scholars in 2019, arguing that its use by so-called “white supremacists” justified its elimination.

“Generally white supremacists use the term to make some sort of connection to their heritage (which is inaccurate) or to make associations with ‘whiteness’ but they also habitually misuse it to try and connect themselves to a warrior past,” she claimed, adding that the term gives “aid and comfort to contemporary white supremacists”.

While some academics — including those at the former International Society of Anglo-Saxonists, who have now changed their name to the International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England as a result of woke campaigning —  have embraced Rambaran-Olm’s war on the term, others have expressed dismay over her suggestion that the term “Anglo-Saxon” should be axed, with one describing it as being as “mad as a bag of ferrets”.

“The term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is inextricably bound up with the claim by Alfred to rule as ‘rex Angul-Saxonum’, his use of Bede to back-project a shared Anglian-Saxon identity, & the emergence of England,” historian Tom Holland said regarding the term.

“Scholars of medieval history must be free to use it.”

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