And another thing…

Image from mail online

At the end of Episode One (Competition), Niall Ferguson outlined what will be covered in next week’s show.  He asked the question, ‘Why was there no Isaac Newton in Istanbul?’

This is fair enough.  But I predict that next week’s show will be less historically accurate than the last show.  His expertise is economic and financial history, so how qualified he actually is regarding the intellectual, scientific and cultural golden age of the Islamic World is questionable.

His personal life should not have any bearing on his historical ‘research’, yet his relationship with former Dutch MP and critic of Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali is another matter.  Historical interpretations are retrospective, and so will be inevitably constructed according to our schema, and are affected by our political beliefs.  I would usually say that using his personal life to discount his historical interpretation is an ad hominem argument.  However, his antagonistic and prejudiced views regarding Islam are well-known.  So It’s really hard not to imagine why he thinks ‘there was no Isaac Newton in Istanbul’…cue the monologue about harems, turbans and treatment of dhimmis.

The fact that he is sympathetic and champions the British Empire is not the problem: he is entitled to his own views.  (Although his nostalgia for Empire is odd, especially as he is Scottish.)  The problem is that this thoroughly subjective interpretation is being projected to the masses.  We are living in an age when people are living introspective lives and incredibly deep seated prejudices. I am not against accessible and populist history, but there needs to be a balance.