Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Brookes Historian attends Downing Street reception to back remaining in the EU

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Brookes Historian attends Downing Street reception to back remaining in the EU

On Tuesday 24 May 2016 Professor Roger Griffin attended a reception at 11 Downing Street, hosted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as part of a non-party political event aiming to making a positive case for EU membership from a historian’s perspective.

The gathering was held for an invited audience of many of the country’s most celebrated historians and included a short address by George Osbourne, followed by four short but elegantly articulated position statements from leading British Historians, namely Niall Fergusson, Chris Clark, Linda Colley, and Sir Keith Thomas.

The purpose of the event was to illustrate the potential effects withdrawing from the European Union could have on Britain from a historical perspective. Roger Griffin, Professor in Modern History at Oxford Brookes, attended the event, due to his renown in the field of ideological dynamics of fascism and terrorism.

He summarised some of the important points emerging from the event, “The history of Britain has been a constant process of waves of immigration into Britain and foreign occupation and British identity has always been extraordinarily fluid and malleable; British sovereignty has never been absolute since Britain has always found itself in shifting alliances with other countries or powers for idealistic or pragmatic reasons. It would not do us any harm either to remember that two World Wars were fought in one generation within a Europe torn apart by notions of isolationism, sovereignty, military greatness, and racial superiority.”

Griffin added that “One of the most important points to emerge when history is applied to the debate is that we should beware of idealising Britain's past as one where a heroic island nation keeps going to the rescue of a Europe in crisis. The Battle of Waterloo, for example, far from being an exclusively British affair, was utterly dependent on a continental alliance of anti-Napoleonic forces and it was Prussian troops that saved our bacon (so to speak). Niall Fergusson opened his talk by revealing that there is no historical truth to the story that an English newspaper headline at the beginning of World War Two ran ‘Fog in channel. Continent cut off’. Both sides of the EU debate are now engaged in shrouding key issues in a verbal fog that social scientists and historians are in a position to dispel if anyone was listening!’”

The event follows the signing of a petition from British Historians to remain in the European Union. More details on Historians for Britain in Europe can be found here.

Roger Griffin is a Professor of Modern History in the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion at Oxford Brookes University.