English “historian” Mary Beard is still whining about the pushback she received for incorrectly claiming that a multiracial Roman British family was “typical”, as portrayed in a BBC children’s cartoon.
Mary Beard has spoken about the “Twitterstorm” of abuse she received after arguing that Roman Britain was ethnically diverse.
The historian and television presenter said she received a “torrent of aggressive insults” for days after she said a BBC schools video that depicted a high-ranking solider and a father of a Roman Britain family as being black to be “pretty accurate”.
She argued that the character in the BBC cartoon was loosely based on “Quintus Lollius Urbicus, a man from what is now Algeria, who became governor of Britain.”
She spoke against the “rubbish” arguments about genetic evidence from alt-right commentators and their “desire for certainty” when it came to historical information that was not always possible to ascertain, such as the population of Britain during the Roman empire and the ethnic make-up.
“It also feels very sad to me that we cannot have a reasonable discussion on such a topic as the cultural ethnic composition of Roman Britain without resorting to unnecessary insult, abuse, misogyny and language of war not debate (and that includes one senior academic),” she wrote in the Times Literary Supplement. She was referring to comments from Nicholas Nassim Taleb who accused her of “bullsh*tting”.
I don’t think her new book is going to help restore her reputation any time soon. Best response: “It would explain all the dead white wives.”
In the meantime, Cambridge University has doubled down and released a Faculty Statement.
Faculty statement responding to the online debate of ethnic diversity in Roman Britain
Roman Britain has long been an important part of the teaching and research in the Faculty of Classics. The question of ethnic diversity in the province has been getting unusual amounts of attention recently. Professor Mary Beard has been at the centre of some of this attention. In the Faculty we welcome and encourage public interest in, and reasoned debate about, the ancient world, such as Professor Beard has always sought to encourage. The evidence is in fact overwhelming that Roman Britain was indeed a multi-ethnic society. This was not, of course, evenly spread through the province, and it would have been infinitely more noticeable — it can be assumed — in an urban or military context than in a rural one. There are, however, still significant gaps in our understanding. New scientific evidence (including but not limited to genetic data) offers exciting ways forward, but it needs to be interpreted carefully.
UPDATE: Glorious. Mary has really become quite prolific of late. We need to send old GRR Martin a case of whatever she’s drinking.