Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Perspective: London Historian Says "Rioting has been a London tradition for centuries."

Have the recent wave of riots in London been the handiwork of uncivilized foreign immigrants, an unthinkable example of a culture entirely alien to the civilized West? Peter Ackroyd, the greatest living chronicler of London-- particularly its seamy, violent underside-- says no:

Speaking in a book-lined office near King's Cross, London, within walking distance of where the rioting began, Mr Ackroyd resolutely refused to see a new epoch dawning. "I can't get at all worked up about these most recent phenomena," he said. "They simply show a pattern of activity in the city that will endure as long as the city itself endures.

"I don't like those commentators who keep on saying that London will never be the same again. London is always the same again. I remember those comments were made very loudly after the [July 2005] terrorist attacks – 'London will never be the same again, London has lost its innocence' – it was all nonsense. London was exactly the same again the following day. "Rioting has always been a London tradition. It has been since the early Middle Ages. There's hardly a spate of years that goes by without violent rioting of one kind or another. They happen so frequently that they are almost part of London's texture. The difference is that in the past the violence was more ferocious, and the penalties were more ferocious – in most cases, death."

I ask, then, what he makes of the much-quoted comments of his fellow historian, David Starkey, and am met with a blank look. He is not aware that Starkey has spoken out on anything recently. I paraphrase Starkey's now infamous remarks about young whites becoming black, and am cut short by a snort.

"Oh well, that's often been the complaint, that immigrants ..." Here he interrupted himself. "They're not even immigrants, are they? They're born English!" Another snort. "I don't really have anything to say to that because it doesn't strike me as particularly relevant."

Read the entire article at The Independent.


Wes Messamore,
Editor in Chief, THL
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