David Starkey

British constitutional historian

David Robert Starkey CBE (born 3 January 1945) is an English historian and television presenter, with views that he describes as conservative. The only child of Quaker parents, he attended Kendal Grammar School before studying at Cambridge University through a scholarship. He specialised in Tudor history, writing a thesis on King Henry VIII's household. From Cambridge, he moved to the London School of Economics, where he was a lecturer in history until 1998. He has written several books on the Tudors. While a regular contributor to the BBC Radio 4 debate programme The Moral Maze, his acerbic tongue earned him the sobriquet of "rudest man in Britain"; he has also appeared on Question Time. Starkey has presented several historical documentaries for Channel 4. In 2002, he signed a £2 million contract with Channel 4 for 25 hours of programming, and in 2011 was a contributor on the channel's Jamie's Dream School series. Starkey was censured for comments he made during a podcast interview with Darren Grimes in June 2020 that was perceived as racist, for which he later apologised. Immediately afterwards, he resigned as an honorary fellow of his alma mater, Fitzwilliam College, had several honorary doctorates and fellowships revoked, book contracts and memberships of learned societies cancelled, and his Medlicott Medal withdrawn.

David Starkey



Until 2008

  • In fact, they go so far as to differentiate their status between inner scholarii – who have been inducted into the mysteries as Elton's own students – and discipuli, an outer and less privileged band who have only sat at his feet, without the benefit of formal instruction. Long ago, in my own very happy days in Elton's seminar, we used to divide the group into Eltonians and Eltonettes. These were roughly to be equated with 'us' and 'them', English and Americans. Eltonians, we thought, grasped the essence of what Elton was trying to do without needing to imitate the style; Eltonettes reproduced the form to the last perfection of pedantry, but caught nothing of the substance. There is too much in this volume that confirms our arrogance.


  • [Shakespeare's date of birth (23 April) as a potential English national day] If we decide to go down this route of an English national day, it will mean we have become a feeble little country, just like the Scots and the Welsh and the Irish [...]
    We do not make a great fact about Shakespeare, like the Scots do about that deeply boring, provincial poet Burns, and we do not have national music like the awful bagpipe. The Scots and the Welsh are typical small nations with a romantic 19th-century-style nationalism.
  • [On Enoch Powell's 'rivers of blood' speech] His prophesy was absolutely right in one sense. The Tiber did not foam with blood but flames lambent, they wrapped around Tottenham and wrapped around Clapham.
    But it wasn't inter-community violence. This is where he was absolutely wrong. [Referring to another participant in the discussion, Owen Jones, author of Chavs: the Demonisation of the Working Classes] What has happened is that a substantial section of the chavs that you wrote about have become black.
  • The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion and black and white boys and girls operate in this language together.
    This language which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that has been intruded in England and that is why so many of us have this sense of literally of a foreign country.
  • [The governments "British values" should include] queuing, drunkenness, nostalgia, loving pets, self-loathing, wit and eccentricity.
  • We're at great risk of dying of niceness [...] I hate niceness.
  • Freedom of speech wasn’t won by being nice, it has been won by struggle with religion.
  • [Advocating for 'leave' in the then forthcoming EU membership referendum] We have a very large trade deficit with Europe, we have a decent trade balance with the rest of the world. Is Europe going to cut off its nose to spite its face? It seems to me so infinitely unlikely. There's no risk.
    There would be a risk if we were running a German-style trade surplus with Europe. But we're not. The problem of our leaving Europe is a problem for the Germans and not us.
  • What are the points of comparison? Well, we have a political movement that has a single historic explanation for why your country is facing such terrible oppression; it’s either Versailles or the Treaty of the Union. You have a particular group of people who are responsible for this; it is either the English or the Jews.
  • You have as a symbol the twisted cross: the saltire or the swastika. You have a passionate belief in economic self-sufficiency: known by the Nazis as autarky and the Scots as oil.
    And also you have the propensity of your elderly and middle-aged male supporters to expose their knees.
  • [The English, particularly some on the left, are] incapable of recognising that this is national socialism. And the nationalism is much more important than the socialism, as it was in Germany. The socialism is a very fragile, superficial thing. The nationalism is very real.
  • Slavery was not genocide otherwise there wouldn't be so many damn blacks in Africa or Britain would there? An awful lot of them survived.
  • There’s no point in arguing against globalisation or Western civilisation – they are all products of it. We are all products of it [...] The honest teaching of the British empire is to say it was the first key stage of world globalisation. It was probably the most important moment in human history and it is still with us.
    As for the idea that slavery is this terrible disease that dare not speak its name. It only dare not speak its name because we settled it 200 years ago.
    Do you know what, we had Catholic emancipation at pretty much the exact same time we got rid of slavery – in the 1830s - we don’t go on about that.
  • The entire machinery of academic promotion and academic endorsement and of academic advancement has been taken over, and therefore heretics like me have to be routed out. It's very similar to what happened to German universities under Hitler. The group that is most vulnerable, I'm afraid, are intellectuals.
    Right over the country, you have these kinds of implantations of Metropolitan wokeness. The universities are acting rather like Covid spreaders, these are the super spreaders.
    These people wear a cloak of impenetrable virtue. We've been here before. This is Robespierre.
  • I've always had a naughty streak. I've always challenged authority. I'm on the right but it's kind of ironic on the right. I've studied kings, so I’m very aware of the feet of clay of authority.
  • In the name of acceptance, of broadening, of anti-discrimination, we're at the risk of undoing what is our only claim to survive in the future. The only thing that's made these little islands what they are is this astonishing burst of creativity of the last 500 years.
    It is our individualism, it's our bloody mindedness, our awkwardness, our refusal to fit into categories that has made us, dare I use the word, great. And if we lose that we are lost, we have absolutely nothing else.
    The world that my enemies are trying to create is one that we will just go down the tubes, we are finished. I believe in going down fighting.


  • [Responding to a suggestion Prime minister Rishi Sunak appeared to be "detached, or at least semi-detached, from this coronation" from journalist Andrew Pierce] Invisible. I think one of the reasons that I think a lot has gone wrong, for example, why parliament has not been properly represented at the coronation of a parliamentary monarchy, is because the government isn't interested in the constitution.
    The prime minister, the man of immense talent, of extraordinary skill, but really, not fully grounded in our culture [...] I know that's a difficult and controversial thing to say, but I think it's true. And, again, this coronation is going to highlight far too much our differences rather than what unites us.
  • Movements like critical race theory and Black Lives Matter are not what they pretend to be.
    They are attempts at destroying the entire legitimacy of the Western political and cultural tradition.
    The idea that they are there to defend black lives is a preposterous notion. They do not care about black lives, they only care about the symbolic destruction of white culture. We have to be absolutely clear about this.
    The narrative of Black Lives Matter is that Western culture and Anglo-American culture in particular are fundamentally morally defective, they are characterised by the mark of Cain and their strategy is to do exactly what was done to German culture because of Nazism and the Holocaust.
  • The determination is to replace the Holocaust with slavery. In other words, this is why Jews are under such attack from the left, there’s jealousy, fundamentally. There is jealousy of the moral primacy of the Holocaust and a determination to replace it with slavery.
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