Leader: Answer to the 'experts'

January 26, 2007

This week's row over whether the suffragettes should be considered terrorists will soon be forgotten, but the exchanges are significant for what they say about the relationship between academics and self-appointed "experts" in the wider world. Until recently, an amateur historian - albeit one with a PhD and articles to his name in refereed journals - would probably not have been taken seriously attacking reputable academics without significant backing from within the university world. The BBC History Magazine recognises a newsworthy dispute, however, and presumably judges the arguments of Christopher Bearman on their merits. Academics are used to having their views challenged and should be able to defend themselves against the likes of Dr Bearman. The spat suggests that they will have to do so more regularly in future if every opinion is to be judged on liveliness rather than authority.

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