Tread lightly or stomp heavily? 1

February 9, 2007

I am glad that Christopher Bearman (Letters, February 2) states that the "accuracy" and the "quality" of his scholarship on the suffragette movement are issues for debate. But he is incorrect in claiming that I "surreptitiously obtained" a letter he wrote and sent to a third party for publication. That third party declined to publish it but gave me a copy.

In that letter, Bearman states that I, a professor employed in a British university with my salary paid out of public funds, have a duty to be a responsible historian and if I ignore that duty in order to pursue a feminist agenda then that is a public scandal that needs to be addressed by my superiors.

I take this to mean that university vice-chancellors should not be employing feminist academics. Is Bearman now embarrassed or ashamed by what he wrote? Would he extend his argument to scholars who are Marxist, socialist, liberal, conservative, mainstream or whatever? All historians have a duty to carefully weigh a wide range of evidence. It is in the interpretation of evidence that feminist historians will differ from many others as we challenge the old masculinist and sexist paradigms that still linger.

Bearman also claims in his Times Higher letter that he has been the subject of "bullying, harassment and intimidation". Certainly not from me. I do not write to him, nor do I have his e-mail address. If he is levelling these charges against The Times Higher then there are procedures to follow to address the matter. Or are his claims merely a smokescreen to hide his views about feminist academics?

June Purvis
Portsmouth University

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