'Multiculturalism is pernicious. It focuses on what separates people'

October 14, 2005

Michael Burleigh says the approach both reflects a lack of curiosity and promotes a culture of victimhood

Former academic historian and self-described "Right Liberal" Michael Burleigh this week made the headlines at a Times Higher -sponsored talk in which he criticised multiculturalism as promoting victimhood.

The former distinguished research professor in modern history at Cardiff University was speaking at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival marking the publication of his book Earthly Powers . It examines religion and politics in Europe from the French Revolution to 1918. A follow-up, Sacred Causes , is in progress.

Mr Burleigh highlighted the richness of Western civilisation rooted in Christianity, and argued at the festival that multiculturalism was pernicious in effectively focusing on what separates people and emphasising specific groups' grievances.

"It reflects a depressing lack of curiosity about the host civilisation," he said.

Mr Burleigh left academe two years ago after the runaway success of his book The Third Reich: A New History . "I prefer the benevolent autocracy of newspapers to universities, where the least capable people always have the most to say," he said.

He describes himself as at the cutting edge of modern history, "working in the debris of Marxism and postmodernism". And he predicts that the UK will follow the trend of the US, with donors funding independent think-tanks in university to combat political bias.

"It's a totally healthy development, and it will happen."

Olga Wojtas Michael Burleigh's Earthly Powers: The Conflict between Religion and Politics from the French Revolution to the Great War (HarperCollins) is out now.

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