Robert Tombs | Are the History Wars Worth Fighting?

Aug 23, 2023 | Announcements, News & Media

Sydney, Wednesday 23 August 2023: Is there a need to contest our history?

Is our past being misrepresented in our schools, cultural institutions, and broader society; leading to the history of the West being presented as one only worthy of shame, apology, and reparations?  

Or are the ‘history wars’ merely an invention of the paranoid, to stir up synthetic controversy and prevent belated recognition of dark sides of our past?

To help explore this vital topic the Ramsay Centre is pleased to announce that eminent UK historian Professor Robert Tombs, founder of the History Reclaimed movement, will deliver our eighth Ramsay Lecture for 2023.

In his lecture Are the History Wars Worth Fighting? Professor Tombs will detail examples of serious historical misrepresentations in the UK and abroad which he sees as evidence of a vast and orchestrated campaign to undermine the history of the West.

Professor Tombs will outline the forces he says are driving this campaign, ranging from intellectual and ideological forces to the professional managerial class, technology, and geopolitics.

And he will examine the cost to society from historical half-truths, whether in the form of violence, a loss of sense of community, or a belief that violence, racism and exploitation in the past is a permanent feature of the West in the present day.

Professor Tombs will argue that while we must recognise difficult aspects of our past we need to “…urge society to remember accurately, fully and honestly, and to understand the vital differences between the past and the present, crucial to understanding both our forebears and ourselves.”

Professor Tombs is a historian at Cambridge, where he is Emeritus Professor of French History and a Fellow of St John’s College. He has served on the Conseil Franco-Britannique and holds the French Palmes Académiques for services to French culture. Recently, he has written The English and Their History (Penguin, 2015), which he has just finished revising to bring it up to 2023, and This Sovereign Isle: Britain in and out of Europe (Penguin, 2022).

He is a frequent commentator on history and politics, including on British, French, and Australian television, and in the New Statesman, The Spectator, Le Monde, the Financial Times, the Australian Financial Review, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, The New York Times, The Times, and The Daily Telegraph

He is also co-editor of the pro-Brexit website Briefings for Britain and in August 2021 he set up an international group of historians called History Reclaimed, to combat the ideological distortion of history.

Ramsay Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines is a member of History Reclaimed, which includes more than 40 senior UK and Anglosphere academics.

“At the Ramsay Centre we believe young people have a right to be taught in a systematic, clear-eyed and even-handed way about their major cultural inheritance,” Professor Haines says. 

“We look forward to this lecture and any debate it encourages about the need for historical accuracy without exception.”

***This will be a live in-person Ramsay Lecture, held at The Gallery Room, State Library of NSW, Macquarie Street Sydney on Tuesday, 12 September 2023 from 5:30pm-7:30pm.

To attend register your interest at:

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098 /