Is academic snobbery to blame in the Figes affair?





[Jonathan Jones writes on art for the Guardian and is on the jury for the 2009 Turner prize]

Someone has to put in a good word for the historian Orlando Figes in the affair of the Amazon comments, and it may as well be me. As Tacitus wrote long ago, I am free from the usual pressures to be biased.

I have no connections with university departments, nor have I met any of the feuding scholars. I am, however, their target audience: a general reader who has found a great deal to admire in the works of Figes, especially his history of the Russian revolution, A People's Tragedy....

I have a horrible feeling that behind this disaster lies a rebirth of insular academic snobbery, the resentment of a popular historian. I find myself thinking of the episode of Peep Show in which an academic urges Mark Corrigan to write an attack on Simon Schama – "and his interesting, accessible books".



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