Historians and “historians”


This post has very little to do with language.
My opinion of Emma Dabiri, mentioned in my last post, has nose-dived since I wrote that. I’ve now watched the last of the series of ‘Britain’s Lost Masterpieces’, which featured a painting found at Hospitalfield, an arts centre near Arbroath. For a start, she consistently mispronounced its name, adding a final -s which is totally unwarranted. But unforgivably, she said that it was built as a hospital attached to the Benedictine Abbey of Arbroath, but that “the monks were chased away by Henry VIII”.
Ms Dabiri calls herself (or at least she is billed as) a ‘social historian’. To me, this means that she has studied history, and later specialized in social history, having gained a solid grounding in the general subject. She may be Irish, and so not have gone through the British education system, but if she is to make programmes about British history, then surely it behoves her to gain some knowledge of the subject before making such crass errors on screen. I’m sure that 5 million Scots will agree with me.
It is perhaps symptomatic of British education at the moment that noone on the production team spotted the error, and got her to correct it.


  1. The -s is surely due to interference from Spitalfields.

  2. Phillip – I agree that interference is the reason, but couldn’t someone have pointed out the discrepancy? I blame the production company. You must suffer from people mis-spelling your name with a single -l-, which is also due to interference, but I assume that you correct them when necessary.

  3. A lot of presentday television seems to be done with smartphones and bluescreens which means it’s largely DIY with little professional supervision. Drowning speech in music. The list goes on for ever.

  4. Sidney – I think you’re right, but unfortunately, the series I’m talking about here had apparently high production standards, but clearly the same low professional supervision, despite the claimed expertise of the participants. Are the technicians who are supposed to be checking dazzled by the ‘stars’ and so daren’t question them?

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.