THE University of Manchester will continue to house as history books written by a Holocaust denier, David Irving, in its library, despite a written objection from the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams, over their “falsification” and anti-Semitic content.
In a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Malcolm Press, seen by Christian Today last week, Lord Williams wrote that experts had condemned the works as “undeserving of the name of history”, and being characterised by the “deliberate falsification” of material.
“Of course, students should be allowed to read it for approved academic purposes, but there is, it seems to me, a strong case for shelving or labelling it independently to clarify its nature. And not doing so could be open to the challenge that its presence without such clarification could be experienced as threatening by Jewish members of the University.”
Manchester University has since stated that the books will remain on display in the history section, while it “investigat[es] ways to re-catalogue” its library. Students should be allowed to access “challenging and controversial works” to pursue their studies, but this does not compromise the university’s “fundamental rejection of discrimination”, a statement says.
Lord Williams responded on Monday: “No one is advocating censorship. But the clear differentiation of deliberately distorted pseudo-history from genuine academic work is appropriate both for academic reasons and for reasons of fairness to members of the university community.”
The former interreligious affairs adviser to the Church of England, Canon Guy Wilkinson, agreed. The issue was not about student access to this material, but about “the terms” under which the access is granted.
“I am surprised that the university seems willing to risk damage to their reputation in being praised by such as David Irving rather than make a sensible adjustment to meet a point which is clear to everyone: that real history should be distinguished clearly from propaganda.”
Earlier this year, Churchill College, Cambridge, removed a book by Mr Irving after a complaint by a visiting academic, Dr Irene Lancaster, who established Jewish history on the syllabus at Manchester in 2000.
“Retaining Holocaust denial works, uncategorised, on the shelves of history or science departments, puts at risk the reputation of academic institutions,” she said this week, “particularly as in the current situation where David Irving on his website applauds Manchester University for defending academic freedom.”
A libel case brought by Mr Irving against the author Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, in 2000, which Mr Irving lost, was the subject of the film Denial.