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Cancel Pitt and you might as well cancel history

A statue of William Pitt the Younger in London. View Pictures/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The latest target in “our current bout of national self-flagellation” is Britain’s youngest-ever prime minister, says Doug Stokes in The Daily Telegraph. A statue of William Pitt the Younger has been earmarked for possible removal by Edinburgh council’s Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review group because of his supposed links with slavery. Pitt was certainly a “complex character”. His disastrous attempt to seize French-owned St Domingue – modern-day Haiti – in 1793 was driven in part by a desire to bolster the slave economy. But he had also spoken out against the slave trade, describing it the previous year as a “curse of mankind” and “the greatest stigma on our national character which ever existed”.

The fact that someone like Pitt is on the “topple list” shows “the cultural revolution’s high priests are running out of targets”. To keep the cancellation count up, they’re taking an increasingly “simplistic” view of history. But nuance is everything. The story of slavery in Britain, for example, cannot be told without acknowledging “the British state’s role in abolishing it”. We are “exceptional” in that regard – as we are in our eagerness for atonement. Do you think the capitals of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, long “the centres of the Barbary slave trade”, have Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review groups? Alas, there appears to be no stopping our “new cultural masters”. If Pitt falls, “surely no other historical figure will be safe”.