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Roman Britain, Mary Beard, and the battle for control of the past

As a recent row makes clear, many of us don’t like to be challenged on our views of the past. I asked experts why the historical record can provoke such anger—and how they plan to dispel the myths

By Jack Hunter  

Historian Mary Beard with her OBE medal in 2013. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Archive/PA Images

As bizarre as our political discussion has become in recent times, it’s still unusual to see the history of Roman Britain on the frontline of debate. But last week, an ugly online row broke out after alt-right apparatchik Paul Joseph Watson seized upon a BBC Teach video that showed a dark-skinned man in Roman Britain, claiming it was an “historically inaccurate” attempt to force 21st century multiculturalism on Britain’s ancient past.

Acclaimed historian Mary Beard…

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