To the extent that historians informed the project’s discussion of the crucial period between 1775 and 1865, the Times has remained entirely non-transparent. Hannah-Jones has declined to specify which experts she consulted for her essay, and the only public acknowledgement of any outside review to date has come from Leslie Harris, the historian the Times recruited to fact-check her arguments about slavery’s role in the American Revolution – and then promptly ignoredwhen Harris advised against publishing the claim. Desmond’s essay sources its interpretation to seven academic historians who are quoted in the article. Yet all seven are affiliated with the “New History of Capitalism” (NHC) movement – an insular and ideological school of slavery scholars that emerged in the last decade, and that has fared poorly under scrutiny of its own arguments about slavery’s economic dimensions. Desmond’s essay is, at best, a sloppy cribbing of NHC arguments that most other economists and non-NHC historians of slavery already found wanting and rejected.
While authoritarian governments commonly criminalize gatherings of potential dissidents, meeting to oppose the current batch of seat-warmers in favor of your own lot is essential to the democratic experience in nominally free countries. It’s also a fundamental right to gather with friends, co-religionists, colleagues, and family as part of civil society—the sections of the world that matter, beyond the boundaries of government.
But Britain’s restrictions on assembly pale in comparison to the pre-crime arrests police in the Australian state of Victoria made of those who just advocated public demonstrations against government policy.