Quillette Podcast 25 – Professor Robert Tombs on Why the English Intelligentsia Hates Brexit

Toby Young talks to Robert Tombs, Cambridge history professor, about why he supports Brexit, why so many of his colleagues don’t, whether the English intelligentsia’s loathing of their country is a uniquely English characteristic, and what their reaction is likely to be if the United Kingdom does eventually leave the European Union. Robert Tombs is the author of The English and Their History, described by David Frum as “a book for our times that should become the standard text for the century to come,” and co-editor of Briefings For Brexit.


  1. Harald Waldrauch says

    I really quite enjoy a lot of the content produced by/for Quillette, but this episode of its podcast is a perfect example of why it still has a long way to go before it can be considered a critical, ideologically non-biased, evidence-based, centrist media platform. This was not an interview at all, but rather an airing of conservative grievances and exchange of cliches (the intelligentsia loathing their own country; a loss of pride to be British; the impossibility of voicing the “truth” about why Brexit is good; schools are responsible for people not being able to see how good the UK is; etc.). Toby Young is not an interviewer – the only thing he does is provide prompts for his guests to voice the views which he wants them to voice (because they are 100% his own). There was no critical questioning of Tombs’s arguments for Brexit at all, and no consideration of the plethora of arguments for remaining in the EU.
    If Quillette wants to be seen as a truly heterodox platform, then it should avoid erring systematically on the conservative side and pretty much exclusively invite guests from that side (the left does not consist solely of the far-left justice warriors!!). Have an exchange of ideas, don’t get stuck in repeating the same points over and over and over again!

    • citizen49a says

      Since the podcast is titled “Professor Robert Tombs on Why the English Intelligentsia Hates Brexit,” that’s what I expected to hear about. I was not disappointed.

      It sounds as if you were seeking a debate on the merits versus disadvantages of Brexit, rather than what is offered and presented here.

      • bttrscotchcloud says

        so it seems Quillette is yet another web media echo chamber after all. at least 4chan has anime titties.

    • Brett McSweeney says

      As opposed to the modern form of interview where an ignorant showboat interrupts and talks over an interviewee who has a hundred times the mental power and knowledge, and an interesting perspective to convey, if only the “interviewer” would let him do so. No thanks.

  2. Peter Kriens says

    I agree that the interview is way to cozy, Young is making points that are commented upon by Tombs. As long as I listened, Tombs was never challenged. A pity because if I want listen to a love fest I can go to Vox et. al.

  3. Gawil says

    Hardly a question goes unbegged!

    Lots of a criticism of remain arguments via a rather Marxist analysis of the class interests of what they refer to throughout as a monolithic ‘intelligensia’. A handy straw man but a strange intellectual byway for these two.

  4. An exploration of views by informed folk is worth listening to. Debate and “being challenged” is not required in all venues. I found the interview (discussion really) civil and informed.

  5. This podcast was thin stuff – why Robert Tombs supports Brexit when the majoirty of teh British Intelligensia does not. There turned out to be 3 reasons. First the assertion that the european union creates irresolvable opposition by its existence. This was not explained and the impression was of an almost mystical belief in the unique nature of opposition to the EU. The second reason was the paradoxical assertion that because Britain has suceeded in increasing trade with the rest of the world as part of the EU this meant that in order to continue trading outside the EU Britain need to leave the EU. Teh thiord reason was that staying within teh EU involves being anti-British, being ashamed of Britain and British culture and supporting foreigners against the British.

    This third reason was what motivated me to reply. It is the antithesis of what I think Quillette stands portraying the other side of the argument as not simply wrong but evil and malignly motivated. Anyone who lives in Britaian knows that this argument is made constantly with those who do not wish to remain called traitors, treasonous and Quislings. Professor Tombs did not say this but it is the same argument expressed more politely. Oddly in making this argument the assertion was made that England was an independant sovereign nation showing a suprising lack of concern for British history and begging the question as to why membership of the EU is unpatriotic for an englishman but membership of the Unietd Kingdom is not.

    Is this really the extent of the pro-leave intelligensia’s leave case? Ther emust be more to it than that and giving sich a case might be intresting.

    The podcast left me unsatisified by teh threadbare natur eof the ideas and annoyed by the demonisation of opposition to leave as unpatriotic traitors intent on supporting foreigners above their nation. This is exactly what the illiberal left do at the moment demonising opposition as racist and sexist.

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