It is wrong to remove David Irving's books because he is controversial
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This week, news of an attempt to remove the works of the historian David Irving from the shelves of Manchester University’s library emerged. Irving is a biographer of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich but is politely labelled ‘controversial’ by the media because he openly admires the Nazi regime. His many books on the subject, most notably Hitler’s War, can be found in most British universities and many bookshops, though they are more difficult to get a hold of overseas, especially in countries in which Irving is himself banned from visiting. Manchester University defended its decision to house Irving’s work, saying in a statement that it is ‘committed to allowing our students to have access to challenging and controversial works on many different subjects in order to pursue their studies.' I shouldn’t need to say anything more, but now the campaign has been backed by a high-profile public figure, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Doctor Rowan Williams, and because it is the latest incident in a worrying trend in which universities are becoming increasing censorious places. This case is particularly tricky in that Irving is himself very difficult to defend. As well as openly admiring the Third Reich, he frequently expounds his loathing of Jews, women, and people of colour, and as the judge concluded in the Lipstadt Trial which exposed him to a wider audience, is an active Holocaust Denier. The trial was letter dramatised in the 2016 film Denial. I would contend slightly with the judge’s decision, having looked into Irving for a university history essay on Holocaust Denial last year, one which I couldn’t have written without unfettered access to his work. But let me be clear in that I am defending Irving’s right for his books to be freely available, and not his character or views.
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