UK

Jeremy Paxman Weighs Into Michael Gove Blackadder Row

16/01/2014 10:02 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

Jeremy Paxman has accused the education secretary of "misquoting" a Cambridge University professor in the row about how programmes like Blackadder portray the First World War.

Speaking at a preview of his new BBC1 series, Britain’s Great War, Paxman said he supported the idea of showing the programme to encourage pupils to talk about the war ahead of its 100th anniversary.

jeremy paxman

Michael Gove caused controversy earlier this month when he said shows like Blackadder have whitewashed Germany of blame for World War One, and eradicated national pride in the Great War.

In an extraordinary denunciation, he attacked Cambridge historian Professor Sir Richard Evans as a leftwing academic who was happy to "feed the myth" perpetuated by Blackadder, that the war was a "misbegotten shambles [and] series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite".

Evans later said the attack showed Gove's "ignorance of history".

michael gove

The Newsnight presenter said: "I think he wilfully misquoted Richard Evans, the Cambridge historian, and rather unfairly I think.'

Paxman said he had no problem with the Rowan Atkinson show being used to encourage schoolchildren to talk about the war, "as long as it was not taught as fact. It’s not fact. It was a brilliant comedy."

He said that many people’s understanding of the war was that "this whole thing was a disaster foisted upon people by a governing class which had no instinctive understanding of the plight of ordinary people."

"I do not believe that to be the case," he said. "If you read the accounts of ordinary soldiers, it seems to me in the early stages of the war there was a conviction that the war was a justified enterprise.

"Michael Gove uses this phrase a 'just war'. I don’t really want to get into the theology of a just war because I don’t really understand it, but I’m not sure it’s a really helpful phrase. But an understandable war, yes."