David Butterfield

David Butterfield is a Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge

What would it mean to ‘decolonise’ the Classics?

We classicists peering into the past can sometimes be blindsided by the present. 2020 brings the charge that our discipline promotes racism. Last month, America’s Society for Classical Studies announced ‘the complicity of Classics as a field in constructing and participating in racist and anti-black educational structures and attitudes’. A pre-doctoral fellow at Princeton has

Two athletes who took on the fells – and won

In a summer where sport as we know it has been cruelly cancelled, opportunities to celebrate athletic heroism are hard to seek. But today, not one but two titanic achievements occurred independently – and only a few miles from each other. Both have a strong chance of being the country’s most impressive running feats of

Countryfile is wrong about racism and the countryside

At last, with the partial easing of lockdown, we have the consolation of an escape into the countryside. There, in the unquestioning simplicity of it all, we can leave society’s struggles behind. A sweet idea, but now rather behind the times, as shown by BBC Countryfile’s recent stirring into action. In its programme last night,

The 10,000th

40 min listen

This week, the Spectator commemorates its 10,000th edition. On the podcast, Cindy Yu speaks to David Butterfield and Fraser Nelson about the magazine’s two centuries of history, finding out about how the publication started, discussing whether it is still the same now as it was originally intended, and hearing about what David calls its ‘industrial

The Spectator’s archives are full of surprises

The Spectator now has now reached a milestone unmatched in the global press, by becoming the first magazine to publish a 10,000th issue. To do justice to the history of the world’s oldest weekly magazine is a complex, perhaps even foolhardy task. Having spent the last three years piecing together its past, I can confirm

The Spectator’s love affair with satire

The Spectator has always known when and how to wield the scalpel. A tour through its history reveals how, from the get-go, it mercilessly parodied the world in which it lived. When still six weeks young, The Spectator savaged the morbid obsessions of late-Georgian society. The caricaturist George Cruikshank exposed the press’s fetishisation of a

Why The Spectator is a true survivor

As print titles battle logistical disruption and falling sales from Covid-19, it’s worth saluting The Spectator’s long-lasting tenacity. It has appeared without fail now for 192 years, week in, week out. Its publication has continued through both world wars, numerous strikes and protests, power cuts, cholera outbreaks and terrorist attacks. Today, even as the country

The case for a national hardship fund

As normal life rapidly shuts up shop around us, there’s a need to salvage something positive from the chaos. So perhaps there’s a good story yet to be written about that oldest but most unfashionable of virtues, charity. Before you roll your eyes, I am not saying that, in a time of such sudden and

Oxford is in danger of making an epic mistake

Sparks are flying across Oxford quads: an alarming proposal is afoot to make the study of Homer and Virgil, the two most influential poets of the ancient world, optional for Classics students. So why has it become national news for one university course to stop treating two ancient authors as compulsory set texts? Most of

Please, leave the Lake District out of identity politics

In these times of political upheaval, we have at least one consolation – that we can escape into the countryside and leave petty partisanship behind. That’s a sweet idea, but now rather behind the times. Richard Leafe, Chief Executive of the Lake District, has announced that the country’s largest and most popular national park needs

Pub names

An easy one: what links Jack Straw’s Castle, The Labouring Boys and The Jolly Taxpayer? No, not the parliamentary expenses scandal of yesteryear, but the weird and whimsical world of British pub names. It was in 1393 that Richard II ordered brewers to announce their beery business by a prominent sign. Colourful names quickly abounded,

Cambridge’s slavery inquiry will raise more questions than it answers

Can the past hold the present to ransom? Can we be culpable for our predecessors’ actions? Knotty questions of this kind have long been debated in British universities. But now these abstractions are finding new and controversial expression. Yesterday, the University of Cambridge made headlines by launching an academic investigation into its historical relationship – direct


There are piles of stones and then there are piles of stones. Anyone can place one rock upon another, but it takes a special endeavour to get the Ordnance Survey to take notice. Once a clutch of cartographers formally recognise a cairn, it will stay mapped for centuries, if not millennia. Wander around Britain’s fells,

A tribute to Woolworths, the naff hero of the high street

Won’t somebody think of the Woolwennials this weekend? Precisely one decade has passed since Britain lost the true hero of the high street. And for those aged over 24, whose childhood weekends were wasted in its labyrinth of kitsch, this Woolworths anniversary stirs up communal grief. So spare a knowing nod to fellow rustlers of

What’s the truth about university grade inflation?

It’s a well-worn complaint that universities are dishing out firsts as never before. Today, a report by the Office for Students (OfS) confirms the true extent of ‘grade inflation’ at our universities: 124 of the 148 higher-education providers they assessed in England show ‘a statistically significant unexplained increase’ in the proportion of firsts and 2.1s awarded, compared

No satisfaction

Should university students really feel ‘satisfied’? Or would we rather they felt challenged? For the honchos of higher education, the answer is clear — and alarming. The National Student Survey (NSS), which was introduced in 2005, collects data that allows crude comparisons to be made between universities. The survey asks 300,000 final-year undergraduates to answer

British street names

You know where you are with a British street name. I don’t mean literally. I mean there’s a tacit humility to our islands’ hodonyms: they are short, simple and unpretentious. Not for us the long-winded commemorations of national heroes or local worthies: no Avenue du Révérend Père Corentin Cloarec or Burgemeester Baron van Voerst van