“What the British seem to like are television historians and naturalists, not public intellectuals. You can’t help feeling that’s because one supplies narrative and the other supplies facts, and the British are traditionally empiricists so they/we have a resistance to theory and to theoreticians playing too prominent a role in public life.
“Intellectuals do exist in this country and have existed. If you think of the Foucaults and Derridas in France, we have our Terry Eagletons and Colin MacCabes. People such as Niall Ferguson and Simon Schama: think of them what you will, but they’re not lightweights – though they’re not necessarily high-order theoreticians.