Remember Orlando Figes? Remember what he got up to?

The future of one of Britain’s leading historians was looking increasingly uncertain tonight after he admitted that he was the author of anonymous reviews that praised his own work as “fascinating” and “uplifting” while rubbishing that of his rivals.

Oh that. He used a pseudonym to trash people. This was considered a bad thing. Not an excusable little lapse in manners, but a seriously bad thing.

John Sutherland, professor of English at University College London, suggested Figes’s position at Birkbeck could be under threat. “On the whole academics are pretty tolerant,” he said. “Clearly in the present climate he’s a star, and Birkbeck needs stars because of the upcoming research assessment exercise. They’ll find it easy to prove that he provides impact. On the other hand, he’s done something that’s dishonest and possibly actionable.”

It’s not the kind of thing an academic ought to do, you see. It could be seen as antipathetic to the values academics ought to support and live by.

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