The Third Leader: Historic struggle

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The Independent Online

Gee, Officer Leonpacher, that's something else you started in downtown Atlanta! The guy in the suit crossing the road in the wrong place, the one with the out-of-town accent, the one you made chew the sidewalk? That was a historian! And, tell me, Officer Leonpacher, who is going to have the last word? That's right!

And it wasn't just any old historian, either, Leonpacher, that you threw in the slammer. That was Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, the distinguished Anglo-Spanish professor whose legendary learning and heroic output is matched only by a courtesy and delicacy of manner besides which even the finest Southern gentleman would seem a touch crass. And, what is more, he is an Independent contributor!

We could go on, Leonpacher. We could say that many of our greatest historians have enjoyed teaching spells over there and that none of them, to our recollection, even the most testing - and here one thinks of the late Dr A L Rowse, who could affect a certain loftiness - was sat on by five police officers.

We could say that America needs all the friends it can get, including an eminent academic who has written its history and has proclaimed that its founding virtues, including friendliness and love of freedom, have survived away from the excesses of Washington.

But. The Prof is out now, and with typically amiable enthusiasm, claims his time spent meeting jail inmates was "a fantastic experience". YouTube has an interview with him which is not only an improvement on its usual output, but also features a large poster of his latest book, The World. And it would all make the most tremendous movie. Leonpacher?