Badenoch criticizes London plague study following MP’s accusation of it being ‘woke archaeology’.

A study examining the ethnicities of plague victims in 14th-century London has been criticized by Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister. The research, described as “woke archaeology,” raised concerns about its potential impact on trust in modern health services. Badenoch has written a letter expressing her concerns to the director of the Museum of London, where the lead author of the study is based.

During a discussion on equalities in the Commons, Conservative MP Philip Hollobone mentioned the study and urged Badenoch, who is also the business secretary, to prevent such research findings from influencing current health and pandemic policies. In response, Badenoch agreed with Hollobone’s assessment of the research as damaging to trust and social cohesion. She also emphasized the importance of addressing the concerns raised in her letter to the Museum of London.

The study, published in the journal Bioarchaeology International, analyzed the remains of 145 individuals buried in London plague cemeteries, 49 of whom died from the plague. By comparing skull features and using a forensic databank, the study estimated the likely heritage of those who died. It found that individuals of African heritage were disproportionately affected by the plague compared to individuals of European or Asian ancestry. The authors suggested considering structural racism in this type of research, drawing parallels to the higher death rates among certain minority ethnic groups during the Covid pandemic.

Badenoch disputed the claim that the study was based on phrenology, a discredited practice of determining character through skull examinations. In her letter to the Museum of London, she criticized the sample size of the study and expressed concern about the potential damage caused by perpetuating the idea of structural racism being a factor in health outcomes even after 700 years.

Finally, Badenoch stressed the importance of accurate and reliable information for ethnic minority communities regarding health outcomes. She emphasized the need to build trust and confidence in healthcare institutions and cautioned against promoting fear and conspiracy theories surrounding disparities in health outcomes.

The Museum of London confirmed receiving Badenoch’s letter and stated that they have responded directly to her.

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