Leftish historians go out of their way to be nice about Niall Ferguson, the snotty-nosed prickish historian best known to Australians as presenter of the Ascent of Money on the ABC. Almost insanely ambitious, a professor in both the History and Business schools of Harvard, Ferguson specialty this past decade had been an attempt to rehabilitate British imperialism as a positive mission, and to give Americans (in the Bush era) the backbone to take up the white man’s burden.

But the Kissinger-path to Secretary of State he so desperately sought was frustrated by the collapse not only of the Republican Party, but also the failure of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. What’s a History Man to do? Make cute jokes about the President, it seems. Writing in the FT, Ferguson notes that Obama is like Felix the Cat — “he’s black and he’s lucky”. Gosh ha ha, snort snort. No it’s not racist, but it’s the sleazy sort of condescension that allows one to claim innocence when challenged — “these state school types have no sense of humour”.

What could have prompted Ferguson to such a tactless move? Could it that this child of white settlers in Kenya — nostalgia for which is a large part of his imperialist enthusiasm — now finds his ambitions stymied by a man who, had history been otherwise, might have been his servant? No wonder he’s catty.