One side-effect of the so-called war on terror has been a crisis of liberalism. This is not only a question of alarmingly illiberal legislation but a more general problem of how the liberal state deals with its anti-liberal enemies.
The British are supposed to be particularly averse to intellectuals a prejudice closely bound up with their dislike of foreigners. Indeed one important source of this Anglo-Saxon distaste for highbrows and eggheads was the French revolution which was seen as an attempt to reconstruct society on the basis of abstract rational principles.
Poetry is the most subtle of the literary arts and students grow more ingenious by the year at avoiding it. If they can nip around Milton duck under Blake and collapse gratefully into the arms of Jane Austen a lot of them will.
With fiction you can talk about plot character and narrative whereas a poem brings home the fact that everything that happens in a work of literature happens in terms of language. And this is daunting stuff to deal with.
It is in Rousseau's writing above all that history begins to turn from upper-class honour to middle-class humanitarianism. Pity sympathy and compassion lie at the centre of his moral vision. Values associated with the feminine begin to infiltrate social existence as a whole rather than being confined to the domestic sphere.
If history philosophy and so on vanish from academic life what they leave in their wake may be a technical training facility or corporate research institute. But it will not be a university in the classical sense of the term and it would be deceptive to call it one.
Dawkins considers that all faith is blind faith and that Christian and Muslim children are brought up to believe unquestioningly. Not even the dim-witted clerics who knocked me about at grammar school thought that.
In the end the humanities can only be defended by stressing how indispensable they are and this means insisting on their vital role in the whole business of academic learning rather than protesting that like some poor relation they don't cost much to be housed.