Historians know this: History is a cosy subject. Not for them the spiky problems of pure mathmatics, the micro-dilemmas of chemists or the existential angst of physicists.

Studying history is as cosy as settling into a comfy chair with a good book, mostly because a lot of the work can be done by settling into a comfy chair, with a good book.

When it comes to cosiness, historians have credentials. This fact has not escaped TV Executives, who, when looking for something to fill the restful early evening slots, often turn to history to entertain audiences dulled into post-dinner stupefaction. 

And in years gone by they turned to Neil Oliver, the scarf-wearing Scottish past-master whose windblown hair and dramatic declamation made him the perfect fit to deliver tidbits from days gone by, whether from trenches in a field or cliffs on the coastline.

He was the ultimate comfortable fit for cosy TV. The doyen of light documentary. The thinking man’s Jeremy Clarkson. So what's changed?

Well, it seems answer is – quite a lot. And it began with Scotland and all things Scottish. 

The Herald:

Neil Oliver in his BBC days 

With his place as a champion of the country’s heritage assured, it would seem Oliver was a natural fit for civic life, and the perfect choice to be President of the National Trust for Scotland, the guardians of the nation’s past. 

Oliver assumed the role in 2017, but his pro-union stance during the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum cast a shadow over his appointment, with nationalists gnashing their teeth and launching an 8,000 signature-strong petition calling for his removal. 

READ MORE: TV presenter resigns as Royal Society of Edinburgh fellow

While that came to nothing and he stepped down of his own free will in 2020, the controversy was a taste of things to come, revealing an altogether brasher face than the one the public had seen so far. 

Soon alternative right-wing channel GB News came calling, looking to add some academic glamour to its roster. And Oliver’s downward spiral towards controversy began in earnest.

This week the presenter parted company with the esteemed academics at the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), resigning after it was out to him that his current views “put him at odds with scientific and broader academic learning within the Society”. 

This is a very polite way of saying he left before he was kicked out. And it’s not hard to see why. 

Oliver has drifted a long way from his days as a cheerful presenter on the BBC’s Coast. On GB News, the Renfrew-born broadcaster has become 'Mr Angry from Scotland', filling the air with rabble-rousing rants against "globalists”,  politicians (all of them, his vitriol is not party-specific) and rubbishing the threat of climate change.

The Herald: Neil Oliver has previously said on GB News that weather maps are 'woke'

Neil Oliver presents a show on GB News

On the day of King Charles' Coronation he made a lengthy plea to the new monarch to protect his people by ancient laws ... against the tyranny of elected governments. An unusual take for a historian.

Oliver also hosts his own Youtube channel, with a web-funding page for subscribers, where he rails against “dodgy, corrupted science.” This is the sort of thing that might make the RSE sit up and take notice.  

The learned academics were also likely appalled by Oliver’s presence on social media. A casual glance at his X account – formerly Twitter, though perhaps a large X is indeed appropriate here – is to stand over a yawning chasm of conspiracy.

Links to climate-change deniers go hand in hand with anti-vaccination propaganda and posts by people who have made a career out of stirring up the gullible and easily led.

His activity on the platform has got him in hot water. The Jewish Chronicle reported in May this year how Oliver posted a painting featuring 'Nazi, Satanic, and Illuminati imagery' with reference to the New World Order – a conspiracy involving a shadow totalitarian world government.

Not content with that, the image also featured Jeffrey Epstein, Dr Anthony Fauci (former chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden) the United Nations, and big American pharmaceutical companies.

Writer and broadcaster Matthew Sweet said that the pic seemed “to make mockery of the Holocaust by depicting Bill Gates as a Nazi experimenter with a swastika and IG Farben logo, which is presumably a reference to slave labour in Auschwitz”.

“Think how recently something like this would have caused national outrage. Now it’s just a normal Friday night on Twitter for a host with show on Ofcom regulated television,” Sweet added.

The rabbit hole gets deeper. Earlier this year, Oliver claimed a “silent war” was being waged by generation after generation of politicians to take “total control of the people” and impose a “one-world government”.

Searchlight, the anti-fascist magazine, compared this language to that of a particular 1980s conspiracy theory featuring the Jewish Rothschild family.

This swirling smorgasbord of shadowy figures, of things going on just out of sight, looms large in Oliver’s diatribes - as do any vaguely authoritarian moves by the Government.

In his words, “Net Zero… Digital ID… CBDCs… social credit scores… surveillance societies… 15-minute cities… the policies pursued by all those unelected, unaccountable bodies…" are all part of an organised attempt to subdue the world’s population, although its ultimate aim seems vague.

(Incidentally, CBDCs have nothing to do with CBeebies, thankfully – it stands for ‘Central Bank Digital Currency’. So, money. He’s raging against money).

But it is the Covid pandemic, and the ensuing lockdowns, which are reserved for the fiercest of Oliver’s bile. Something about the restrictions seems to have triggered him to his very core, in ways it's hard to fathom, sending him down some very dark trains of thought.

In 2021, he appeared to compare a lockdown in Austria to Jews blamed by the Nazi regime for spreading typhus in ghettos in occupied Poland, saying: “In Poland in 1941 there was a propaganda campaign that spread the message that Jews spread typhus, a lethal disease. Blaming an identifiable minority for the spread of disease is a ghost we should have laid to rest long ago.” 

He also said “If my freedom means you might catch Covid from me, then so be it.” 

The loss of freedom caused by lockdowns is a subject he returns to again and again, taking it as evidence of out-of-control governments. 

The Herald:

Something about the pandemic triggered Oliver

This week he went further yet, arguing on Youtube that the pandemic was planned as punishment on the British and American people for voting for Brexit and Trump. 

No, really – he said: “Back in 2016, a majority of British voters chose to leave the European Union instead of remaining in thrall to more of that corruption. And at the same time, a majority of Americans voted for Donald Trump  instead of another Clinton. 

“Those events were not in the script. And so enraged were the criminals, by the plot twist, they subjected the millions to the mother of all punishment beatings. 

“I say that if America had voted for Hillary, and Britain had voted to stay in Europe, we would never had had a ‘plandemic’, or the ‘injectables’ or war in Ukraine, or the foot to the floor flecking-at-the-mouth hysteria of climate crisis.” 

(Side note; Trump lost the popular vote by 3m, but hey, ho - why let facts get in the way of a good rant?) 

READ MORE: Why Scotland’s national academy should ‘cancel’ Neil Oliver

The sad truth is that even those of us who lost the most during the pandemic have moved on. Life has returned to normal.  

Masks, daily walks, banging pots and pans once a week for the NHS - even queuing for vaccinations - have all taken on a ‘did we really do all that?’ quality, like a fever dream. One which society long awoke from.  

Yes there are those whose scars which will never fully heal. But like everything, the pain lessens over time. And time has passed.  

The only one still locked in lockdown is Neil Oliver.