KENDAL born David Starkey has issued an apology after saying slavery was not genocide because there are "so many damn blacks" still around.

In a lengthy statement on Monday, Starkey admitted his "bad mistake" has cost him "every distinction and honour acquired in a long career".

He said his "principal regret" was that his "blundering use of language" could endanger people's right to freedom of speech.

Speaking about his use of the phrase "so many damn blacks", he said: "It was intended to emphasise, in hindsight with awful clumsiness, the numbers who survived the horrors of the slave trade.

"Instead, it came across as a term of racial abuse.

"This, in the present atmosphere, where passions are high and feelings raw, was deplorably inflammatory.

"It was a bad mistake.

"I am very sorry for it and I apologise unreservedly for the offence it caused.

"I have also paid a heavy price for one offensive word with the loss of every distinction and honour acquired in a long career.

"Moreover, this misunderstanding of my words in no way reflects my views or practice on race."

Mr Starkey is the honorary president of the Kendal Historical and Archaeological Society who are currently considering his position with the group.