Cambridge investigates its slavery links

University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is to investigate its own historical links with slavery and will examine how it might have gained financially.

It has launched a two-year study that will examine its archives to see whether it gained from the slave trade.

Universities have faced questions about the legacy of links to slavery.

“It is only right that Cambridge should look into its own exposure to the profits of coerced labour,” said vice-chancellor Stephen Toope.

“We cannot change the past, but nor should we seek to hide from it,” said Prof Toope, who wants the process to help the university “acknowledge its role during that dark phase of human history.”

An advisory group has been appointed, chaired by Prof Martin Millett and based in the Centre of African Studies, which will examine the university’s archives, libraries and museums to find connections with slavery.

“We cannot know at this stage what exactly it will find but it is reasonable to assume that, like many large British institutions during the colonial era, the university will have benefited directly or indirectly,” said Prof Millett.

“The benefits may have been financial or through other gifts.

“But the panel is just as interested in the way scholars at the university helped shape public and political opinion, supporting, reinforcing and sometimes contesting racial attitudes which are repugnant in the 21st Century.”

It will also consider how the university might make reparation for any links to the legacy of the slave trade – whether in symbolic terms, such as monuments or re-naming buildings, or in funding bursaries or foundations.

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