Cambridge University finds it derived ‘significant benefits’ from slave trade | University of Cambridge

Cambridge University derived ‘significant benefits’ from the transatlantic slave trade, although there is no evidence the university owned any slaves or slave plantations, according to new research investigating its historical links with slavery.

The research, commissioned in 2019 by Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope, highlighted the huge investments made by Cambridge colleges in companies heavily involved in the slave trade, such as the East India Company and the South Sea Company, as well as the wealth derived from slavery by the university’s graduates, scholars, and benefactors as recently as the 1850s.

“The research found no evidence that the university owned slave plantations or slaves directly. However, it identified significant benefits to the university and its colleges from investing in companies that participated in the trade, individual benefactors and fees from the families of plantation owners,” the university said in its announcement to the publication.

In response, Cambridge will create and fund a ‘Legacies of Slavery’ research center to continue investigations, as well as increase financial support for black students, with dedicated scholarships for postgraduate students from Africa and scholarships. Caribbean, alongside increased efforts to recruit and promote black people. Staff.

The university also plans to commission artwork to celebrate its black graduates and commemorate staff and students who campaigned for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade, often against what Toope described. as “deeply rooted attitudes and practices” within the university community. which “underlie the practice of slavery”.

“It’s not in our gift to right historical wrongs, but we can start by acknowledging them,” Toope said. “Having exposed our university’s ties to an appalling history of abuse, the report encourages us to work even harder to address current inequalities – especially those tied to the experiences of Black communities.”

The report details investments made by individual colleges such as Gonville & Caius, Trinity and King’s, with several investing in companies directly involved during the height of the Atlantic slave trade. In other cases, the colleges received donations from large investors in colonial enterprises such as the Royal African Company, the South Sea Company and the East India Company.

“Such financial involvement both helped facilitate the slave trade and brought very significant financial benefits to Cambridge,” the researchers noted.

The university’s famous Fitzwilliam Museum was “founded on money inherited from a governor of the South Seas Company, a slave trade”, the report notes. The museum will hold an exhibition next year on slavery and power using objects from the university’s collection.

But the ties weren’t just financial: the report said the slaver brother of an 18th-century master of Gonville & Caius “named a slave ‘Caius’ in honor of his brother’s college.”

The report’s authors said “Cambridge’s involvement in imperialism and slavery is extremely complex” and defies easy analysis. He noted that “persuasive voices have called for financial reparations”, but recommended the university examine how it can “make a difference for communities affected by the legacy of slavery”.

The Cambridge report is the latest in a series of investigations into university investment and donations from the wealth gained through colonial-era slavery and exploitation. The University of Oxford continues to battle controversy over the legacy of Cecil Rhodes, whose bequest established the Rhodes Scholarship Fund and supported Oriel College, which maintains a statue of Rhodes overlooking High Street from Oxford.