Cambridge University claims to have profited from the slave trade

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Britain’s Cambridge University said on Thursday it had benefited from the proceeds of slavery throughout its history and promised to extend scholarships to black students and fund more research into the murderous trade.

Recognition comes as a series of leading institutions – from the Bank of England to the Church of England – reassessed the central role that slavery played in the enrichment of Britain and how they benefited from its injustices.

Cambridge said an investigation it commissioned found no evidence that the university itself ever directly owned slaves or plantations. But the results showed he received “significant benefits” from slavery.

These came from university benefactors who got their money from the slave trade, university investments in participating companies, and fees from plantation-owning families, according to the inquiry report.

Researchers found scholars from Cambridge colleges were involved in the East India Company, while Royal African Company investors also had ties to Cambridge – two companies both active in the slave trade.

The university also received donations from investors in both companies, and also invested directly in another company active in the slave trade, the South Sea Company, according to the document, which was produced by a group of Cambridge scholars.

“Such financial involvement both helped to facilitate the slave trade and brought very significant financial benefits to Cambridge,” the Legacies of Enslavement report states.

He also said that while notable abolitionists such as William Wilberforce were educated at Cambridge and developed their campaigns there, their full legacies needed to be examined further, while prominent members of the university also championed the intellectual foundations of the slave trade.

HISTORICAL FAULTS

Several people are also memorialized at the university without reference to their involvement, according to the report.

A statue of William Pitt the Younger, a college deputy who was prime minister in the late 18th century, makes no reference to his efforts to block abolitionism or restore slavery in post-revolution Haiti.

Meanwhile, the Fitzwilliam Museum was founded with money and artwork inherited from a South Sea Company Governor.

In response to the report, the university said the museum would hold an exhibition on slavery and power in 2023, while the Cambridge Museum of Archeology and Anthropology had recommended that its Benin bronzes, taken during violent military campaign in the 19th century from a territory that later became part of modern Nigeria, returned.

A college in Cambridge returned another Benin Bronze last year, as did the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Other British institutions are also looking at their collections. The Bank of England said in August it was removing artwork depicting former governors linked to slavery.

Cambridge will also set up a dedicated center for research into the legacies of slavery, deepen links with universities in the Caribbean and Africa and increase postgraduate scholarships for black British students as well as those from Africa. and the Caribbean, the university said.

It draws on a scholarship set up by rapper Stormzy, who in 2018 said he would fund places for black British students after criticizing that the university was not doing enough to ensure diversity .

The university said it had also received a donation to commission a black British artist to commemorate black scholars at Cambridge and would install explanatory plaques to contextualize older statues of those associated with the slave trade.

“It is not in our gift to right historic wrongs, but we can start by acknowledging them,” Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope said in response to the report.

“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.”

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