Cambridge University finds it gained 'significant benefits' from slave trade

Cambridge University finds it gained 'significant benefits' from slave trade


 Cambridge University finds it gained ‘significant benefits’ from slave trade

According to new research looking into the University of Cambridge's historical ties to slavery, the university benefited "significantly" from the transatlantic slave trade even though there is no proof the university held slaves or slave estates.

The study, which was commissioned in 2019 by Stephen Toope, the vice-chancellor of Cambridge, highlighted the sizeable investments made by Cambridge colleges in organizations that engaged in the slave trade, like the East India Company and the South Sea Company, as well as the wealth that alumni, fellows, and benefactors of the university still did so in the 1850s.

No proof that the university directly held slave estates or slaves was discovered by the inquiry. The university stated in its publication announcement that the study "identified significant benefits to the university and its colleges arising from investments in companies that were participants in the trade, from individual benefactors, and from fees derived from the families of plantation owners."

As a result, Cambridge will establish and support a "legacies of enslavement" research center to carry out further studies. In addition, the university will increase financial aid for black students and create special scholarships for postgraduate students from Africa and the Caribbean. It will also make greater efforts to hire and promote black staff members.

The university also intends to commission artwork to honor its black graduates as well as faculty, staff, and students who fought against what Toope called "deep-rooted attitudes and practices" that "underpinned the practice of enslavement" within the university community. These campaigns frequently opposed slavery and the slave trade.

Although it is not within our power to make historical wrongs right, Toope remarked that we can start by admitting them. The report "encourages us to fight even harder to address existing disparities, particularly those relating to the experiences of black communities," because it "unearthed our university's links to an atrocious history of abuse."

When the Atlantic slave traffic was at its height, several universities, including Gonville & Caius, Trinity, and King's, made interests in enterprises that were actively involved. In other instances, colonial corporations like the Royal African Company, South Sea Company, and East India Company made large grants to institutions.
The researchers stated that such financial support "both helped to enable the slave trade and offered very large financial benefits to Cambridge."

According to the report, the university's renowned Fitzwilliam Museum was "established on funds inherited from a governor of the slave-trading South Sea Company." The following year, the museum will present an exhibition on slavery and power utilizing items from the university's holdings.

However, the connections went beyond money: according to the report, the slave-owning brother of a Gonville & Caius master from the 18th century "called one enslaved person 'Caius' in honor of his brother's college."

The authors of the paper claimed that Cambridge's "role in slavery and empire is exceedingly nuanced" and defies straightforward explanation. However, it advised the university to think about how it may "make a difference to the communities afflicted by the legacies of enslavement." It acknowledged that "persuasive voices have asked for financial reparations."

The Cambridge report is the most recent in a series looking into donations and investments made by universities using money made through slavery- and colonial-era-eraffect money. The legacy of Cecil Rhodes, whose gift founded the Rhodes scholarship fund and sponsored Oriel college, which keeps a statue of Rhodes above Oxford's High Street, is still a source of contention for the University of Oxford.

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