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Cambridge University admits profiting from historic slavery

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.

The recognition comes as a range of leading institutions – from the Bank of England to the Church of England – have been reevaluate the central role that slavery had to enrich Britain and how they profited from its injustices.

Cambridge said a investigation he commissioned had found no evidence that the university itself had 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.

Righting historical wrongs

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

A statue at William Pitt the Youngermember of the university who was prime minister at the end of the 18th century, makes no reference to his efforts to block abolitionism or to reestablish slavery in Haiti after the revolution.

During this time, the Fitzwilliam Museum was founded with money and art inherited from a governor of the South Sea Company.

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 Cambridge college awarded 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 suppressed art depicting former governors tied 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 relies on a scholarship set up by rapper Stormzywho 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 Cambridge scholars 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.”

euronews Gt

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