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Cambridge University received ‘significant benefits’ from slavery, inquiry finds

The inquiry, set up by the university in 2019, found that Cambridge benefited financially from the slave trade.

Cambridge stock
Cambridge stock

An inquiry into Cambridge University’s historical links with the slave trade has concluded that the institution received “significant benefits” from slavery.

The investigation, carried out by the Legacies of Enslavement Advisory Group, found that the university and its colleges benefited from companies that participated in the trade, as well as from individual benefactors, and from fees derived from the families of plantations.

The Legacies of Enslavement Advisory Group was appointed in 2019 by Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen J Toope.

Following its investigation, the group has made a series of recommendations, which the university has committed to implementing.

These include setting up a dedicated slavery research centre, enhancing existing academic links with universities in the Caribbean and West Africa, increasing the number of postgraduate scholarships and bursaries for black British students and students from Africa and the Caribbean, and commissioning a piece of art commemorating the achievements of black academics in the university.

Professor Toope said the report has helped the university better appreciate the nature of its links with the slave trade.

“A university as long-established as Cambridge would inevitably have benefitted from what was, until the 19th century, a widely accepted system of exploitation,” he said.

“This report helps us better appreciate the nature of those links. It also offers a glimpse into some of the ways in which, as a provider of education, the University played a role in promoting some of the ideas that underpinned the practice of enslavement.”

The news comes after Jesus College’s campaign to remove a memorial plaque to Tobias Rustat, a college benefactor and investor in the slave trade, from its chapel.

The college fought the Church of England in a consistory court case in February to remove the memorial to an alternative space, but ultimately lost the case.

While Clare College Cambridge renamed its accommodation from “The Colony” to Castle Court as the nickname for the accommodation did not “reflect the values of the college”.

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