The British University of Cambridge acknowledged on Thursday that it had benefited “significantly” from slavery. Research commissioned by the university shows that Cambridge made large-scale investments in companies heavily involved in the transatlantic slave trade. As of 2019, the university examined its slavery past, emphasizing the large-scale investments in companies that were heavily involved in the slave trade, such as the East India Company and the South Sea Company.
“Such financial involvement facilitated the slave trade and brought Cambridge significant financial benefits,” the report said.
Although the research shows that the university did not directly own slave plantations or enslaved people, it did receive substantial donations from families of plantation owners. In addition, Cambridge educated the children of “many involved in the trafficking and possession of enslaved people. The magnitude of this is significant and the income they have paid in fees represents a long-term institutional and significant economic benefit.”
According to the report, academics wrote about race and presented ideas used to justify the enslavement and colonization of other people.
“Having uncovered ties to a horrific history of abuse at our university, the report encourages us to work even harder to address current inequalities – particularly those related to the experiences of black communities,” wrote Professor Stephan Toope, client of the report.
Scholarships for black students
In response to the report, the university said its Fitzwilliam Museum, founded with money and artwork inherited from the governor of the South Sea Company, will open an exhibit on slavery and power next year. Cambridge also announced a special center for research into the legacy of slavery, and will strengthen ties with universities in the Caribbean and Africa. Also, the university wants to provide more postgraduate scholarships to both UK and international black students.
The Cambridge report is the latest in a series of investigations into university investment and donations from colonial-era slavery and exploitation. The University of Oxford continues to grapple with controversy over the legacy of Cecil Rhodes, former prime minister of the Cape Colony in present-day South Africa. With his legacy, the Rhodes Scholarship Fund was established. The RhodesMustFall movement is fighting for “the decolonization of the Oxford”.
The University of Glasgow has also previously conducted a large-scale study into its own slavery history. Based on this, the university developed an action plan to increase awareness and understanding of slavery.