The University of Cambridge has commissioned a two-year study to investigate its links to slavery during Britain’s colonial era, and how the university possibly profited from slavery and other forms of forced labor.
“Two full-time post-doctoral researchers based in the university’s Centre of African Studies will conduct the inquiry to uncover the university’s historical links with the slave trade,” The Guardian reported.
They will also look into the extent to which scholarship at Cambridge “might have reinforced, validated, or perhaps challenged race-based thinking at the time
According to a press release, the investigation will focus on university archives and other records.
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An eight-member advisory panel was appointed by Vice-chancellor Stephen Toope to supervise the research and in the end suggest ways to publicly acknowledge the institution’s past links to slavery as well as how to address its current impact.
“The inquiry will also look at how scholars from the university may have shaped opinions on race from the 18th to the early 20th century, supporting, reinforcing and sometimes contesting racial attitudes which are repugnant today,” CNN reported.
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“There is growing public and academic interest in the links between the older British universities and the slave trade, and it is only right that Cambridge should look into its own exposure to the profits of coerced labor during the colonial period,” said Toope in the release.
“We cannot change the past, but nor should we seek to hide from it. I hope this process will help the university understand and acknowledge its role during that dark phase of human history.”
The advisory group will reveal its report to the vice-chancellor in 2021.
Other institutions have been examining their connections to slavery. “The way universities and museums deal with the legacy of slave-owning benefactors has become a key area of debate within academia, highlighted in recent years by protests from students such as the “Rhodes must fall” campaign at the University of Oxford,” The Guardian reported.
And last year, the University of Glasgow launched a program of “reparative justice” after a year-long study revealed the university received significant financial support from people involved in. In turn, it announced it would create a center for the study of slavery and create a memorial in the name of the enslaved.
In 2017, “Harvard University hosted a national academic conference to explore the historical role of US colleges in propagating slavery. Georgetown University students also raecently voted to pay reparations to the descendants of the 272 slaves who were sold to pay off institutional debts in 1838,” CNN reported.