The University of Cambridge shared a digest of peer-reviewed research into its historical connections to enslavement, together with a response from the Vice-Chancellor.
The University will now begin to implement the report’s recommendations by creating a Cambridge Legacies of Enslavement Fund which will be put towards research, community engagement and partnership activities.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen J Toope said: “The inquiry set out to add to the sum of our historical knowledge, working on the principle that as a mature, research-driven university, Cambridge is better off knowing than not knowing about its past.
“Though the report shines a light on the University’s past, our greatest obligation is to the collegiate University’s future.
“The report and its recommendations are not ends in themselves. Instead, I hope they will enable some of the conversations and decisions needed to make the Cambridge of tomorrow more self-reflective, more equitable and more open to all talent.”
Research commissioned by the University indicates that Cambridge was implicated in enslavement in a number of ways including investing in the Atlantic slave trade; receiving benefactions based on income derived from the slave trade; educating wealthy slave estate owners’ sons; and academics supporting the proslavery movement.
Cambridge is well known for its abolitionists, individuals such as Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce and Peter Peckard, who played an important role in ending the slave trade and bringing about emancipation. The University Senate sent petitions to the House of Commons in 1788 and again in 1792. Colleges, Masters, and Fellows also sent money to the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
Far less well known, however, are the powerful forces in Cambridge that these abolitionists had to fight against.
Professor Toope said: “It is not in our gift to right historic wrongs, but we can begin by acknowledging them. Having unearthed our university’s links to an appalling history of abuse, the report encourages us to work even harder to address current inequalities – particularly those related to the experiences of Black communities.”
Source: University of Cambridge