History Matters Project: a compendium of evidence
This is the second edition of our rolling compendium, which attempts to draw together a range of recent developments that turn on the place of history in the public square – including the removal of certain statues on public display, the renaming of buildings and places, and changes to the way history is taught in educational curricula. In cataloguing these examples, we do not offer any judgment on the actions of the individual or institution in question, today or in the past. Our aim is simply to provide a clear documentary record of what is happening – which can help inform public debate on these issues. At present, the evidence confirms that history is the most active front in a new culture war, and that action is being taken widely and quickly in a way that does not reflect public opinion or growing concern over our treatment of the past.
See the First Edition here
See the Third Edition here
See the Fourth Edition here
1. Rhodes Avenue and Primary School
Despite not being named after Cecil Rhodes, Rhodes Avenue Primary School and Rhodes Avenue in Muswell Hill are facing calls to be renamed. The campaign has been boosted by the backing of a local MP. Haringey Council are set to review place, street and building names across the borough.
Catherine West (Lab, Hornsey and Wood Green) said: “I fully support the campaign to rename Rhodes Avenue, and Rhodes Avenue Primary School in conjunction with the community and the school itself.
“The Black Lives Matter movement has demonstrated how racist and outdated ideologues from a bygone era still exist in our modern society and we should use this time to review and refresh historic place names to better reflect our modern world.”
Haringey leader Cllr Joseph Ejiofor (Lab, Bruce Grove) said: “A real discussion on the way in which we memorialise historical figures is long-overdue.
“If we are to truly demonstrate our commitment to and solidarity with the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement, we must seriously address these issues. If we were naming roads today, we would never choose Rhodes Avenue, which is named after Thomas Rhodes – Great Uncle to Cecil Rhodes, an imperialist, colonialist, and white supremacist.”
Adrian Hall, headteacher at Rhodes Avenue Primary, said in a statement “it was our hope” that the school’s name would be discussed by mayor of London’s commission for diversity in the public realm, which was launched on June 9 to consider the appropriateness of memorials for figures like Cecil Rhodes.
Alex Wiffin, who has signed the open letter calling for the name change said: “What we really want to stress is that whatever the link to the family, the fact is that when most people hear the name, they do immediately think about Cecil Rhodes and Rhodesia. Trying to find ways around that is missing the point.”
2. Havelock Road, Ealing
Havelock Road named after Major General Sir Henry Havelock KCB could be renamed Guru Nanak Road after the founder of Sikhism. Sir Henry Havelock served in the First Anglo-Burmese War in the 1820s and the First Anglo-Afghan War in the 1840s.
“The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced yesterday a commission to review and improve diversity across London’s public realm.”
“One suggested proposal is the renaming of Havelock Road in Southall, a section of which could be renamed Guru Nanak Road.”
3. Bristol’s Colston Arms pub to be renamed
A Bristol pub named after Edward Colston has covered over its sign amid plans for a name change.
The Colston Arms in Kingsdown, Bristol, has hung up a temporary banner calling it “Ye olde Pubby Mcdrunkface” and asked people to suggest new names.
Landlord Paul Frost said it was “just a bit of fun to draw attention to the issue”.
“It’s not me that’s keen to make the name change, I just want to make sure the debate happens,” he said.
“The point I’m making is that it’s not my voice that needs to be heard. I’m a white middle aged man, it’s the people, the community around Bristol.
“It is a serious issue, however the banner suggests a little levity about the matter. It’s just get engaged, learn about the whole era and make suggestions on Facebook really.”
Admiral Taverns, which owns the pub, said it was supporting Mr Frost.
“We will be listening carefully to the feedback from the local community before deciding on the pub’s new name,” a spokesperson said.
4. University of Bristol
The University of Bristol has committed to review building names and the university’s logo.
“As an institution founded in 1909, we fully acknowledge that we financially benefited indirectly via philanthropic support from families who had made money from businesses involved in the transatlantic slave trade.”
“We know that the Black Lives Matter campaign has served to amplify existing concerns about the University’s history and whether we should rename the Wills Memorial Building, and other buildings named after families with links to the slave trade. We commit to reviewing the names of these buildings. We will also review our University logo, which carries the Colston, Wills and Fry crests.
We will initiate this debate with our staff, students, alumni, and wider city communities.”
Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President
Professor Judith Squires, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost
5. Cass Business School
City University of London’s Business School will no longer be known as Cass. The School will stop using the Cass name following consultations about the historic links of Sir John Cass to the slave trade. Sir John Cass (1661-1718) was a Merchant and Conservative member of parliament.
“The decision was taken by City’s Council on 3rd July, following a broad consultation about the fact that some of Sir John Cass’ wealth was obtained through his links to the slave trade and taking account of the views expressed by a wide range of stakeholders. The decision, which was unanimous, was taken on the basis that continued use of the Cass name was incompatible with City’s values of diversity and inclusion.
The Business School was renamed the Sir John Cass Business School eighteen years ago, following a donation from the Sir John Cass Foundation. The Foundation was established in 1748 and is named after Sir John Cass, whose wealth was used posthumously to create the educational charity.
For now, the School will be referred to as City’s Business School while consultations about a new name are set in motion.
Making the announcement, Julia Palca, Chair of City’s Council, said:
“We acknowledge the great pain and hurt caused to members of our City and Business School community and to many Black people by the association of the School’s name with the slave trade. Any continued use of Sir John Cass’ name would be seen as condoning someone whose wealth in part derived from the exploitation of slavery. This is incompatible with our values of diversity and inclusivity. We have therefore taken the decision to remove the name”.
Professor Sir Paul Curran, President, City, University of London, added:
“The announcement of our decision to change the name of City’s Business School by no means marks the end of the issue. The work we are doing to address racial inequality and to ensure City is an inclusive place to work and study will continue. We have listened to the concerns of the City community about the naming of the Business School and we have also heard about their individual experiences of racism and inequality in today’s world”.
Professor Paolo Volpin, Interim Dean, City’s Business School said:
“This is the right decision but it is just the first step. It is important that we follow it up with clear and measurable actions that demonstrate our commitment to racial equality and inclusion. The School’s BAME community is leading a consultation to explore how we can increase inclusion across our School community in practical and measurable ways to ensure we celebrate uniqueness and work harder to enhance our vibrant sense of belonging.”
On 10th June, City initiated a review of all historic sources of funding to determine if there are any other links with slavery; and to make recommendations. The review is chaired by Ms Hunada Nouss, a member of City’s Council. The composition is drawn from a diverse group of City staff and external independent expertise. The review is expected to report in August.”
Watford Council has announced that four of the town’s street names will be renamed in order to “reflect forward thinking” The Council will rename Rhodes Way, Clive Way, Colonial Way and Imperial Way.
“The council also notes that there are street names that are named after people who were involved in the slave trade, colonisation and oppression, which does not reflect the forward thinking, outward looking Britain and our town.
The council notes that it is not tenable to continue to have these existing names for these streets. Watford has been enriched by its ethnic minority citizens that have come from right across the world or born in UK. The likes of Luther Blissett, Anthony Joshua, John Barnes are but a few, who have made contributions to our town, but there are many more.
Council resolves to rename street names such Rhodes Way, Clive Way, Colonial Way and Imperial Way”
Watford Borough Council
7. Exeter University – Statement on Decolonisation
Exeter University has committed to decolonising the curriculum
“Internally, the University of Exeter is engaging with the process of decolonisation, reconsidering the curriculum and reflecting on the way the institution works and thinks; we recognise that there is significant and overdue work to do. We know that action is needed.”
8. Manchester Art Gallery
The Manchester Art Gallery is “decolonising the collections” and “rectifying the historic imbalance between white male artists and other artists”.
“Our roots, and those of our city, are entangled with colonialism and capitalism, our prosperity built on manufacture, trade and empire – and this resonates today. We understand that it is critical to acknowledge and address structural racism, and show solidarity with local and global communities that are subject to racial inequality and discrimination. Yet we also know that actions speak louder than words – we must make practical and tangible contributions to change.
So what can an art museum do in this respect, beyond the symbolic?
Both the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery have been working to decolonise and de-modernise the narrative of our collections and exhibitions.”
“We have also been updating our collecting policies – in our collecting today, we are working to rectify the historic imbalance between white male artists and other artists who have been side-lined. We want to collect art that is representative of all our communities, and this means continually educating ourselves and listening to a diversity of voices.”
“Museums have a great convening power, to bring people together to share, exchange and create positive forms of culture and connecting, but beyond this we also need action. This work is wider-ranging but as a whole starts to build a head of steam that does more than create cultural capital for institutions. It starts to shift policy and practice in the wider world. This is operational stuff; creating a new curriculum for schools across the city that works for everyone; working with artists such as Suzanne Lacy and Imran Peretta to give voice and agency to youth; offering up the gallery spaces for groups to use for their own ends and means; changing policy in employment and access; supporting political and activist art internationally; working with our colleagues in the University and third sector to address health inequality amongst ethnic minority communities; fostering cohesion and building bridges of cultural understanding through the School of Integration.
There is a long way to go, but I hope that through collective action not just our museums will be transformed, but that the world on our doorstep will be as well.”
Alistair Hudson, Director, the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery
Manchester Art Gallery
9. British Library
The British Library is reviewing its content for items previously owned by people associated with the slave trade
“The British Library’s collection of rare books has, in part, grown and developed through the purchase and donation of significant named collections.”
“Please note: we are reviewing these pages because items now at the British Library, previously owned by particular named figures, may be associated with wealth obtained from enslaved people or through colonial violence.”
10. University of Sheffield
The Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield explains how to decolonise the Science Curriculum.
“We formed a departmental working group in 2019 to look at what decolonising the curriculum means for us, and how we can use this approach to improve our teaching and research. Below we explain some of the key issues involved. We’ll be collaborating with teachers and students during the academic year 2020-21 to start implementing the necessary changes across the modules we teach.
What does decolonisation mean?
Decolonisation is broadly about confronting how European imperialism, colonialism, and racism have shaped our modern world. It is a framework that helps to tackle racial injustice – but more than that, it seeks to interrogate and tear down the structures that embed racism in our society. For us, as academics and students working in a UK university, this starts with acknowledging and reflecting on the whiteness and Eurocentrism of our science.
UK science is inherently white, since the discipline developed from the European scientific enlightenment. Crucially, science was both a fundamental contributor to European imperialism and a major beneficiary of its injustices. Decolonisation of the curriculum seeks to explicitly recognise these problematic issues as part of the science we teach and practice, and aims to include a range of non-Western perspectives.
In making these changes, decolonisation presents an alternative vision for science, which adopts a wider view of the world and explicitly avoids an exclusive focus on the present and past European influence.
What will decolonising the curriculum involve?
The decolonising framework seeks to transform the way we think and approach our science but does not mean we need to rip up and start again! Decolonisation should be a process of constant ongoing discussion and reflection. It involves:
- Confronting the historical roles of European science in racism and the injustices of colonisation, and how modern science perpetuates these injustices.
- Acknowledging that the science we teach is white and takes a Eurocentric viewpoint, explaining where that comes from and what problems it creates.
- Diversifying the perspectives taught, to acknowledge the value that minority and non-Western perspectives bring to science.
- Empowering students and staff to understand their own positionality (the social and political context that shape your views, actions and biases) and reflect on their science through a critical decolonial lens.
Why is it important for us to decolonise our curriculum?
Colonisation is perpetuated in academia by the imbalance of power and wealth between universities in the Global North and those in the Global South. Historically, Western universities have been financed through colonial plunder and enslavement, and the modern practice, language, and publication of science continues to be under Western control.
Western universities are generally considered to be the most legitimate and respected sites of knowledge production, with Western universities acting as gatekeepers that determine what and whose knowledge, history, and intellectual contribution is valuable. This power allows Western universities to shape public discourse and dictate the status quo, thereby spreading European ways of knowing and seeing the world, and erasing/suppressing/ignoring other perspectives.
Ultimately, this dominance has led to colonial theories of racism, white superiority, civilisation, and capitalism. In order for UK science to broaden its intellectual vision to incorporate the rich array of perspectives that have built our discipline, we must acknowledge, confront, and begin to rectify these issues.”
11. University College London
University College London Faculty of Laws offers a module entitled “Decolonising Law”.
“This module considers whether and how law can be ‘decolonized’, through a detailed consideration of, a) colonial and post-colonial history and theory, b) the application of post-colonial ideas to international law in particular, c) the substantive issues of redress and reparation for colonialism and other equivalent forms of domination, both in and of themselves, and the abuse and exploitation associated with them. Case studies considered include the ‘Rhodes must fall’ movement; the Caribbean campaign for reparations for slavery and the slave trade; the restitution of Nazi-appropriated art; and the return of artefacts from museums, art galleries and universities.”
The stated aims of this module include:
- “To contribute to UCL’s initiative to ‘liberate the curriculum’ as part of the broader global movement to ‘decolonize the curriculum’ (see https://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/research-based-education/liberating-curriculum/)”
UCL, Decolonizing Law (LAWS0224)
12. Home Office Citizenship Test
More than 180 historians have called on the Home Office to remove the history element of the UK citizenship test.
“People in the colonies and people of colour in the UK are nowhere actors in this official history. The handbook promotes the misleading view that the Empire came to an end simply because the British decided it was the right thing to do. Similarly, the abolition of slavery is treated as a British achievement, in which enslaved people themselves played no part. The book is equally silent about colonial protests, uprisings and independence movements. Applicants are expected to learn about more than two hundred individuals. The only individual of colonial origin named in the book is Sake Dean Mohamet who co-founded England’s first curry house in 1810. The pages on the British Empire end with a celebration of Rudyard Kipling.
The “Life in the UK Test” is neither a trivial quiz nor an optional discussion point. It is an official requirement in the application for settlement or citizenship and provides essential information about the United Kingdom. The handbook ‘has been approved by ministers and has official status.’ It requires applicants to remember and repeat the information it contains, which is, then, tested in an official multiple choice test. The examination is ‘based on ALL parts of the handbook’, which includes the parts mentioned above.
This publication and its official view of British history is not a left over from the distant past. It is a recent innovation, and some of its most misleading passages date only from the third edition published by the Home Office in 2013 which, with minor updates, remains the official text to this day.
This official, mandatory version of history is a step backwards in historical knowledge and understanding. Historical knowledge is and should be an essential part of citizenship. Historical falsehood and misrepresentation, however, should not.
In 2019, 125,346 individuals applied for naturalisation; almost all will have had to pass the test before applying. Many thousands more took the test in order to settle here. For many, it will have been their introduction to British history. For applicants from former colonies with knowledge of imperial violence, this account is offensive. For those from outside the former Empire without prior education in history, the official handbook creates a distorted view of the British past. For those with a basic knowledge of history, whatever their background, it puts them in the invidious position of being obliged to read, remember and repeat a version of the past which is false. For British citizens in general, the official history perpetuates a misleading view of how we came to be who we are.
The aim of the official handbook is to promote tolerance and fairness and facilitate integration. In its current version, the historical pages do the opposite”
Statues / Art/ Symbols
13. Diocese of Bristol
The Diocese of Bristol has removed part of a stained-glass window in the north transept of Bristol Cathedral and at St Mary Redcliffe Church that commemorates Edward Colston’s life.
Parts of the window, installed in 1890, were covered up last month. Canon Michael Johnson, Acting Dean of Bristol Cathedral, said it was “the right response”.
The Diocese of Bristol said the recent fall of the Colston statue was a “signal” for it to take action.
“The fall of the Colston statue on 7 June was a symbolic moment for the city and a signal for change. For us, it is the right moment to take the action we have been considering for some time.
A cathedral or a church should be a place of sanctuary, justice and peace: a place where God’s glory is worshipped and God’s love is felt. The dedications to Colston, in two significant places of worship, has prevented many people from finding peace in these beautiful buildings. These dedications have either been removed or covered.”
“What has been done today is one step on an important journey. The Bishop of Bristol, the Right Revd Vivienne Faull, has set out her commitments that will form the basis of our work and focus over the coming weeks, months and years.”
14. Manchester Statues
Manchester Council is to review the city’s statues. Hundreds have signed a petition demanding the removal of a statue of former British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, in Piccadilly Gardens. Those behind the campaign say they want to highlight what they called ‘endemic racism that continues to plague Manchester and the fact this city was built on slavery.’ They say the statue should be brought down due to the fact Peel’s father, also a former MP called Robert Peel, ‘was actively pro-slavery and circulated a pro-slavery petition in 1806.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman said: “The weight of emotion around the symbolism attached to public statues has been palpable this week – and not without good reason.
“However, it is also true to say that most of us do not know the people represented in the city’s statues, nor the history as to why they were chosen.
“We think it’s important therefore to undertake a city-wide review of all the statues in Manchester and work with our cultural institutions to understand their history and context.
“Through this process it’s important that we do not shy away from the darker moments in our country’s history and the difficult conversations attached to them.
“We hope this will provide an opportunity for education and debate around those who have been memoralised.
“We also want to take this opportunity to ask the public who is missing – who should be celebrated but is not – with particular thought around representing the proud BAME history of Manchester and help to reflect the shared story of our diverse and multicultural city.”
— Manchester City Council #StaySafe❤ (@ManCityCouncil) June 9, 2020
15. Statue of Lieutenant Colonel Benson, Hexham
Hexham town councillors John Ord and deputy mayor Steve Ball have called for the future of a statue of Lt Col. George Elliott Benson in Hexham to be discussed.
The bronze figure of Lt Col. Benson has stood at the entrance of Beaumont Street for 116 years.
Funded by public money, it was erected in 1904 in memory of the Allerwash-born soldier who served in the British Army, and died at the Battle of Brakenlaagte during the Boer War in 1901.
He was hailed a hero by the people of Hexham.
Councillor Steve Ball said: “I would welcome a debate on this issue. I question whether it’s right to spend public money on restoring a monument which has no relevance to modern society.
“I’ve always supported public art, and a modern day acknowledgement of Hexham’s history would be a better use of the money.”
16. Order of St Michael and Saint George
The medal of one of the highest honours bestowed by the Queen has been accused of encouraging racism because it appears to depict a white man standing on the neck of a black man. The scene in the centre of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George depicts the Archangel Michael defeating Satan. However, the presentation of the scene has been compared to the murder of George Floyd, the black American killed by a white police officer in May, which sparked the Black Lives Matter protests worldwide.
One of the recipients of the honour, the Governor General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen, has said he will no longer wear the award and called for it to be redesigned.
His spokesman said: “This follows concerns raised by citizens over the image on the medal, and the growing global rejection of the use of objects that normalise the continued degradation of people of colour.”
The petition states: “The image on the Honorary Knights/Dames Commander (KCMG/DCMG) star is a white skinned angel stood on the head/neck of a black skinned devil.
This is a highly offensive image, it is also reminiscent of the recent murder of George Floyd by the white policeman in the same manner presented here in this medal.
We the undersigned are calling for this medal to completely redesigned in a more appropriate way and for an official apology to be given for the offence it has given!”
17. Ashbourne Statue
A 18th Century figure of a black man’s head has been removed from a pub sign in Ashbourne.
Derbyshire Dales District Council said “We were made aware on the night of 8 June by one of our own Ashbourne councillors that approximately 150 locals had gathered by The Green Man & Black’s Head sign in the town.
The councillor was able to speak to the group and explain our position – that we needed to take urgent action to take down the “head” figure temporarily in the interests of public safety ahead of a consultation.
The group, who had ladders, then decided they would remove the figure themselves for safe keeping and, not wanting to create a confrontation, in the circumstances we did not object.”
18. Charles Dickens Museum
The Charles Dickens museum in Kent was defaced with graffiti calling the author ‘racist’
Ian Driver, a former local councillor for the Green Party, targeted the museum in Broadstairs, Kent, scrawling the words ‘Dickens Racist, Dickens Racist’ on the Victorian cottage that welcomes visitors to celebrate the author’s life and works.
Mr Driver also defaced a nearby street sign, spraying black paint over the lettering of ‘Dickens Road’.
Describing Dickens as “an extreme racist”, Mr Driver said he does not mind being arrested for the incident because he believes he has a defence under equality legislation.
19. Royal Collection – Sir Thomas Picton
The portrait of Sir Thomas Picton at Windsor Castle will have its description altered to include claims he tortured slaves. Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton was the most senior officer to die at the battle of Waterloo. He had previously been governor of Trinidad and was a sitting member of parliament at the time of his death.
Initial label information stated that he “was the most senior officer to die at the Battle of Waterloo”, and that he “came to prominence during the Napoleonic Wars”.
It now reads: “Picton’s punitive administration of Trinidad and his subjects’ enforced adherence to strict penal codes were the subject of contemporary controversy in Britain and the West Indies.
“He was brought to trial in London in 1806, accused of carrying out torturous practices in jails under his jurisdiction.”
A RCT spokesman revealed that further artworks could be reviewed in the same way, saying: “In terms of other records, work is underway within our curatorial teams to improve and update them, which will happen in the coming weeks and months”
20. Norwich Cathedral
A statue of Admiral Lord Nelson on the grounds of Norwich Cathedral has been defaced with spray paint. The Cathedral has committed to “review the place of historical figures memorialised in the Cathedral”.]
“The dean and chapter regret the damage done to the statue of Admiral Lord Nelson on Saturday night. The damage has been reported to the police and to Norwich City Council, which owns and maintains the statue.
As previously stated, Admiral Lord Nelson, although a national hero, was also like all of us flawed in some ways.
The Dean and Chapter are committed to reviewing the place of historical figures memorialised in the Cathedral and in our grounds and to hosting conversations about what we have to learn from past wrongs.”
21. Dambusters dog’s memorial replaced by RAF
A gravestone dedicated to the Dambusters’ dog has been replaced to remove reference to his name. The RAF said it did not want to give prominence to an offensive term that went against its ethos. The Dambusters carried out ‘Operation Chastise’, an attack on German dams in 1943 using purpose-built “bouncing bombs”.
A spokesman for the Royal Air Force said “As part of an ongoing review of its historical assets, the RAF have replaced the gravestone of Guy Gibson’s dog at RAF Scampton […] the new gravestone tells the story of Guy Gibson’s dog, but its name has been removed”.
RAF Museum campaigns manager, Kris Hendrix said “It was such a famous dog, it was such a famous squadron and that meant the grave has been kept until today” and that “while it may not have been a controversial name during the Second World War, things are very different now.”
22. Fire stations banned from flying Black Country flag
West Midlands Fire Service have asked fire stations in the region to not display the flag on Black Country Day amid fears that the design’s chains could represent slave shackles. The flag owes its design to a quote made in 1862 by Elihu Burritt, the American Consul in Birmingham. He described the region as “black by day and red by night” — a result of the local factory furnaces giving out smoke and grime during the day and glowing by night. The flag background is therefore both black and red, with the chains showing a typical metal product manufactured in the area. The central white area represents the glass cone, a symbol of the region’s glass-making heritage since 1790.
Ahead of Black Country Day, chief fire officer Phil Loach said: “Having been made aware of claims about the flag’s imagery and the potential link to slavery, we asked our staff to celebrate Black Country Day in alternative ways on this occasion, so we could gain a fully rounded view.”
The Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “Once again there has been some controversy about the Black Country flag. Personally, I think it’s done a brilliant job in promoting the region’s identity and pride in it. Long may it continue to fly”
23. Sir Ronald Fisher window at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge to be removed
The window commemorates Sir Ronald Fisher, a statistician described as “a genius who almost single-handedly created the foundations for modern statistical science”. It is one of a series of windows marking scientific discoveries made by former members of the college. The college announced in a statement that it would remove the window, subject to listed building consent.
“The College Council after serious and considered discussion decided on Wednesday 24 June to take down the R.A. Fisher window, subject to Listed Building consent. The Council was aided in its decision by the thoughtful papers and arguments presented to it by fellows, students and other members of the wider Gonville & Caius College community.
The Window representing Fisher’s 7x7 Latin Square was mounted in 1989 along with a series of windows in Hall to commemorate remarkable scientific discoveries made by members of the College. Sir Ronald Fisher was a student, Fellow and President of Caius. His contribution to science, through his work on statistics and genetics, was fundamental to fields as wide ranging as clinical trials in medicine through to increased production in agriculture. However, while Fisher was at Cambridge he became the founding chairman of the University of Cambridge Eugenics Society and his interest in eugenics stimulated his interest in both statistics and genetics. He was a prominent proponent of eugenics, both in his scientific work and in his public pronouncements throughout his career.
The College is now aware of the views and actions of R.A. Fisher in a way that was not fully appreciated in 1989. The College Council was clear that it should no longer honour Fisher the man with a window, which causes such broad offence. The College will now work to discuss and debate what will happen to the Fisher Window once it is removed, and will be publishing these details when they are finalised. We are also working on other initiatives including: reform of the disciplinary code and complaints procedures; implicit bias training for staff, fellows and students; and continuing the work of the Legacy of Slavery committee once the archives re-open.
Dr Pippa Rogerson, Master of Gonville & Caius College, said, “The College is committed to doing better in the way of diversity and equality at Caius. I look forward to the continuation of debate on race, class, history, science and current student experiences of Caius. We will develop together ideas of how to broaden and strengthen our community for all its members.”
24. Sir John Cass
Statue of Sir John Cass – Jewry Street, City of London
Sir John Cass’s Foundation will remove a statue of him from the facade on their offices in Jewry Street.
Statement: “Sir John Cass’s Foundation has worked over many years with many charities across Inner London, on educational projects to challenge and eradicate racism, discrimination, and inequality. As a Foundation, we acknowledge some of the wealth gained by Sir John Cass was through means of slavery and human exploitation, and we recognise, acknowledge, and understand the public hurt and anger that comes from this. We have a duty to our beneficiaries and our community to address this legacy.
As a first step in this journey, the Foundation has made the decision to remove the statue of Sir John Cass from the facade of our offices on Jewry Street. We have already initiated the process to remove it, though due to the facade of the building being listed this may take a few weeks to complete.
Furthermore, in the coming weeks the Foundation will be looking at other ways we can evolve, while still promoting and enabling the education of disadvantaged young people in Inner London. This will include but not be limited to, addressing the name of the Foundation.
We do this with the hope our beneficiaries can be proud of the opportunities offered to all those who benefit from our grants.”
The Foundation will also be renamed:
“It is clear to us now, that while firmly committed to combating racism, we failed to consider whether our own 300-year-old name and history compounded the problem. We have also continued to celebrate Sir John Cass without explaining or acknowledging his connection to slavery and human exploitation, or the hurt and anger this has caused amongst our beneficiaries and our community. We recognise, acknowledge, seek to understand, and apologise, for the public hurt and anger.
We want our beneficiaries to be proud to benefit from the opportunities that our grants provide. So let us be clear: we no longer consider the Sir John Cass name appropriate to represent us and the work that we do in this century or in the future. We commit to a change of name.”
Sir John Cass Redcoat School, Stepney
The school’s governing body voted unanimously for the immediate removal of the statue and bust of Sir John Cass. The School will also be renamed.
The headmaster said “The Governing Body has now agreed a new name for the school. There is now however a legal process to pursue whereby the Cass Foundation and the London Diocesan Board for Schools must formally agree the new name.”
Bust of Sir John Cass
A bust of Sir John Cass has been removed from St Botolph parish church at Aldgate
“We voted unanimously to seek permission to remove the bust,” said St Botolph’s rector Laura Jørgensen. “Permission was given and the bust was removed this morning”. […] “We apologise for the years spent celebrating the legacy of a man without understanding the origin of his wealth, gained through slavery and human exploitation”.
25. Marvin Rees Mayor of Bristol
The Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees will start a “calm discussion” about the future of the Colston statue, the plinth where it stood and the other memorials and places in Bristol with links to slavery. He also said any statue added “outside of the process” would have to be removed.
“In terms of the space where it was, I think we need to facilitate a citywide conversation about that. The conversation needs to be almost without emotion.
“I’d like to make sure that conversation is informed by good history. I’m asking for historians to form the nucleus of a team with other academics in Bristol to do a piece of work about our memorials, our statues, our street names and do some good history on it, some good understanding so we can be properly informed, not emotionally tilted but informed.
“What we do in response to the conclusions they come to or the evidence they unearth, that’s another stage on. Too much of our argument is emotive rather than informed. This is away from politics, it’s away from opportunism. It’s about being intellectually coherent.”
Official Statement: “The sculpture that has been installed today was the work and decision of a London based artist. It was not requested and permission was not given for it to be installed.
“We have set out a process to manage our journey. We have established a history commission which will help us tell our full city history. As we learn this fuller history including the part played by black people, women, the working class, trade unions, and children among others, we will be in a better position to understand who we are, how we got here and who we wish to honour. Crucial to our heritage has been the harbour and the docks, manufacturing and industry, research and innovation, transport, slum clearances, housing, modern gentrification and faith. As the commission shares this information, the city will decide on city memorials and the future of the plinth.”
26. Churchill – BBC News
Historians have criticised the BBC for an ‘unbalanced’ News At Ten report claiming Churchill was responsible for the ‘mass killing’ of up to three million people in the 1943 Bengal Famine. The segment was broadcast on News at Ten as part of a series exploring Britain’s colonial legacy.
Rudrangshu Mukherjee of Ashoka University in India, said Churchill was seen as a ‘precipitator’ of mass killing’ due to his policies, while Oxford’s Yasmin Khan claimed he could be guilty of ‘prioritising white lives over Asian lives’ by not sending relief.
The Bengal famine, which claimed the lives of up to three million people, was triggered by cyclones and flooding. Historians are at odds over the extent to which blame can be attached to the prime minister and his government for failing to ship food to the region. Respected Churchill scholars accused the BBC of violating its commitment to balance by failing to include any voices speaking in his defence.
Tirthankar Roy, professor in economic history at the LSE, said: “Winston Churchill was not a relevant factor behind the 1943 Bengal famine. The agency with the most responsibility for causing the famine and not doing enough was the government of Bengal.
“It is often said that Churchill prevented import of food in Bengal. This has no relevance either. There was no famine in the rest of British India; the Bengal government could easily import food from other regions.”
Sir Max Hastings, the military historian, Times columnist and author of Winston’s War, said that Churchill’s behaviour was “a blot on his record” but should be weighed against his services to Britain and mankind. It was “pretty outrageous” for the national broadcaster to tarnish Churchill’s reputation without putting his achievements in context.
“It is entirely true, and I have described it in my own books, that Churchill behaved badly during the Bengal Famine, and that is a blot on his record,” he said.
“But the BBC failed to include a voice to suggest that his services to Britain, and to mankind, were so great that they must rightfully be set in the balance against this failure. The BBC’s version was 2020 propaganda, not news or balanced history.”
The Second World War historian James Holland said it would not have been feasible for the British to have diverted food ships to Bengal at the height of the conflict.
He added: “The blame cannot be laid solely at Churchill’s door. It was a decision taken by Roosevelt and the allied chiefs of staff as well. Historians of British India tend not to understand how the Second World War was fought, and the enormous challenges that shipping and supply presented.”
The tone of the News at Ten package, which was introduced by Huw Edwards, also alarmed BBC veterans. Tom Mangold, a journalist who worked for Panorama for 26 years, accused the programme of, in effect, endorsing the view, expressed by sections of the Black Lives Matter movement, that Churchill was a racist.
“As one who worked for several years on BBC TV News, I am puzzled at the inclusion of items like this — many of them strongly related to the ‘woke’ view of white men in British history — on a hard news programme,” he wrote.
The BBC said the report made clear that Churchill did not cause the famine but had been accused of making it worse. A spokeswoman said: “The report clearly explained Churchill’s actions in India in the context of his Second World War strategy. We believe these are all important perspectives to explore and we stand by our journalism.”