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Trinity College to investigate legacies of slavery: £1 million to support Caribbean scholarships plus new academic post

Trinity College will examine the ways in which it was linked to, benefited from or challenged the slave trade and other forms of coerced labour during the colonial era through the appointment of a new four-year research and teaching academic.

The Legacies of Slavery Research and Teaching Fellow will consider the ways in which Trinity might have gained from slavery, whether through fees and bequests from students and alumni, or from investments by the College. The Fellow will also explore any contributions by Trinity members who opposed the practice of enslavement.

Isuri Ratnayake, Ethnic and Inclusion Officer of Trinity’s Graduate Society, welcomed the College’s commitment to addressing its past.

Examining and acknowledging the College’s legacies of slavery is crucial in cultivating a culture of accountability and inclusivity. Only by facing our past can we pave the way towards a more equitable future, where all members of our community can thrive free from the shadows of oppression and discrimination.

I hope that other institutions along with Trinity continue in recognizing their historical ties to slavery and taking tangible steps towards repair and reconciliation.

The move comes in the wake of the University of Cambridge’s 2019 – 2022 Legacies of Slavery Inquiry, and recommendations for the establishment of a research centre at Cambridge and funding for new partnerships in Africa and the Caribbean, including Cambridge Caribbean Scholarships.

Trinity will donate £1 million over five years to Cambridge Caribbean Scholarships, enabling up to three Masters’ students per year from the Caribbean to study at Cambridge. Two PhD studentships will also be available during the five-year initiative, which begins in October 2023.

Professor Louise Merrett, Vice Master of Trinity, said the Cambridge Caribbean Scholarships reflected the commitment of the College and University to enabling the brightest students around the world to consider applying to Cambridge and being supported to study here.

Great Gate pictured from Whewell’s Court. Photo: Laura Rupolo

The Reverend Dr Michael Banner, Dean and Fellow of Trinity, said that in common with many older institutions today, it was important for the College to understand the legacies of colonial era slavery, the conduct and consequences of which permeated eighteenth and early nineteenth century Britain and its empire.

This welcome initiative by Trinity is essential to enabling us to comprehend the extent to which the College was involved or benefited from slavery, whether directly or indirectly. This research will enable debate and discussion from a wide range of perspectives, both within the College community and with the wider public.

Trinity’s Fellow in Legacies of Slavery, to be appointed by October 2023, will be actively involved in teaching and College life, engaging in discussions with the community about their research findings, and convening a public lecture series about issues raised by research into colonial era practices of enslavement, their far-reaching consequences and how institutions grapple with these legacies today.

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