blog | werkgroep caraïbische letteren

Down with the decolonisation movement

We’re at risk of treating black students as permanent historical victims.

by Joanna Williams

The University of Cambridge has launched a new research project. Nothing surprising there: this is what universities do. But this project is different.

It is unlikely to result in any scientific breakthroughs or medical advances, because the primary focus of the research is the university itself. Academics will investigate Cambridge’s past relationship with slavery – specifically, how the university benefited financially from bequests and donations that originated in money made through the slave trade, and how scholarship conducted at Cambridge might have shaped the racial thinking that, at the time, provided a moral and intellectual justification for slavery. The project aims to acknowledge the institution’s past links to slavery and also address its modern impact.

Mauritshuis I foto Aart G. Broek

‘Een van onze mooiste kunstmusea, het ­Mauritshuis, presenteert momenteel een tentoonstelling die weinig met kunst, maar veel met geschiedschrijving te maken heeft.’ / foto Aart G. Broek


If compensation is thought appropriate, then why give it to students, particularly ones who have managed to make it to the most elite universities and who are well on their way to making a success of their lives? Why compensate the ancestors of slaves, but not relatives of other historical atrocities? What about today’s teenagers who may have lost a great grandfather in the Battle of the Somme or a distant relative in the Irish Potato Famine? Universities have no doubt received money from all manner of former students who went on to be ruthless industrialists, politicians or warmongers at home and abroad.

Please, read the essay here: Spiked, May 2, 2019


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