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New online hub raises awareness of University’s colonial past

Charlie Hancock explains the role of the Oxford and Colonialism Network.

Charlie Hancock
Charlie Hancock
Editor in Chief, Hilary 2022. Reading Human Sciences at Hertford College.

The University of Oxford has set up a new website to raise awareness of the University’s colonial past and the steps it is taking to reconcile with its legacy.

The Oxford and Colonialism Network brings together initiatives from colleges and departments to acknowledge their own colonial heritages with campaigns from student-led groups. Previously, the devolved nature of the University made it hard to build connections between the efforts of different organisations and institutions. “This website is intended as a bridge between projects, that makes it easier to access the relevant conversations, activities, ideas, debates and actions taking place.” said Professor Kalypso Nicolaidis, co-chair of the Oxford and Colonialism Network.

The online hub includes details on the University’s efforts to address systemic racism in education, including outreach programmes which aim to provide support to Black applicants at undergraduate and postgraduate level, such as Target Oxbridge  and Black Academic Students.

In her October 2020 oration speech Vice Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said of the network “In Oxford, we are surrounded by history in our architecture, landscapes, dining halls, libraries and chapels. We cannot wholly change that historic landscape, but we can address the history we carry within us. We can acknowledge its presence in all we do, and aim with personal integrity and collective effort to improve the future.”

The website also includes details of how colleges profited from colonialism and the steps they are taking to reconcile with their pasts, including establishing scholarships and erecting portraits of BAME alumni. All Souls College recently announced they would remove Christopher Codrington’s name from the library built in part with the profits from his plantations in the Caribbean, where people of African descent were enslaved. However, they have stopped short of removing the statue of Codrington. New College have announced plans to fund a scholarship for Black undergraduates and an annual BAME culture festival to commence after COVID restrictions have lifted.

Details of student-led organisations such as Common Ground Oxford and Rhodes Must Fall, who seek to decolonise the University’s curriculum and raise awareness of the legacy of colonialism, can also be found on the website.

Image: Alf via Wikimedia Commons

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