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Image of Benin Bronze cockerel
Photo: Chris Loades

Legacy of Slavery Inquiry

Jesus College is currently involved in a process of critical self-reflection on the long-term legacies of slavery and colonial violence.

The Legacy of Slavery Working Party (LSWP), founded in May 2019 and currently composed of nine Fellows and two student representatives, published an interim report in November 2019

Update on Benin Bronze and Tobias Rustat

Following interim recommendations from the LSWP, Jesus College decided that a Benin Bronze statue of a cockerel will be returned and that we will acknowledge and contextualise Tobias Rustat’s role in our history.

The Chair of the LSWP, Dr Véronique Mottier, gave an update in July 2020:

"At its July meeting, the College’s Council considered initial recommendations regarding Tobias Rustat. These will be submitted to the Fellowship as a whole for wider consultation in Michaelmas term, before Council make its decision. Critically rethinking the way we remember figures such as Rustat is important, because they have become symbols of our links to slavery. However, critically addressing historic figures can only ever be a step in a wider process of institutional change.

"We are committed to returning the Benin Bronze, but as a registered charity there are various procedures that we must follow. We have been working on these since our announcement last November, until the outbreak of COVID-19 meant that we needed to pause to focus on the immediate needs of our students, Fellows and staff. We are in correspondence with the current Oba in Benin and will announce further details as soon as possible."

Funded research internships for current students

The LSWP is preparing to launch a second phase of research. In March-April 2021, the College will fund eight two-week paid research internships for current Jesus College undergraduates and postgraduates. In collaboration with several academics from the LSWP, the student interns will undertake research in the College Archives and Old Library, combined with online work with databases and digital collections on each of LSWP's four research strands: People, Money, Objects, and Ideas.

Timeline of the LSWP

The University of Cambridge announced an inquiry into historical links to slavery in late April 2019. Professor Stephen Toope, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, blogged about the inquiry in 'Understanding the past, shaping the future'

We had been in conversation with the University prior to the announcement, and set up Jesus College’s Legacy of Slavery Working Party (LSWP) in early May 2019. The LSWP’s work runs separately to, but in parallel with, the University of Cambridge's Legacies of Enslavement Inquiry. We offered full support to the Legacies of Enslavement Inquiry, including opening the College archives to researchers.

In November 2019, Jesus College's LSWP published interim recommendations about the Benin Bronze cockerel and the memorialisation of benefactor Tobias Rustat.

Following the conclusion of the University's Legacies of Enslavement Inquiry, a full LSWP report will be published.

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