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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 eight academics, two student representatives and the College archivist, published an interim report in November 2019 and an update in November 2020

Update on Benin Bronze and Tobias Rustat

In November 2019, following interim recommendations from the LSWP, Jesus College decided that a Benin Bronze statue of a cockerel would be returned and that we would acknowledge and contextualise Tobias Rustat’s role in our history.

In November 2020, Jesus College decided that Tobias Rustat’s name should remain displayed on its donor wall, but to make changes wherever he is explicitly celebrated in College.

In December 2020, following an application by the College under s.106 of the Charities Act 2011, the Charity Commission authorised the transfer of the Bronze to the current Oba of Benin. In the same month, we served public notice of our application to the Diocese of Ely to relocate the Chapel memorial to Tobias Rustat. The public notice period ran until 23 January 2021.

In February 2021, we began a process of considering the views of the various heritage advisory bodies that the Diocese had consulted as part of the Faculty application process. This includes options for relocating the memorial to a more fitting educational space within the College.

In May 2021, we submitted an application to the Diocese of Ely to relocate Tobias Rustat’s memorial from our Chapel to a permanent educational exhibition space in College.

Funded research internships for current students

The LSWP is preparing to launch a second phase of research. From July 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

In late April 2019, the University of Cambridge announced an inquiry into historical links to slavery. 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 from, 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.

In November 2020, the LSWP published an update on implementation of actions.

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

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