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Fellow Professor Martin Millet leads University of Cambridge slave trade inquiry

A two-year academic study into ways the University of Cambridge contributed to, benefited from or challenged the Atlantic slave trade is being chaired by Fellow Professor Martin Millett.

Professor Millet told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: “There's a broad public interest in understanding better how we as a society benefited in terms of donations and intellectual legacy.”

He said that it was a “complicated and difficult area”.

“Rather than rushing, we want to set out research discussing with academics and get evidence-based understanding how Cambridge interacted with the slave trade.”

The inquiry will investigate archives and a range of records to discover how the University may have gained from slavery and the exploitation of labour, through financial and other bequests to departments, libraries and museums.

A specially-commissioned Advisory Group appointed by Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen J Toope will recommend appropriate ways to publicly acknowledge past links to slavery and to address its impact.

The eight-member Advisory Group is being chaired by Laurence Professor of Classical Archaeology and Fellow of Fitzwilliam College Professor Millett.

The inquiry will be conducted by two full-time postdoctoral researchers, based in the Centre of African Studies, part of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. The research will examine specific gifts, bequests and historical connections with the slave trade. Researchers will also look into the University’s contribution to scholarship and learning that underpinned slavery and other forms of coerced labour.

The Advisory Group is expected to deliver its final report to the Vice-Chancellor in autumn 2021. Alongside its findings on historical links to the slave trade, the report will recommend appropriate ways for the University to publicly acknowledge such links and their modern impact. 

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