A history professorship named after Cecil Rhodes has been axed by a university following a row over its imperial heritage and links to racism and slavery.

King’s College London has removed the 100-year-old Rhodes Professorship of Imperial History after lobbying by the current post holder, Professor Richard Drayton.

The academic, who was born in Guyana and is a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, said of King’s that ‘the blood of enslaved Caribbean people is mixed into the mortar of its foundations’.

But critics have called the move ‘footling virtue signalling’ and said such actions risk erasing history.

In a letter to the provost of King’s, released following a Freedom of Information request, Prof Drayton said the institution was built with donations from individuals made rich by the enslavement and exploitation of people in the West Indies. 

He highlighted plantation owner Charles Pallmer, who gave today’s equivalent of £40,000 to the university in 1828 – the year before it was established – but who once received the equivalent of £400,000 for the 300 slaves he owned in Jamaica.

Prof Drayton argues in the letter, sent in 2020, that the Rhodes Professorship should be changed and the institution needed to make reparations to the Caribbean and African diaspora. 

King's College London has removed the 100-year-old Rhodes Professorship of Imperial History after lobbying by the current post holder, Professor Richard Drayton (pictured)

King's College London has removed the 100-year-old Rhodes Professorship of Imperial History after lobbying by the current post holder, Professor Richard Drayton (pictured)

King’s College London has removed the 100-year-old Rhodes Professorship of Imperial History after lobbying by the current post holder, Professor Richard Drayton (pictured)

He said such moves would ‘begin a process of repair – repair of the world, repair of ourselves – to make a future world in which everyone can live as equals’.

In response, the university said that because the Professorship was not connected to any funding from the Rhodes Trust, reference to the controversial imperialist could be dropped. 

It also proposed a number of scholarships for black PhD students, named after Dr Harold Moody, a Jamaican-born medic and anti-racism campaigner who attended King’s.

Professor Jeremy Black, author and emeritus professor of history at Exeter University, described the dropping of the Rhodes name as ‘footling virtue signalling’.

Frank Furedi, author and emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University, said: ‘Perhaps they could change the name to Professorship of Decolonisation Studies or of Grievance Studies.’

The decision will be seen as a victory by the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, which wants to see the statue of Rhodes taken down from Oriel College, Oxford. Oxford has agreed to scrap its Rhodes Professorship of Race Relations but the move has yet to be passed by the Privy Council.

A King’s spokesman said: ‘As we have not received funding from the Rhodes Trust for almost 100 years, the name of the chair was updated.’

The academic, who was born in Guyana and is a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, said of King's that 'the blood of enslaved Caribbean people is mixed into the mortar of its foundations'. Pictured: Cecil Rhodes

The academic, who was born in Guyana and is a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, said of King's that 'the blood of enslaved Caribbean people is mixed into the mortar of its foundations'. Pictured: Cecil Rhodes

The academic, who was born in Guyana and is a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, said of King’s that ‘the blood of enslaved Caribbean people is mixed into the mortar of its foundations’. Pictured: Cecil Rhodes 

Source: Daily Mail

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