History of Slavery Report - an update

Published: 14 June 2019

University COO Dr David Duncan gives a progress report on "Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow" - the report published last September

History of Slavery Report 

In September 2018, we launched "Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow", co-authored by Professor Simon Newman and Dr Stephen Mullen.

The report received widespread publicity in the press and attracted considerable interest within the University. Since September, the project steering group has continued to meet to take forward implementation of the recommendations in the report. Please see below on how we are addressing all nine recommendations.

David Duncan
Chair, History of Slavery Committee

Recommendations: Update on Progress

1. Publication of the Senior Management Group’s statement of July 2016, along with the final version of this full report detailing the research and conclusions of the research into how the University benefited from the profits of historical slavery, and a statement describing the reparative justice actions to be undertaken by the University.

The report was published and received widespread publicity.


2. Strive to increase the racial diversity of students and staff and to reduce the degree attainment gap, in line with the University of Glasgow's Equality and Diversity Policy. Include the awarding of scholarships to BAME students of Afro-Caribbean descent to help address their under-representation in the University.

As of 2019-20, we will offer 30 scholarships aimed at RUK students from BAME backgrounds.


3. Pursue the negotiation and signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Glasgow and the University of the West Indies, designed to fit the needs and requirements of UWI staff and students, while working in alignment with the educational objectives of the University of Glasgow. It is hoped that this might include, for example: (a) A short-term visiting fellowship for UWI academic staff (b) Student scholarships for UWI students (c) Develop relationships in focused areas (for example, medicine, engineering) (d) Work collaboratively with UWI to advance research and education in the fields key to reparative justice (e.g. health, history of slavery and its legacies, post-colonial economic development etc.: see //www.caricom.org/caricom-ten-point-plan-for-reparatory-justice/ 

We have agreed the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of the West Indies. Further details on when this will be signed will be available in due course.


4. Creation of an interdisciplinary centre for the study of historical slavery and its legacies, including modern slavery and trafficking. This centre would combine scholarly research and teaching with public humanities, increasing knowledge and enhancing understanding of both historical and modern slavery, and the effects they have on and in modern day society. This would include collaboration with museums, schools and other public institutions. A long-term objective would be the creation and coordination of new courses, and the eventual development of programmes of study focused on slavery, trafficking and their effects. 

We have established a centre led by Dr Christine Whyte from the School of Humanities. A draft programme of activities was considered by the steering group at its last meeting. Three initial events are planned for June with further seminars, lectures and public-facing activities scheduled for later this year and into 2020.


5. The inauguration of an internal and rotating fixed-term named professorship, a post to be awarded to a University of Glasgow academic undertaking significant research relevant to historical slavery and reparative justice (which might, for example, include research into historical racial slavery; work on present day refugees and victims of trafficking; medical research into sickle cell anaemia; economic or political research into post-colonial nations etc.). The professorship would be held for a fixed term (e.g. one or two years), and would include a public lecture, and other public-facing activities.

We have revised this proposal which will take the form of a non-stipendiary visiting fellowship – we intend to advertise this shortly.


6. The naming of a major new University building or space to commemorate a significant figure, perhaps James McCune Smith, with appropriate signage and public-facing information, so that the University's campus and built environment can help enhance knowledge and understanding of the University's history and our present-day activities commemorating this history and pursuing policies of reparative justice.

We have announced that the student-centred building currently under construction on University Avenue will be called the James McCune Smith Learning Hub. The building will be completed in 2020.


7. In addition to the naming of a new building or campus space, a commemorative plaque will be added to the Gilbert Scott Building, explaining that this was the site of the house of Robert Bogle (https://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/building/?id=131), a wealthy West India merchant who owned a great many enslaved people (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146633007), and that people who made money from slave-ownership and the trade in slave-producedommodities were amongst the donors for the construction of these campus buildings.

A commemorative plaque will be unveiled in the cloisters, Gilbert Scott building, on 23 August (UNESCO International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition).


8. Development of a Hunterian exhibition exploring the often unknown and unexpected ways in which some items within the collections are related to the history of racial slavery. Ideally this would continue as a permanent digital exhibition.

Colleagues in the Hunterian are scheduling this into their programme of exhibitions over the next few years. In the short term, Archives & Special Collections are working with the Hunterian on an exhibition of images which will be available for public viewing in the Chapel from 23 August.


9. The creation of a creative arts and sciences series (under the auspices of the new centre), with performances, events and lectures ranging from poetry to film-making to medical and scientific research relating to both historical and present-day slavery, but also to research areas connected with issues arising from the heritage of slavery.

In advance of establishing the Centre, we have already hosted two events which attracted significant audiences – a conversation with Jamaica’s Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison, hosted by Professor Louise Welch, and a lecture by Professor Selwyn Cudjoe on his book Slave Master of Trinidad, hosted by Dr Stephen Mullen. As indicated above, further events are planned under the auspices of the interdisciplinary centre.


First published: 14 June 2019