Legacies of Enslavement


In the summer of 2021, four Christ's students worked for a month as paid interns, researching the complex connections of College members with the transatlantic slave trade, the legacies of enslavement and the movement for abolition. Their work, facilitated by the College Archivist Dr Genny Silvanus, was intended to complement the Vice-Chancellor's initiative at the University level. The four students presented their work to an open meeting in the Lloyd Room on 21 October and also through an exhibition in the Old Library for two weeks from 28 October.

College Council has approved a follow-up project for 2022, building on last year. Up to four students will be awarded grants to work for up to four weeks (11 July - 5 August). The project will be coordinated by Prof. David Reynolds and Dr Harriet Lyon. Dr Silvanus will offer advice on databases, archives etc.

Reports from 2021

The Project

The initial task this year will be to construct the fullest possible database of College members involved in the slave trade, slave plantations and the anti-slavery movement. This will exploit the substantial electronic resources available, e.g. the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery and a Cambridge Alumni Database. It will also identify links with particular Caribbean islands and British port cities, of which the most significant were Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. The research will plug into many lively community projects now developing across Britain, e.g. Lancaster Slavery Family Trees.

Depending on progress with the database, in the later phase of this summer's project there should be time to research more closely at some key individuals identified last summer (see note below). This is likely to entail some research in archives elsewhere in Britain, especially Bristol and London.

The students' research will result in various public outputs, depending on the nature of their work. As well as the database and individual reports, these could include blogs, websites, articles for Pieces/ College magazine - and another exhibition, if there were sufficient visual content of quality.

There will be a Zoom meeting on Friday 29 April, 5pm, to outline the project and answer questions.

Legacies of Enslavement Zoom Meeting

  • Time: Friday 29 April, 5pm
  • Link: join here
  • Meeting ID: 953 7130 3035
  • Passcode: 599841

The Process

  • Friday 13 May, 12 noon: Closing date for applications from undergrads and grad students (excluding those appointed for this project in 2021). Submit CV + statement of interest (up 500 words), showing awareness of the material in this document and indicating possible outputs (written, visual, etc). Send submissions to tutorial@christs.cam.ac.uk.
  • Applications will be considered by the appointment committee. Notification by 18 May. There will be an orientation meeting at a mutually convenient date during May Week.
  • The research will take place in the period Monday 11 July to Fri 5 August. Members of the committee will be on hand to provide advice and there will be provision for some more formal supervision on written work and other outputs in August and early September. Submission of reports and other outputs by Friday 16 September.

The Practicalities

  • Each of the students appointed will receive a stipend of £1,500 to cover the four weeks of research including food over the whole period and costs of lodging when in College.
  • In addition, they will be able to claim expenses for research (e.g. copying) and for costs of research travel and lodging when away from Cambridge (but not food). Trips to be approved in advance by David Reynolds and reimbursed on submission of receipts.

Key Individuals

Here are some key individuals for possible further research:

  • Azariah Pinney (1775-1803): from a significant slave-owning family on the island of Nevis [papers in University of Bristol Special Collections].

  • John Scandrett Harford (1787-1866): also from a slave-owning family but he became a prominent abolitionist [Bristol City Archive]. The richness of both these Bristol archives was identified by Clemmie Butler Brown's research in 2021.

  • Jonathan Blenman (1753-1807): From a wealthy slave-owning family in Barbados where he became Solicitor General. To follow up the 2021 work of Georgie Moore in an effort to find out more about his property (Duke's Farm) and the people enslaved there.

  • Thomas Thompson (1708-1773): became a missionary in Africa and authored a pamphlet offering biblical support for the slave trade: The African trade for Negro slaves: Shewn to be consistent with principles of humanity, and with the laws of revealed religion. By Tho. Thompson, M.A. Sometime fellow of C.C.C. (1772)

  • Bishop Beilby Porteus (1731-1809): Descendant of a major Virginian slave-owning family; Bishop of Chester (1776-87) and of London (1787-1809). A leading Anglican opponent of the slave trade. Donor of College Reading Prize [Lambeth Palace Library].