University's links to slavery acknowledged in new report

The university traces its origins to the institution which was founded in 1796 with funding from slavery.

Strathclyde University’s links to slavery acknowledged in new report Strathclyde University via Supplied

A new report sheds light on the “uncomfortable truth” about a Scottish university’s historic links to slavery,

The University of Strathclyde report found that four presidents of The Anderson Institution – the forerunner to the university – were enslavers between 1812 and 1840.

The school, which has stated that it was engaged in activities to advance racial equality, traces its origins to the institution which was founded in 1796 with funding from profits made off the back of enslaved people.

It added that it would also expand its investment in work which raises awareness of the legacy of slavery in the city of Glasgow in response to the report.

This Institute was the result of a bequest by Professor John Anderson, who wished to create “a place of useful learning” in the city following his departure from the University of Glasgow.

However, Anderson left insufficient funds for this new institution and the 81 trustees named in his will and legacy were left to raise the necessary money to fulfil his wish. 

The report found that some of these funds came from the city’s merchants, much of whose wealth derived from the profits of businesses involving enslaved people in the Americas and which flowed into many of the city’s civic institutions.

Professor Richard Finlay, the head of the School of Humanities at the University of Strathclyde said: “Anderson’s Institution was founded in a city that was still sucking in the profits from slavery.

“Glasgow’s merchants, through ruthless efficiency and business innovation, established themselves by the 1760s as the main port in the United Kingdom for the tobacco trade.

“The Tobacco Lords did not just profit from the labour of enslaved Africans, they actively promoted and extended the use of enslaved labour through the supply of credit and loans for plantation development.”

The report, which was published on Monday, also identified individuals in the university’s past with links to slavery who donated money or played a significant role in the institution’s governance.

These included four past presidents who were members of the Glasgow West India Association who lobbied in favour of slavery before the Abolition of Slavery Act 1833.

University principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald said: “Today the University of Strathclyde prides itself on being a socially progressive institution that champions equality and diversity.

“As an institution so closely entwined with the City of Glasgow, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be connections to the abomination that is slavery.

“It is nonetheless shocking and provides new context regarding the university’s foundational story.

“It is only right that we acknowledge this uncomfortable truth and to recognise and accept that much of our city’s, and our nation’s, history and prosperity has been built through the exploitation of other peoples and this is deeply regrettable.”

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