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We have been here before: ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ in historical context

Rhodes Statue
Written by Lawrence Goldman

As its title suggests, the essay below sets campaigns of removal and cancellation in a longer historical view, stretching back to the Victorians. We may think we are engaged in an entirely novel argument about how to commemorate and remember the past, but we would be wrong.

Featured Image Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Author’s note:

The essay published below was first delivered as a paper at a conference, jointly organised by Dr Jill Pellew and myself, at the Institute of Historical Research, London, in 2017. The conference was entitled ‘History, Heritage and Ideology’ and the papers were subsequently published as Dethroning Historical Reputations. Universities, Museums and the Commemoration of Benefactors (University of London, School of Advanced Study, 2018). Responding to all the issues thrown up by the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign, and others like it, the collection includes essays taking different positions from academic and public historians, museum directors and curators, and university fund-raisers. In light of very recent moves at Imperial College London to ‘decolonise’ and rename parts of its campus, the essay by Dr Pellew entitled ‘Donors to an Imperial Project: Randlords as Benefactors to the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College of Science and Technology’ is highly relevant. The book is open access and can be downloaded from this website:



The locus classicus for recent debates over these questions in Britain is the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ affair in Oxford in 2015-16. Cecil Rhodes was an imperialist in word and deed, who, for good and ill, created the map of Southern Africa and made himself rich in the process. He left much of his wealth, some £2 million, to his alma mater, Oriel College, Oxford; he also established the Rhodes Scholarships which have enabled thousands of students from the United States and successively more places – Germany and South Africa among them – to study in Oxford.[i] It was an American Rhodes Scholar indeed, a beneficiary of Rhodes’s munificence, who began the campaign to remove Rhodes’s statue from the façade of Oriel College in Oxford’s High Street, in the heart of the university, from where he has looked down on generations of students.[ii] Rhodes had to fall because he had been a racist and an imperialist whose statue was a symbol of past values and beliefs that offended current students, though how many and to what extent was not altogether clear.

At first, Oriel College called for an open, public consultation on the matter of the statue.[iii] But that was brought to a swift end by a new vice-chancellor of the university who acted decisively in her first days in office early in January 2016, and by the reaction of Oriel’s alumni. It was widely reported that many former members of the college were threatening to cease supporting the college financially if Rhodes was removed. This was not an ideological reaction on their part: there was no hint that anyone endorsed Rhodes’s behaviour and views more than a century later. Rather, it represented a concern that if the college could dishonour a benefactor and his benefactions in this manner, under pressure from students articulating the ideas of the present, it might treat their donations to the college, given in good faith, in the same manner at some future date. They, too, might be judged outmoded or worse, and reassigned to another purpose or even given back.[iv]

Opposition to monuments, statues and commemorations from the past which are held to offend people today is thus intimately linked to the act of giving: most of these offending memorials have been given to universities, colleges and museums by donors, or have been set up to remember benefactors or illustrious public figures and paid for by subscription. To pull them down is not only to dispute the historical legacy of the subject but to take issue with those who supported the memorial. It is also to take issue with an earlier interpretation of the past, one that we may no longer agree with. But is disagreement or even the taking of offence a strong enough reason to remove a monument or alter a benefaction that a past generation endorsed and celebrated?

We have been here before, though past controversies over educational benefactions have not been ideological in the same way. The Victorians were nothing if not hard-headed and empirical, and their disputes were over the use of donations and the social benefit thereby derived from them, rather than the beliefs of the donor. Nevertheless, they provide an interesting context for understanding our present disputes.[v]

The 1850s and 1860s were an era of educational investigation and reform in Britain at all levels as the fragmented and inadequate provision of schools and colleges was addressed by commissions of enquiry and legislation. Secondary education was of dubious quality in schools which were unregulated and unexamined, and middle-class parents were (as they always are about education) disgruntled and unhappy. I have no doubt that mid-Victorian dinner parties were, as now, consumed with the discussion of the merits of the local schools. Eventually, after years of debate and much hand-wringing over national failure, Palmerston’s government established a royal commission in 1864 to examine the state of secondary education, the Taunton Commission.[vi] This reported in 1868 after an exhaustive and exemplary review of educational provision and recommended that existing educational endowments – funds donated and invested over the centuries for educational purposes – should be reapplied to support high-quality secondary education. At this stage, there was no state funding for secondary education: the aim was to reorganise the use of those historic funds given for education by benefactors in the past.

Most of the funds were benefactions dating back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for local grammar schools, providing for the education of all the local children, whatever their backgrounds. However, over time, many of these benefactions had lost their rationale. Some country schools had enormous sums for the education of a handful of boys; other parts of the new urban and industrial economy had no access to endowments at all. And the educational reformers of the 1860s were generally opposed to providing a free education to the children of the poor using historic funds – they favoured reapplying the money to high quality secondary education of the middle class.

A year after the Taunton Commission report, the new Liberal administration, Gladstone’s first government, passed the 1869 Endowed Schools Act. This established the remarkable Endowed Schools Commission (ESC) and charged it with the wholesale reform of these educational endowments, leaving it free to do what it liked, more or less. The ESC had only three members: Gladstone’s brother-in-law, Lord Lyttelton, with whom the prime minister corresponded in classical Greek;[vii] Arthur Hobhouse, a leading barrister;[viii] and Canon Hugh Robinson who had been Principal of a teacher-training college in the York diocese. It was said that the ESC could ‘take the endowments from a boys’ school in Northumberland and apply them to create a girls’ school in Cornwall’. Certainly, it behaved in very radical ways by transferring endowments wholesale to create what it hoped would be efficient and high-calibre schools by using historic funds more effectively. Note, by the way, that reference to a girls’ school in Cornwall, because the ESC has a very distinguished record in supporting girls’ secondary education and in founding several leading girls’ schools of today.

Contemporaries saw it differently, however. They were aghast at the unrestrained radicalism of the ESC which seemed to represent the worst aspects of Liberal reform – of Mr Gladstone in a hurry. It was an embodiment of the trend towards centralisation which many Victorian men of property opposed. Local boards of governors were astonished when dictated to by this central body constructed by Liberal legislation which was now overruling local elites used to running these charities themselves. The cry went up of ‘local self-government’. In another manifestation of its Liberalism, the Commission regularly asked for evidence that the schools it was reforming were Anglican in origin and practise, which had hitherto been taken for granted. Indeed, in the historical literature on the Endowed Schools Act, it is this religious difficulty which is usually held to have led to the most controversy. In reality, the Commission’s treatment of traditional and inefficient governing bodies which were brushed aside as the ESC took away endowments, and in some cases, effectively closed down longstanding local schools, was the real cause of conflict.

The Commission caused controversy wherever it went, but especially when it turned to the reform of the Emanuel Hospital Foundation in Westminster in 1871. In that year the foundation was educating 64 boys on an income of over £2000 per annum. The ESC believed it could do better and put forward a plan, involving amalgamation with three other foundations, to create three new boys’ schools and use the endowments to educate fully 900 boys. The scheme would also have removed the Court of Aldermen of the City of London as the governing body – in other words, the ESC was on a collision course with men of property from the city of London and there could be only one winner. It led to a public meeting at the Mansion House in April 1871 to protest against the scheme and more generally to oppose and rein-in the ESC. Simultaneously, these issues were taken up in parliament by among others, Lord Salisbury, later the Conservative prime minister. He, and others, pointed out the effects of such interference on the act of giving itself, the same point made by Oriel College’s alumni in 2015-16. If donors, he argued, could not be certain that their gifts ‘will not be devoted to some philosophical crotchet of the day there will be no more bequests or endowments.’[ix]

There were many reasons why the Liberals lost the 1874 general election but among them was reaction to the Endowed Schools Act which was the subject of much protest, many letters to local and national newspapers, and many critical editorials in those newspapers. In London alone in 1874 it is estimated that the issue helped to swing 7 seats away from the Liberals, and across England as a whole it seems to have been one of those defining issues which alienated the middle class from the party they had hitherto supported, leading many of them to abstain or vote Conservative.  In short, the reform of Victorian educational endowments had genuinely important political consequences.

The surprising result of all this controversy was that one of the first things the Conservatives did on forming a government after the 1874 election was to effectively repeal the 1869 legislation in the Endowed Schools Amendment Act. I say surprising, because, according to Gladstone himself, this was the first ever case of legislation being repealed on partisan lines in all of British History, and he may well have been correct. While we are used to the repeal of legislation by an incoming government, up to the 1870s governments tended to respect what had gone before and leave it alone. Under the amending act, the responsibilities of the ESC were handed over to the far more cautious and conservative Charity Commission. There was another result, as well: the suicide of Lyttelton in 1876.

This whole saga may appear at first sight to be about local powers, the threat of centralisation and the wounded amour propre of Victorian men of property who sat as school governors. But it was also a profoundly philosophical contest concerning the relations of past and present. Interestingly, these mid-Victorians did not seem worried over the provenance of the endowments, or the moral record of those who donated the funds, whether from mad bad kings, exploitative local landholders, or ill-gotten from the dissolution of the monasteries. But they did worry over what was known as ‘the dead hand’, as if stretching from the grave and trying to maintain control of endowments according to the benefactor’s intentions, even in altered circumstances centuries later. This was the position of the liberal radicals: that the ‘dead hand’ should be cut off. On the other side, however, were organic conservative thinkers who venerated an unbroken link between past and present. Listen, for example, to the Revd Dr William Irons, prebendary of St. Paul’s Cathedral, vicar of Brompton, the author in 1869 of a work entitled The Analysis of Human Responsibility, who said this in that year:

“If they were to cut themselves off, and say they had nothing to do with the past, and nothing to do with posterity, they would only intensify the selfishness of the present generation, and threaten the progress of all civilization. It should never be forgotten that they owed all they had to their forefathers, and were morally bound to transmit all the advantages they could to those who came after them.”

The reform of educational endowments in the mid-Victorian period was a much bigger and more politically-significant question than ‘Rhodes Must Fall’. It was not just about the way our views of the past change over time – indeed, it wasn’t much about that at all – but concerned the way the material and financial inheritance we receive from our ancestors is treated, whether respectfully or radically. But in this respect, it is not unlike the controversy over Cecil Rhodes and the threat that it poses to the act of giving: the alumni of Oriel College now, and the corporation of London then, share a similar aversion to meddling with their philanthropy.

What then should we do about monuments, buildings, scholarships, even names that are found to be offensive because of an association with a belief or practice now out of favour or even condemned? The problem is not confined to British imperialists, of course, but has been burning at a much higher intensity in the United States over relics of the Confederacy, the history of African-American slavery, and the denial of black civil rights after slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1865. At an earlier seminar in the IHR in October 2016 two different responses were suggested. Professor Martin Daunton, the economic and social historian, spoke in favour of contextualising monuments by siting biographical detail and historical information close by, so as to explain how views of past deeds and reputations have changed over time. Professor David Starkey, on the other hand, argued that nothing should be done to alter the historic fabric and that any sort of apology for what are now considered misdeeds or crimes could have neither force nor validity as coming from generations and people who were not responsible. His argument was to leave the material inheritance of the past as we have found it, but to ensure that historians rigorously pursue the truth of past actions and beliefs without a hint of sentiment and without any desire to excuse.[x] It is not unlike the position taken by Dr. Nicholas Draper in this collection of essays who argues here that when questions are raised about institutional associations with slavery (and by extension any great moral wrong), the institution concerned should, at the very least, have done its homework so that it can be open and honest about its degree of responsibility and culpability. If a college or school or church has undertaken due diligence, it will have shown the requisite moral courage, and demonstrated that it takes the matter seriously.

Other solutions include re-siting offensive monuments in sculpture parks for the outmoded and unadmired. Such a place exists in Moscow, the Muzeon Sculpture Park on the banks of the Moskva River, about a mile from Red Square, where all the unloved and unlamented statuary and relics of Bolshevism and the Soviet Union have been collected together.[xi] It is a favourite spot for a romantic stroll with a partner, apparently – a contemporary Russian take on ‘love among the ruins’, the title of a poem by Browning, of a painting by Burne-Jones, and of several more recent novels, films and plays as well. But to do this is to decontextualize the monuments and obstruct historical understanding: where a statue is erected, its juxtaposition to other buildings and monuments, its relationship to civic space in general, is a crucial element of its historic significance and intrinsic to the understanding of its purpose. In any case, as responsible authorities like Historic England made clear during the Rhodes Must Fall affair, permission to alter the historic fabric in such a manner would not be granted.[xii] There is also the suggestion that while doing no violence or injustice to existing monuments, the problem can be addressed by erecting statues to, and otherwise commemorating, those whom we now respect and admire in order to redress the ideological balance. This might be the least controversial solution, though the very politicization of public monuments in recent years will make the commissioning of public statuary a more difficult process now and in the future.[xiii] A consensus may be as elusive over the identity of those nominated to receive public recognition in the present and future as it has been when considering celebrated figures from the past.

Another response when the controversy is caused by the very identity of the figure being remembered and honoured is a change of name. Thus, to give one example from many recent name changes on American campuses, in February 2017, weeks before our conference, Yale University announced the change of name of Calhoun College in the very centre of its campus to Grace Hopper College, thus swapping the commemoration of John C. Calhoun, Vice-President of the United States between 1825 and 1832 and a graduate of Yale, for another of its alumni, Grace Murray Hopper, a brilliant female computer scientist who took a doctorate at Yale in the 1930s and also served in the US Navy during and after the Second World War, reaching the rank of Rear Admiral.[xiv] Calhoun, who was also US Senator for South Carolina, was a leading ante-bellum Southern politician and ideologue, who defended the constitutional right of the Southern states to allow chattel slavery and who developed arguments in favour of slavery as a ‘positive good’ for the slaves themselves as beneficiaries of a paternalistic labour system. Widely seen as the most influential of all southern defenders of slavery and states’ rights, his name had long been controversial in Yale.[xv] That the university authorities decided first in 2016 to retain the name of Calhoun College, but then changed their minds a year later is evidence of the degree of difficulty in breaking with the past and of the new force of student activism over these questions.

When explaining the original decision made in 2016 to retain the given name of the college, Yale’s President Peter Salovey wrote that ‘retaining the name forces us to learn anew and confront one of the most disturbing aspects of Yale’s and our nation’s past. I believe this is our obligation as an educational institution.’[xvi] Name changing may antagonise alumni and possibly alter the behaviour of present and future benefactors for reasons already discussed. But as Salovey’s comment also suggests, its unintended consequence is to expunge from the record not only tainted names but also the knowledge of former actions and beliefs and their consequences.

The same points have been made in relation to the planned renaming in this country of Bristol’s famous Colston Hall, announced in April 2017, and the wider campaign to have the name of Colston removed from every building, monument, street and scholarship in the city.[xvii] Edward Colston was a slave trader of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and a major benefactor of Bristol who provided for schools, almshouses and a bridge. Now, in the words of one opponent of the campaign, ‘he is to be airbrushed out of history’.[xviii] Alumni of Colston’s Girls’ School in the city also demurred on learning that Colston’s name would not be mentioned at an annual commemoration of benefactors’ service in Bristol Cathedral: ‘do not attempt to ignore the historic past, however unsavoury’ was their response.[xix] ‘History should not be obscured’ wrote another opponent.[xx] Once the name has been removed and, in this case, Colston has become a remote and forgotten figure, it will be more difficult to engage critically with Bristol’s central role in the history of the Atlantic slave trade. In Oxford, the Codrington Library, in its name alone, opens up many ways of thinking about the past. Remove the name and call it just the All Souls’ Library and the complex legacy of a wealthy slave-holding dynasty in the West Indies, and the relationship between the profits of slavery and philanthropy, are that much more difficult to recover and discuss.[xxi] While buildings and benefactions carry the names of their donors or their inspirations, it is an easy task to find out their failings and learn from them, or to be transported back to another age and way of thinking. Imagine the loss to Manchester and the nation if we were to change the name of the Free Trade Hall, that monument to a great idea situated in the city that campaigned so ardently in the 1830s and 1840s for a new laissez-faire political economy? Expunge the name and not only has the past been distorted; identities will have ceased to have any educative function.

Thus far, the discussion has focused on the objects of complaint, the monuments, statues and buildings representing a past that, in the views of some, must be confronted. But how do we explain the change in attitude, especially among students, which has made this such an issue in recent years? In the United States, it may be a reflection of a return to the exercise of power by student groups which was a feature of American higher education and wider politics in the 1960s and 1970s. American commentators have also pointed to a profound decline in respect for traditional liberal values like free speech and free expression on American campuses.[xxii] It may also be linked to the increasingly partisan nature of American life in general. Entrenched blocs of the left and right can find no common ground and even seem unwilling to seek it. In the politicisation of all things, even statues to long-dead and long-forgotten figures may become controversial.

In the United Kingdom, there may be another reason as well, one that bears on the role and responsibility of historians and teachers: the nature of the History curriculum itself. For understandable reasons, the syllabus has tried over the past three decades to focus on key events and passages in modern history from which it is hoped that pupils might learn lessons that apply to life in a liberal, democratic and multicultural society. This has led to an increased focus on aberrant and extreme regimes in recent history such as Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and the Soviet Union under Stalin. Though representations by historians and even by the German ambassador to examination boards, and discussion of the issue in the media, have led to a widening in the choice of subject for public examination, these are still the bedrock of many GCSE and A-level syllabuses. Students in the United Kingdom studying history for the International Baccalaureate have also specialised in recent years in the specific study of ‘dictators’, from Hitler and Mussolini to Mao and Castro. It is also now common to meet students studying the history of American civil rights and South African Apartheid as core components of the A-level course.

There can be little doubt of the interest and moral engagement with these and other subjects like them. But whether students have studied the worst in human nature or the best, whether they have focused on the history of persecuting regimes or the struggle of subject peoples to be free, they have been presented with history as a morality play, a struggle between unmistakeable good and evil. In the process, they will have learnt much about basic democratic rights and the need to protect liberal values and constitutional arrangements, which must be to the good. These courses will have helped prepare them for citizenship, for sure. But whether they will have gained a subtle and reflective view of the past is questionable. History, focused on these subjects, is more likely to be understood as a sequence of Manichean struggles in which right and wrong are so clear as to need little discussion. The habits thus learned in the class and lecture room, largely based on a narrow range of modern historical examples, may be too easily applied to other situations where the context is more complicated and ‘the sides’ less clear.

It is rare indeed to find students who have studied the distant past for its own sake: medieval history has almost disappeared at A-level and even the Tudors seem to be in decline. The imaginative engagement with the ‘differentness’ of the past – ‘The past is another country; they do things differently there’[xxiii] – has been displaced by a history chosen and designed to be relevant today. This is not to accuse anyone involved of bad faith but it is to wonder if, in the desire to use the curriculum to convey other social messages, we have encouraged the teaching of ‘bad history’ by exposing students to a limited range of periods and subjects designed to evoke strong moral responses. To teach periods and themes which are different, even alien to the students of today – medieval kingship, the Reformation, the Civil War, Victorian politics – might encourage that more nuanced response to the past which is more accepting of its difference and which is not so swift to judge. All students of history, and their teachers as well, might reflect on the following words written by one of the greatest historical scholars of any age, Lord Acton, Regius Professor of History at Cambridge at the end of the nineteenth century, in a letter to his daughter, Annie:


“Try to understand that the right is not all on one side, that good men are often wrong, and that wicked men sometimes accomplish what is necessary for the welfare of nations. History only teaches us to nurse and encourage our passions, if we do not learn to look at it with divided sympathies.”[xxiv]


The complexity, diversity and sheer ‘difference’ of the past has been captured in one of the major new historical resources of the present generation, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which may provide us with a concluding example of the manner in which present-mindedness can be reconciled with history. No publication is more concerned with biographical detail and the assessment of public lives than the ODNB, the record of more than 60,000 Britons, widely defined as such, over two millennia, who achieved notability in their various fields. At more than 70 million words, it is the longest work in the history of the language. Published online since 2004, it is possible to alter any aspect of a biographical essay as new evidence comes to light or as public attitudes change. To give a relevant example of updating, some of the findings of the ‘Legacies of British Slave-Ownership’ group at University College, London, whose members include Dr Nicholas Draper, have been integrated into the ODNB since the publication of their research in 2014. This has led to the updating of dozens of articles covering the lives of British Caribbean slaveholders and slave traders as accurate details on the extent of their slaveholdings and slave dealings have become available.[xxv] That could not be the case with its predecessor, the original paper and print Dictionary of National Biography, begun in 1882 and edited first by the Victorian intellectual, Leslie Stephen. For all its many merits – and it was still being used extensively until 2004 – many of the DNB’s essays, and all those concerning major historic figures, were outdated long before it was superseded.

Yet the new Dictionary was not written to be ‘our view’ of national history – the view taken by scholars writing in the twelve years between 1992 and 2004 when the ODNB was compiled, and subsequently. To have written it in this way would have limited its usefulness and ensured that it, too, would have become outmoded relatively quickly. Colin Matthew, the ODNB’s architect and first editor, wanted the new Dictionary to build on the first.[xxvi] Thus, no historical figure with an entry in the original DNB was cast out, however insignificant and uninfluential they seem now. Many articles on lesser figures about whom not much more was known or could be added, were revised rather than researched and written afresh. And the ODNB website was designed to provide instant online access to the digitised version of the first DNB, making it possible to work simultaneously from the two versions, comparing and contrasting views from the 1990s with those of the 1890s. Matthew was conscious and desirous of producing a hybrid, an organic and evolutionary work by design, that built on the original DNB and which followed its example of publishing well-written, informative and signed rather than anonymous essays about past figures.[xxvii] Previous scholarship was not discarded or ignored but conserved. When Matthew initially sought the views of historians on how to rewrite the Dictionary he sent them essays from the original DNB and asked for their comments on how they could be improved and developed. Many articles in the ODNB end with a review of the reputation of the subject precisely because in this way we can appreciate changing interpretations and fashion, and balance between past and present views.

This may be the reason for the ODNB’s success as a preeminent source and tool for research – that it was planned as a synthesis of views, old and new, respectful of its inheritance though never flinching from contemporary judgment. Matthew told contributors to be ‘wise, liberal and just’, not iconoclastic and revisionist for their own sake. Of course, it is easier to deal with changing historical interpretations in print than it is when those interpretations are captured once and for all time in oils, or stone, or in a photograph. The depth and subtlety so obtained in a work of replaceable words, and at such length, is impossible to achieve in mute images, representations and objects which thereby incite more extreme responses. But the hybrid nature of the Oxford DNB, the balance that it has found between past and present interpretations, gives some indication of the spirit required in other areas of public life. Commemoration and memorialisation must reflect history and biography as understood then as well as now. We should respect and keep faith with the views of previous generations even when, as will so often be the case, we now think differently.

In February 2018, a new statue will be unveiled in Parliament Square, Westminster. It will depict the great champion of women’s suffrage from the 1860s to the 1920s, the leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, Millicent Garrett Fawcett.[xxviii] It is entirely uncontroversial; indeed, if there is an issue at all, it is why it has taken so long to honour her in this manner and why she will be only the first woman memorialised in Parliament Square.[xxix] Across the road from Dame Millicent, however, just within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster, is an equestrian statue of Oliver Cromwell with a much more complex history. Cromwell sat in the House of Commons as MP for Cambridge from 1640 and he led Parliament’s forces in the Civil War. But he also benefited from Colonel Thomas Pride’s purge of conservative members of the House of Commons in December 1648, a manoeuvre in which he may well have been involved; signed Charles I’s death warrant; invaded and subdued Ireland while massacring some of its population; and ruled alone without a parliament as Lord Protector in the 1650s.[xxx] It is hardly surprising that the suggestion by the Liberal government of Lord Rosebery in 1895 that a statue be erected in his honour should have met with public and parliamentary disfavour and a consequent decision by the government to withhold funding.[xxxi] But an anonymous donor paid for the statue out of his own pocket and it was eventually unveiled in 1899, when it was discovered that the donor was the now former-prime minister, Rosebery himself.[xxxii] Controversial then, as recently as 2004 a motion in the House of Commons from a group of MPs led by the late Tony Banks, called for the statue to be removed and melted down.[xxxiii] But Cromwell still sits atop his horse in Westminster, evidence perhaps of the maturity and reflectiveness of British and also Irish political culture. As this essay has tried to show, whether or not Rhodes should or will fall, we have been here before.



[i] Shula Marks, Stanley Trapido, ‘Rhodes, Cecil John (1853–1902)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2013 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35731, accessed 16 Oct 2017]

[ii] The Guardian, 9 March 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/09/take-it-down-rhodes-must-fall-campaign-marches-through-oxford

[iii] The Independent, 22 December, 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/cecil-rhodes-statue-row-oxford-academics-propose-sign-distancing-oriel-college-from-imperialists-a6783691.html

[iv] Daily Telegraph, 29 Jan. 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/12128151/Cecil-Rhodes-statue-to-remain-at-Oxford-University-after-alumni-threatens-to-withdraw-millions.html

[v] The following discussion of the reform of endowments for secondary education in mid-Victorian Britain is taken from my essay ‘The Defection of the Middle Classes: The Liberal Party and the 1869 Endowed Schools Act’ in Peter Ghosh and Lawrence Goldman (eds.) The Political Culture of Victorian Britain: Essays in Memory of Colin Matthew (Oxford University Press, 2006), pp 118-35. See also Lawrence Goldman, Science, Reform and Politics in Victorian Britain. The Social Science Association 1857-1886 (Cambridge, 2002), pp 236-61.

[vi] Royal Commission to Inquire into Education in Schools in England and Wales (known as the Schools’ Inquiry or Taunton Commission), 21 vols., Parliamentary Papers 1867-8, XXVIII, pts i-xvii.

[vii] Peter Gordon, ‘Lyttelton, George William, fourth Baron Lyttelton and fourth Baron Westcote (1817–1876)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/17307, accessed 17 Oct 2017]

[viii] C. E. A. Bedwell, ‘Hobhouse, Arthur, Baron Hobhouse (1819–1904)’, rev. H. C. G. Matthew, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/33902, accessed 17 Oct 2017]

[ix] For Salisbury’s speech in parliament see Hansard, CCV, 24 Apr. 1871, 1549-58; CCVII, 30 June 1871, 862-9. Goldman, ‘The Defection of the Middle Classes’, p. 131.

[x] History Now and Then Seminar: ‘Rhodes’ Statue and Beyond’, Institute of Historical Research, 5 October 2016. The other speakers were Professors Margot Finn and Jinty Nelson.

[xi] The Chicago Tribune, http://digitaledition.chicagotribune.com/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=a1e6c04a-7a80-4254-97a6-a7610198ec91

[xii] Daily Telegraph, 19 December 2015 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/12059379/Removal-of-Rhodes-statue-could-be-blocked-due-to-its-historical-interest.html

[xiii] This suggestion was made by Professor Eric Foner of Columbia University at a public seminar in the British Library, 9 June 2017, on ‘The Use and Abuse of American History. Eric Foner in Conversation with Lawrence Goldman’. See also ‘A Usable Past: An Interview’ in Eric Foner, Battles for Freedom. The Use and Abuse of American History. Essays from The Nation (London and New York, 2017), 213.

[xiv] Yale News, 11 Feb. 2017. https://news.yale.edu/2017/02/11/yale-change-calhoun-college-s-name-honor-grace-murray-hopper-0

[xv] New York Times, 3 Sept. 2017; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/03/nyregion/yale-calhoun-college-grace-hopper.html?emc=eta1

[xvi] Isaac Stanley Becker, ‘Yale keeps the Calhoun name despite racial concerns, but ditches the ‘Master’ title’, The Washington Post, 27 April 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/04/27/yale-keeps-the-calhoun-name-despite-racial-concerns-but-ditches-the-master-title/?utm_term=.8eb69b271de2

[xvii] The Guardian, 26 April 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/26/bristol-colston-hall-to-drop-name-of-slave-trader-after-protests; Daily Telegraph, 26 April 2017 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/26/historic-music-venue-colston-hall-ditches-name-shared-toxic/

[xviii] Kenneth Morgan, ‘Colston, Edward (1636–1721)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/5996, accessed 16 Oct 2017]

[xix] Daily Telegraph 19 October 2017 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/19/slave-trader-edward-colston-cut-school-service-honour/ . Daily Telegraph, 24 October 2017, Letters from Paula and Gillian Gardner, and Jonnie Bradshaw.

[xx] Jane Harratt, Daily Telegraph, 6 Nov 2017; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2017/11/06/lettersrights-accused-must-not-fall-victim-latest-moral-panic/ At the time of writing it looks as if the alumni have been successful as the head teacher has confirmed that the school will not be changing its name. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/11/02/headteacher-school-founded-slavetrader-edward-colston-says-refuses/

[xxi] Scott Mandelbrote, ‘Codrington, Christopher (1668–1710)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/5795, accessed 16 Oct 2017];

The Guardian 9 March 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/09/take-it-down-rhodes-must-fall-campaign-marches-through-oxford;


[xxii] Andrew Sullivan, ‘The Battle for Free Speech’, ‘A Point of View’, BBC Radio 4, 15 October 2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b097ck09

[xxiii] The now infamous opening sentence of the novel by L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953).

[xxiv] Lord Acton to Annie Acton, 10 July 1884, Acton Collection, Cambridge University Library, Add. 8121/9/5 quoted in Roland Hill, Lord Acton (New Haven and London, 2000), 388. Altholz, J. (2004-09-23). Acton, John Emerich Edward Dalberg, first Baron Acton (1834–1902), historian and moralist. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 3 Dec. 2017, from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-30329.

[xxv] Catherine Hall, Nicholas Draper and Keith McClelland (eds.), Emancipation and the Remaking of the British Imperial World (Manchester, 2014). Catherine Hall et al (eds.), Legacies of British Slave-Ownership. Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (Cambridge, 2016).

[xxvi] Ross McKibbin, ‘Matthew, (Henry) Colin Gray (1941–1999)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2011 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/73078, accessed 20 Oct 2017]

[xxvii] H. C. G. Matthew, Leslie Stephen and the New Dictionary of National Biography (Leslie Stephen Lecture, 1995) (Cambridge, 1996)

[xxviii] Janet Howarth, ‘Fawcett, Dame Millicent Garrett (1847–1929)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/33096, accessed 17 Oct 2017]

[xxix] The Guardian, 20 Sept. 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/sep/20/artist-gillian-wearing-unveils-design-parliament-square-statue-suffragist-leader-millicent-fawcett

[xxx] John Morrill, ‘Cromwell, Oliver (1599–1658)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2015 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6765, accessed 17 Oct 2017]

[xxxi] The Times, 20 April; 15 June; 18 June 1895.

[xxxii] Ibid, 26 April, 2 May, 23 September 1899.

[xxxiii] “Oliver Cromwell statue moving”News of the World. 16 May 2004. p. 29.


About the author


Lawrence Goldman