Glasgow University to spend £20m in slavery reparations

In a first for a university, Glasgow has agreed to pay reparations for money it received as a result of the slave trade

The University of Glasgow has announced it will spend £20m in reparations because of its links with the slave trade.

The decision is the first for any university in the world. The institution, which last year published a report on the donations it received in the 18th and 19th century from people involved in slavery, will create a Glasgow-Caribbean centre for development research with the University of the West Indies.

Although the university itself was never directly involved in slavery, the university concluded it had received significant financial support from the trade with a present-day value of between £16.7m and £198m.

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The university said it played a leading role in the abolitionist movement but “did also receive significant financial support from people whose wealth derived, in part, from slavery”.

Glasgow University Reparations slave trade 19th century
Glasgow docks were a centre for the tobacco trade which turned many Glaswegian businessmen into wealthy philanthropists, but the industry relied heavily on slavery. (Credit, Giuseppe Milo, Flickr)

Other universities have launched investigations into links with the slave trade. The University of Cambridge will conclude an investigation into its past and the University of Bristol will appoint a permanent member of staff to examine its legacy.

We would have benefitted, albeit indirectly from that appalling and heinous trade – Dr David Duncan, University of Glasgow

The new centre will be located in Glasgow and the Caribbean and will sponsor research and spread awareness of the history of slavery. The University of Glasgow will now spend two years raising and spending the funds as part of a reparative justice programme.

Dr David Duncan, chief operating officer and university secretary, said: “When we commissioned our year-long study into the links the University of Glasgow had with historical slavery we were conscious both of the proud part that Glasgow played in the abolitionist movement, and an awareness that we would have benefitted, albeit indirectly from that appalling and heinous trade.

“From the very first we determined to be open, honest and transparent with the findings, and to produce a programme of reparative justice.”

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