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Policy Exchange's "History Matters Project"
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Prosperity • People • Place • Patriotism
History Matters Project Compendium 12th Edition

 Edited by Alexander Gray 

This is the twelfth edition of our rolling compendium, which attempts to draw together a range of recent developments that turn on the place of history in the public square – including the removal of certain statues on public display, the renaming of buildings and places, and changes to the way history is taught in educational curricula. In cataloguing these examples, we do not offer any judgment on the actions of the individual or institution in question, today or in the past. Our aim is simply to provide a clear documentary record of what is happening – which can help inform public debate on these issues. At present, the evidence confirms that history is the most active front in a new culture war, and that action is being taken widely and quickly in a way that does not reflect public opinion or growing concern over our treatment of the past.

Policy Exchange renews a call for evidence asking museum directors, curators, teachers and the wider public to share their experiences and concerns about the ways in which history is being politicised, and sometimes distorted, sending their evidence to callforevidence@policyexchange.org.uk.

 

Contents 


1.     Street Votes
2.     Jesus College Cambridge
3.     Lambeth Borough Council
4.     Sewell Report
5.     Schools Minister
6.     Tate
7.     Trevithick locomotive
8.     St Paul’s Cathedral
9.     D'Arcy Thompson Museum of Zoology
10.   The Great North Museum
11.    Kew Gardens
12.    Watford Street Names
13.    King’s College London
14.    Glasgow Slavery Audit
15.    Tamil Nadu Government
16.    International Council of Museums
17.    English Heritage
18.    Durham University
19.    Museum of London
20.    University of Stirling
21.    Engels
 
1. Street Votes
 
Councils in England will have to get agreement from local residents on any proposed changes to street names following a recommendation from Policy Exchange. Acknowledging Policy Exchange’s work in this field, the Government announced:

“Local residents will be given the final say on changes to the name of their street, under new proposals published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
 
The government has launched a technical consultation setting out plans to ensure councils in England are approved by local residents in that street before they go ahead with them.

Currently, many councils can change the name of a given street without consulting residents. Consent from local residents has been a legal requirement in the past, but has been ‘disapplied’ in many areas. The government believes the law needs updating so it is consistent across England.
 
The current system relies upon three Acts which date from the early 20th century and create nationally inconsistent and unclear procedures for changing street names. Under the existing legislation, many local authorities have the power to change the name of a given street without engaging residents or businesses on that street. The government is considering the case for modernising these multiple and dated Acts by replacing them with a single clear requirement for a residents’ vote on any changes to street names based on the principles set out in 1907 legislation.
 
The proposals aim to improve local democracy and ensure that street names that are valued by locals and form part of an area’s identity. Changing a street name can have significant practical costs for residents and businesses which then have to change their address with banks, shops, utilities and on official documents.
 
Housing Minister, Rt Hon. Stuart Andrew said:
 
“Up and down the country, street names often form a key part of an area’s history, cherished by the local community for the memories they hold and the places they represent.
 
“These proposals will strengthen local democracy by ensuring that councils in England get agreement from local residents in advance of any street name changes.
 
Further information
The government will introduce these changes through future legislation and the technical consultation is seeking views on the detail of these proposals.
 
The consultation period will run until 22 May and the government will publish its response in due course.
 
The government wishes to acknowledge the work of Policy Exchange through their publication Protecting local heritage: How to bring democracy to the renaming of streets (March 2021) in bringing this to public attention.”
 
 
Sources: 
Press release: Local residents to have final say on proposed changes to street names, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, 12th April 2022
Protecting local heritage: How to bring democracy to the renaming of streets, Policy Exchange, 14th March 2021
 
2. Jesus College Cambridge
 
Jesus College Cambridge has lost a legal bid to remove from its chapel the memorial to Tobias Rustat, a benefactor with links to the slave trade. An ecclesiastical court ruled that its removal would cause “considerable harm” to the chapel’s historical interest. In his ruling, David Hodge QC, Deputy Chancellor of the Diocese of Ely said:

“I am satisfied that the removal of the Rustat memorial from the west wall of the Chapel would cause considerable, or notable, harm to the significance of the Chapel as a building of special architectural or historic interest.

“The College must therefore demonstrate a clear and convincing justification for the removal of the memorial. I am not satisfied the College has done so: the suggested justification is clearly expressed, but I do not find it to be convincing.

“I am not satisfied that the removal of the memorial is necessary to enable the Chapel to play its proper role in providing a credible Christian ministry and witness to the College community, or for it to act as a focus for secular activities and events in the wider life of the College.”

He added that by contextualising the memorial it “may be employed as an appropriate vehicle to consider the imperfection of human beings and to recognise that none of us is free from all sin”.
 
A spokesman for the Rustat Memorial Group, which opposed its removal, said: 

“We are pleased to read the judgment and hope that all parties can agree that the issues raised by the petition are now resolved. We wish Jesus College well as it focuses again on today’s challenges in the university.”
 
In a statement, Jesus College said

We are deeply disappointed and shocked by the decision.

Rustat’s involvement in the slave trade has never been in question, and the widespread opposition to the presence of his memorial in the College Chapel is the result of this involvement and not any false narrative apparently created by the College about the sources of Rustat’s wealth. This celebratory memorial to an active participant in the slave trade remains a barrier to worship in our Chapel for some members of our community.
It was right for us to have submitted this application. We will now carefully consider our next steps.
 
In a second statement, the college said it would not appeal against the ruling because of the costs involved, but called on the church to change how it deals with “matters of racial injustice and contested heritage”. The statement said:
 
Jesus College is calling on the Church of England to change how it deals with matters of racial injustice and contested heritage – while announcing it will not appeal the Consistory Court judgment which prevents a celebratory memorial to Tobias Rustat being moved from its Chapel.
 
The College says the current process urgently needs reform as it stands in the way of a constructive and inclusive discussion on sensitive and important issues.
 
Sonita Alleyne OBE, Master of Jesus College, said: “Many students and members of the College community put their trust in the Church process, and understandably feel let down by the judgment and its misrepresentation of their views.
 
“The Consistory Court’s decision shows a lack of understanding of the lived experience of people of colour in modern Britain.”
 
Rustat supported and enabled the slave trade by investing in two important slave trading companies over a period of 30 years. In addition, he also lent funds and took on roles in the running of the companies.
 
The Consistory Court placed much emphasis on the argument that Rustat did not make any money from slavery until he sold his shares. The College insists this is irrelevant – it contends that what matters is Rustat’s active participation in the slave trade.
 
Ms Alleyne added: “In short, the College is up against a Church ruling which believes involvement in the slave trade over 30 years isn’t sufficient to warrant the removal of this celebratory memorial.
 
“The facts about Rustat and his involvement in the slave trade were very clearly proven by the excellent and meticulous research undertaken by the Legacy of Slavery Working Party chaired by Dr Véronique Mottier. Its findings, as well as the position taken by the College, were misrepresented by others in court, and we stand by the work of our world-class academics.
 
“Having taken advice, and after much thought, the College Council has decided not to appeal the disappointing judgment. While we believe the judgment is fundamentally wrong, the time and costs involved in appealing the decision are significant, and the grounds on which we are allowed to appeal are restrictive.
 
“We will take our time and consider what to do next. The presence of the memorial in our Chapel continues to be a serious issue for our increasingly diverse community. We strongly believe that our stance will place us on the right side of history.”
 
The College’s application has drawn widespread support. Last week 160 clergy, including a former Archbishop of Canterbury and two Bishops, signed a letter to the Church Times opposing the decision which prevents the College from moving the memorial to an appropriate exhibition space, where it could be properly contextualised.
 
Ms Alleyne said: “Last Spring, the Church committed to taking action. This judgment demonstrates the inadequacies of the Church process for addressing issues of racial injustice and contested memorialisation. It is not fit for purpose.
 
“There is a much overdue debate happening within the Church about how best to face up to the legacy of racial injustice. We will continue to keep up the pressure, because this matters to our students.”
 
The Rev’d James Crockford, Dean of Chapel at Jesus College, said: “This was a test case for the Church. While the College considers its next steps, it is clear that, if the Church of England wishes to take diversity and inclusion seriously, it cannot ignore the implications of this decision for the wider mission of the Church to be a place where all are welcome.”
 
 
Sources:
Full Judgement on the Rustat Memorial by the Worshipful David Hodge QC – Consistory Court of the Diocese of Ely – 23 March 2022
Summary of Conclusions of Deputy Chancellor Hodge QC - The Rustat Memorial, Jesus College, Cambridge – 23 March 2022
Statement on the decision of the Consistory Court – Jesus College Cambridge – 23/03/2022
Church must drive change on racial injustice and contested heritage – Jesus College Cambridge – 12th April 2022
3. Lambeth Borough Council
 
Lambeth Borough Council has published a questionnaire for residents to ask for their views on the names of certain places. It asks whether the Tulse Hill area should be renamed as well as streets such as Vassal Road, Holland Grove or Foxley Road. 

The Black Lives Matter protests during 2020 led to new momentum behind long-standing concerns about statues, memorials and street names with associations with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. This is a community conversation, together we want to develop proposals on how to deal with this difficult aspect of our history.”
 
4. Sewell Report
 
The Government has published its response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report by Dr. Tony Sewell CBE. Section 5.1 of the response addresses the history curriculum:

5.1 Create a more inclusive history curriculum
All children should grow up feeling a strong sense of belonging to this country. They need to see themselves as integral parts of the rich, diverse mosaic of traditions, faiths and ethnicities which make up the UK today. Children need to know that the UK is their home and that they will play a part in writing the next chapter of the UK’s future. While promoting and celebrating diversity is hugely important, it is meaningless if children do not feel a sense of belonging or inclusion.

We will ensure that how our past is taught in schools encourages all pupils, whatever their ethnicity, to feel an authentic sense of belonging to a multi-racial UK.
 
Action 57
To help pupils understand the intertwined nature of British and global history, and their own place within it, the DfE will work with history curriculum experts, historians and school leaders to develop a Model History curriculum by 2024 that will stand as an exemplar for a knowledge-rich, coherent approach to the teaching of history.

The Model History Curriculum will support high-quality teaching and help teachers and schools to develop their own school curriculum fully using the flexibility and freedom of the history national curriculum and the breadth and depth of content it includes. The development of model knowledge-rich curriculums continues the path of reform the government started in 2010.

A knowledge-rich approach to teaching enables better curriculum design and sequencing. It embeds not just the diverse histories of the world and Britain’s place within it, but also places more emphasis on the national histories of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, telling the story of how the United Kingdom came to be.
 
Action 58
The DfE will actively seek out and signpost to schools suggested high-quality resources to support teaching all-year round on black history in readiness for Black History Month October 2022. This will help support schools to share the multiple, nuanced stories of the contributions made by different groups that have made this country the one it is today.

We also recognise more can be done to equip teachers to deliver a high-quality curriculum and support leaders in their decision-making. Education practitioners face ethical dilemmas every day but there is no single agreed set of principles to help school and college leaders navigate these dilemmas.

Helping teachers to develop the skills to deal with the ethical issues in leadership and curriculum design is a key step to ensure pupils receive a good and balanced education. As the Commission’s report found, a good education with a well-designed curriculum is essential to prepare pupils to understand the society in which they grow up in and, in turn, promote respect for other people and for difference.
 
Action 59
To equip teachers to make ethical decisions and deliver high-quality education, the DfE will embed new reforms to transform the training and support teachers and school leaders receive at every stage of their career. These measures include national roll-out of the new Early Career Framework and reformed National Professional Qualifications from September 2021.
 
Sources: 
Inclusive Britain: government response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, Policy Paper, 17th March 2022, gov.uk
Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report, March 2021, gov.uk
 
5. Schools Minister
 
The government has announced it would overhaul the history curriculum to make it more diverse and global. Schools Minister Robin Walker said that better teaching of history would lead to fewer people pulling down statues. They would instead want to put them in context. Speaking to the Times, he said:
 
“This is about the range of opportunities there are within the curriculum to teach world history and the relevance of that to modern Britain” 

 “Do we want people to learn about the Tudors and the Second World War? Yes, absolutely. But we want to do it in a context of understanding the world and understanding Britain’s place in the world.”

“I don’t think you can do that by [doing] what happened for quite a period of time in too many schools — focusing on 20th century European history again and again and again. I want to see a well-sequenced and broad curriculum, building a common knowledge among students, both of the established canon of history but also a more global perspective. If we can get that right, we will have something which is going to be relevant to more students.”

 “If there was more understanding you’re less likely to have people wanting to pull down statues and more people wanting to explain the background around them”

“If we feel there’s a statue of someone open to criticism, explain and have a conversation about it but don’t try to remove it and bury history. If people have a shallow base of knowledge they’re less likely to use critical skills when presented with a strong viewpoint. It is much better for children to be able to critically analyse concepts rather than be taught a little knowledge and allow people to project values on to that.”

Source: 
Pupils should learn the world’s rich history, says schools minister – The Times – 26/02/2022
 
6. Tate

The Tate has announced that the Rex Whistler restaurant would not reopen as a restaurant due to the depiction of a slave on its mural. Explaining the decision, Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain and co-chair of the Rex Whistler mural discussions, said that the Rex Whistler mural had “remained static on the walls of a restaurant for almost a century while the museum around it [had] constantly shifted”. Announcing the next steps for the room the Tate said:
 
Tate today announced next steps for the room containing the Rex Whistler mural at Tate Britain. A contemporary artist will be invited to create a new site-specific installation in the room, which will then be open to visitors as a display space. This new work will be exhibited alongside and in dialogue with the mural, reframing the way the space is experienced. It will also be joined by a new display of interpretative material, which will critically engage with the mural’s history and content, including its racist imagery. It will explore the artist’s life and career, responses to the work over time, and connections to wider historical contexts.

This approach was developed through a series of discussions held in 2021 which invited voices from outside Tate to explore possible options, including artists, art historians, cultural advisors, civic representatives and young creative practitioners. The discussions, co-chaired by Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain, built on many previous conversations and incorporated feedback received directly from visitors and colleagues. The insights and ideas from this process were developed into the recommendations approved by Tate’s Board of Trustees this month.

The offensive nature of the mural’s imagery has been discussed over many years and was previously addressed in interpretation text at the entrance to the room. In 2020, Tate’s Directors and Trustees agreed that the room should no longer be used as a restaurant and that a new, bolder approach was needed. Tate is responsible for the mural as a work of art, so the new approach needed to create an appropriate and inclusive context for it to be viewed and allow this context to evolve over time as needed.

The room containing the mural will open to the public next winter, and further details about the artist to be commissioned will be announced in due course.

Quotes:

Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain and a co-chair of Rex Whistler mural discussions:
“The Rex Whistler mural presents a unique challenge. It has remained static on the walls of a restaurant for almost a century while the museum around it has constantly shifted. Tate Britain is now a place of everchanging displays and commissions, where the past and present are juxtaposed, and where art is open to all. The mural is part of our institutional and cultural history and we must take responsibility for it, but this new approach will also enable us to reflect the values and commitments we hold today and to bring new voices and ideas to the fore.”

Amia Srinivasan, Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, University of Oxford, and a co-chair of Rex Whistler mural discussions:
“Conversations about the mural were open, rigorous, and filled with good-natured but deep disagreement: Would keeping the mural open to the public accentuate its power? Would shutting it off risk doing the same? Could the space be used by artists of colour as a creative site of reappropriation? Or would this unfairly burden them with a problem produced by a historically white institution? One of the few points of consensus was that Tate had to take ownership of its history, and that whatever decision was made had to be an invitation to a broader conversation, not the end of one.”

David Dibosa, Reader in Museology at Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London, and a co-chair of Rex Whistler mural discussions:
I stand side by side with those who seek to address the difficulties of the past honestly and fearlessly. It takes enormous courage to face our faults and we need to make space for an open hearing. That’s why I have taken part in these discussions and, even though it has not been easy, I can attest to the integrity of the work that has been done. With honesty, we can meet our friends and our critics and even our opponents, knowing that we are committed to safeguarding the rich legacy of art that we hold for generations to come.”

Mark Miller, Head of Learning Programme & Practice at Tate, and a co-chair of Rex Whistler mural discussions:
“Our art, our public and our cultural spaces require open, bold and difficult conversations about the challenges we face, and that honest dialogue should span all generations. Young creatives always bring a commitment and passion to conversations at Tate, as well as a rigorous questioning of what it means to hold and present art. Their back and forth on these issues, through agreement and disagreement, really captured the complex ways we all relate to works of art and the histories they bring to bear. These are conversations we will continue to revisit as we move forward.”

Rachel Noel, Convenor of Young People's Programmes at Tate, and a co-chair of Rex Whistler mural discussions:
“As our future artists, archivists, curators, visitors and leaders, it was crucial that the next generation are part of this dialogue. They reflected deeply on the issues, and the challenges that lie ahead. Young people want to see museums take ownership of their difficult histories and explore how the past relates to our future. They want to be a part of a new way of presenting art which is porous, conversational, transparent and unfinished, which brings together different voices and presents opportunities for learning through critical and artistic exchange.”
 
Source: 
Tate announces next steps for Rex Whistler mural – Press Release – 16th February 2022

Read more:
The Tate’s grubby cancellation of Rex Whistler – Michael Mosbacher – 17th February 2022
7. Trevithick locomotive
 

An exhibition at the Swansea National Waterfront Museum about a train is being ‘decolonised’ over links between steam power and the slave trade. The display features a replica of the first steam locomotive, invented by engineer Richard Trevithick.

While Trevithick had no slave trade links, museum bosses still plan to ‘relabel’ the display to say steam was used in the wider slave trade as part of a policy to ‘decolonise’ exhibits. In a statement to Policy Exchange, the Museum said:


“The Trevithick locomotive has long been used as an icon of Welsh industry. We have always acknowledged the fact that there are no direct links with the Trevithick locomotive and slavery. However, the links between steam power, railways, and slavery cannot be ignored.

“Trade and colonial exploitation were embedded in Wales’ economy and society and was fundamental to Wales’ development as an industrialised nation.

“Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales has begun its work on delivering our Decolonising Charter, to uncover different stories and perspectives behind objects in our collection. This is a significant programme of work and we will be working with communities to decide on which objects to review and reinterpret.

“The exploration of how the slave trade fed into the development of the steam and railway infrastructure in Wales is one of the areas we will be exploring with communities.”
 
Source:
Policy Exchange’s History Matters Project
 
8. St Paul’s Cathedral
 

St Paul’s Cathedral has unveiled a new artist commission responding to a brass memorial panel to Admiral Sir Henry Holdsworth Rawson. The commission, entitled ‘Still Standing’, is described as a “mixed-media artwork […] installed on the 125th anniversary of the attack in The Kingdom of Benin to commemorate and encourage reflection upon the turbulent history”. In a press release, St Paul’s Cathedral said:
 
Today St Paul’s Cathedral is proud to unveil a new artist commission ‘Still Standing’ by Nigerian-born artist Victor Ehikhamenor displayed in the crypt as a part of a special collaboration 50 Monuments in 50 Voices between the cathedral and the Department of History of Art at the University of York. 

Commissioned and curated by Dan Hicks, Professor of Contemporary Archaeology at University of Oxford and Simon Carter, Head of Collections at St Paul’s Cathedral, the mixed-media artwork is installed on the 125th anniversary of the attack in The Kingdom of Benin to commemorate and encourage reflection upon the turbulent history. Using rosary beads and Benin bronze hip ornaments masks to depict the reigning king of Benin Kingdom Oba Ovonramwen, the installation responds to a brass memorial panel to Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson (1843-1910) whose long career in the Royal Navy was culminated in leading the Benin Expedition in 1897. 

Through his artwork, Ehikhamenor fuses symbolism of the traditional Edo religion with Catholicism, reflecting upon the diaspora and confluence of African and Western cultures through a postcolonial lens. Still Standing captures the lasting legacy and visual traditions of the Benin Kingdom and the Benin Bronzes through Ehikhamenor’s evocative and striking portrait of Oba Ovonramwen which becomes a wider symbol of commemoration of the citizens and soldiers who lost their lives during the attack. Ehikhamenor interweaves the past with the present, forming new critical dialogues about the traumatic past while painting a powerful image of present day Africa. 

Ehikhamenor’s work has been exhibited worldwide, including at the first Nigerian Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017. Using materials and iconography that embrace the traditions and histories of Africa while integrating elements that allude to the continent's colonial past and Nigeria’s complex geopolitical position as an oil-producing nation, Ehikhamenor’s works offer insight into contemporary Nigeria. 

Please find the press information HERE and more information on Victor here. Victor Ehikhamenor is in the UK until the 23rd February and is available for interview and comment.
 
Source: 
Victor Ehikhamenor unveils a bold new remembrance artwork still standing at St Paul’s Cathedral – St Paul’s Cathedral – 17th February 2022

Read more:
When will the woke crowd address the history of slavery in Africa? – Michael Mosbacher – 18th February 2022
9. D'Arcy Thompson Museum of Zoology

The D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum is reviewing stuffed animals as part of its decolonisation project. In particular, it is reviewing a stuffed Echidna (an Australian mammal) because colonial explorers made it “look comical”.
 
 

“Echidnas tell different stories of colonisation. Like most specimens on display in UK museums, this is a short-beaked echnida. It came from Australia after its colonisation by the British. Long-beaked echidnas are more common in German and Dutch museums, as New Guinea, where the species lives, was largely colonised by those countries. 

Australian animals are often poorly represented by museum specimens. This echidna has been made to look comical, with its feet splayed outwards and its belly on the ground. In life, echidnas stand up off the ground with their feet forwards. Echidna, like platypuses, are often misrepresented and described as weird or wonderful curiosities. Such descriptions are rooted in colonialist perceptions in which Western animals act as the zoological standard.”

Read more about the Decolonising the D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum Project here.
 
Source: 
Decolonising the D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum – University of Dundee
 
10. The Great North Museum

The Great North Museum: Hancock is seeking to repatriate a Benin bronze in its ethnography collection to Nigeria. The artefact is thought to be a type of musical instrument that would have been struck with a metal rod during ceremonies. In a statement, the Museum said:

The Museum recently established that a Benin Bronze held in its ethnography collection was taken from Benin City by the British military as part of the Punitive Expedition of 1897.

The Great North Museum: Hancock is seeking to return a Benin Bronze to Nigeria. 

The Museum recently established that a Benin Bronze held in its ethnography collection was taken from Benin City by the British military as part of the Punitive Expedition of 1897.  

The item is a brass stave with bird finial, likely to be a type of musical instrument that was struck with a metal rod during ceremonies. 

Given its forceful removal from Benin, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) advised Museum stakeholders – Newcastle University and the Natural History Society of Northumbria (NHSN) – to consider a proactive repatriation of the object to Nigeria.  

It has been unanimously agreed that the Museum should seek a proactive repatriation of the Bronze to Nigeria. 

Keith Merrin, Director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said: 
"We have been researching the unclear history of the brass stave in the Great North Museum: Hancock and now know for certain that it was taken violently during the Punitive Expedition of 1897. 

"It is right to return the stave to Nigeria. Repatriation can be a powerful cultural, spiritual and symbolic act which recognises the wrongs of the past and restores some sense of justice."
  
Professor Vee Pollock, Dean of Culture and the Creative Arts at Newcastle University, said:  
"We have no hesitation in returning the ceremonial stave, one of the so-called Benin Bronzes. 

"As well as an important cultural artefact for the people of Benin, this brass stave is also a symbol of historic injustice and extreme violence.  

"A museum, through what it displays, how it relates to its audiences and what it does, should be a place of learning, and we hope that through this process we can work with partners in Nigeria and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments to facilitate better understanding and enhanced cooperation." 

She added:  
"We are also grateful to colleagues at Aberdeen University for their invaluable advice which has informed our proactive approach."

The stave was acquired in 1951 (with other items) in the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum's dispersal of non-medical items and incorporated into the collections of the NHSN.  

Newcastle University has overall responsibility for stewardship of these collections, which are managed on their behalf by TWAM. 
The Great North Museum: Hancock has contacted Nigerian authorities about repatriating the stave. 

Source: 
Great North Museum: Hancock seeks to return Benin Bronze – Great North Museum
 
11. Kew Gardens
 

Richard Deverell, Director of Kew Gardens, has announced that Kew would be abandoning the “decolonisation” agenda to which it had committed. This announcement came just a fortnight after the publication of a Policy Exchange report—Politicising Plants: Does “decolonising” the botanical collections at Kew undermine its core mission? This report exposed the way in which Kew was engaging in non-scientific and politically charged activities. Speaking about the backlash, Richard Deverell said: 

"At first I found it amusing.

"And, subsequently, it was actually quite annoying, because it was causing a lot of distraction.
"It's why we dropped that word from our manifesto.

"It was causing heat, but not light."

He added: 
"What you will see, I hope, is a broader and actually, I think, more interesting and engaging set of stories that links our historical roots to contemporary issues."

"We are not removing anything we are seeking to broaden the stories we tell."
 
Sources: 
Politicising Plants - Does “decolonising” the botanical collections at Kew undermine its core mission? - Dec 29, 2021- Policy Exchange
Kew Gardens’ move to scrap “decolonisation” initiative welcomed, after Policy Exchange report – Jan 18, 2022 – Policy Exchange
Kew Gardens boss changes 'decolonisation' language after backlash – The Express – Jan 15, 2022
 
12. Watford Street Names
 

Watford Borough Council has confirmed that “local people will have a say before any streets renamed in the town”. In a statement, the council said:

Watford Borough Council’s Cabinet has approved a new policy that supports local residents or businesses who want to rename a road in the town. 

Following considerations last year on street names in the town by a cross party task group of councillors, the council has set out the steps for anyone who would like the name of their road or street reviewed.  Circumstances where a case for change could be made include where a name might cause offence today, either because of historical links or because language has evolved and words have taken on new meanings.

The council’s new, easy to follow process would be triggered by an open and transparent ballot of those living or who own a business, in the identified street so that everyone’s views are taken into account.

The ballot would be undertaken by the person applying for renaming and would be submitted as part of their initial application process. To make the case for change, a formal consultation is also needed so the views of all council tax payers and business rate payers affected are taken into account – with at least two thirds needed for renaming to go to the council’s Cabinet for final sign off. 

Any associated costs, which includes administrating and registering the change and new street signs, would be met by individual property owners affected.

Elected Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor, said “Watford Council has no plans to change any street names. For me, the more important part of this policy is that we are encouraging new street names which celebrate our heritage and the contributions made by people from our town from a range of diverse backgrounds.

“We are introducing safeguards so existing street names can only change if residents or businesses ask for it to be considered, it is then supported by two thirds of residents or businesses on a particular street and it’s approved by councillors.

“This would be very rare and only used in exceptional circumstances, for example if a word caused offense to many people. Where a request is approved, the residents and businesses in the road or street would be expected to pay for the change, which has always been the case”.

Read the full street naming policy here.
 
Sources: 
Council confirms local people will have a say before any streets renamed in the town, Watford Borough Council, 18/01/2022
Street naming and numbering policy, Watford Borough Council
 
13. King’s College London
 

Several press articles have reported that King’s College London has axed a history professorship named after Cecil Rhodes following a row over its links to “racism and slavery”. A King’s College London spokesperson told Policy Exchange: 

“Professorships at King's are named in association with endowments or funding and as we have not received funding from the Rhodes Trust charity for almost 100 years, the name of that Chair was updated in 2020 to reflect that position."

Source:
Policy Exchange History Matters Project
 
14. Glasgow Slavery Audit
 

Glasgow City Council has published its ‘Audit of Historic Connections and Modern Legacies’. It was produced to ‘inform the city of Glasgow's consultation how to address its historic connections with slavery’. Its findings include:
  • Glasgow Town Council received and managed donations from individuals with connections to Atlantic slavery.
  • Glasgow Corporation and City Council was bequeathed an art collection by Cecilia Douglas in in 1862. Douglas (1772-1862) was the sister of several prominent Glasgow-West India merchants, and also became an enslaver in the British West Indies. The paintings were displayed in the Corporation Art Galleries before being moved to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Most are now in store at Glasgow Museum Resource Centre.
  • 11 existing mansions and urban buildings in Glasgow are connected to individuals who were involved with Atlantic slavery.
  • Funding for the City Chambers in the 1880s was derived from municipal incomes, while occasionally borrowing from banks with previous connections to the Atlantic slavery economy.
  • Eight individuals with connections to Atlantic slavery are commemorated across multiple monuments and other representations in Glasgow.
  • 62 Glasgow streets and locations have a “direct” or “associational” connection to Atlantic slavery.
  • West India merchant Richard Dennistoun purchased the Kelvingrove estate in 1806 and added to the land a year later. Before that the area belonged to colonial merchant Patrick Colquhoun. Glasgow Corporation bought the estate in the late-19th century, and today the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum sits in the former grounds.
 
Read full document here.
 
Glasgow City Council has also instructed the Chief Executive:
 
  1. to reconvene the Short Life Slavery Legacy Working Group following the 2022 Local Government Elections and ask that group to bring recommendations to Council by the end of the year on actions to be taken in response to matters including, but not restricted to street names, monuments and buildings with direct or associational connections to Atlantic slavery or individuals involved in Atlantic slavery, Lord Provosts of Glasgow who were involved in Atlantic slavery, investments made by Glasgow City Council’s predecessor institutions, and bequests and legacies held or managed by Glasgow City Council today, that were connected to Atlantic slavery, how Glasgow should permanently acknowledge the city’s historic role in Atlantic slavery and memorialise its victims; and
  2. to consult and engage with the people of Glasgow and particularly with groups representing African and Caribbean and other BAME citizens before the final implementation of any recommendations.
 
 
The council has also voted to return a number of cultural artefacts from its museum collections, including the repatriation of seven Indian antiquities.
 
Glasgow Museums - Repatriation of Artefacts approved. 
3 Councillor McDonald, Depute Leader of the Council and City Convener for Culture, Vibrancy and International Co-operation, presented a report regarding recommendations by the Working Group for the Repatriation of Artefacts regarding the repatriation of artefacts and the scope for financial support for the repatriation activity, advising that

(1) this committee on 19th August 2021 (Print 3, page 181) had agreed to the reestablishment of a cross-party working group on Repatriation and Spoliation of Artefacts and that Glasgow Life, on behalf of the Council, continued a dialogue with the relevant representatives and organisations concerning 8 artefacts, identified to date linked with the sacking of the Benin City in 1897 and that the National Commission of Museums and Monuments (NCMM) of Nigeria, acting on behalf of the Oba of Benin had now requested the repatriation of a total of 17 bronze Benin artefacts and discussions were still to take place with the NCMM about the future use of the collections, as detailed in the report; 

(2) that a formal request had been received from Jaspreet Singh Sukhija, First Secretary of Trade at the High Commission of India in London for the return of 6/7 architectural antiquities from Kanpur, Gwalior and Bihar and a 14th Century ceremonial sword (tulwar) and scabbard from the Deccan and the Indian Government had agreed to meet the full cost of the return of the artefacts to India; 

(3) a formal letter of intent had been received from the descendants of the late Marcella LeBeau on Cheyenne River and Pine Reservations, South Dakota for the return of 25 Lakota cultural items sold and donated to the city’s museum collection by George Crager in 1892 and that the LeBeau family had proposed 2 options, as detailed in report for the cost of the repatriation which would cost between £30,000 to £40,000; and 

(4) Glasgow Life’s Museums’ Collection and Panel had proposed that 8 half-hull ship models designed by Alexander Hall & Co be transferred to the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum as these models were of significance and interest to it and that the ship’s bell and honours panel which had been gifted to the city by the Royal Navy when HMS Glasgow ship had been decommissioned in 2005, now be returned to the Royal Navy to enable them to be used on board the new HMS Glasgow which would be commissioned in 2026. 

After consideration, the committee 
(a) approved 
(i) the repatriation of cultural items from the civic collection, as detailed in the report; and 
(ii) the transfer of the ship collection artefacts from the civic collection; 
(b) noted the financial requirements to support the repatriation activity and agreed that the level of financial contribution would be decided by officers on engagement with the claimants where this support was applicable.
 
Sources: 
Glasgow, Slavery and Atlantic Commerce: An Audit of Historic Connections and Modern Legacies, Glasgow City Council, March 2022
Minutes of Glasgow City Council Hybrid meeting, Glasgow, 31st March 2022
City Administration Committee's Minutes. (By video conference), Glasgow City Council 7th April 2022
 
15. Tamil Nadu Government
 

The Tamil Nadu government will install a statue of Colonel John Pennycuick in the United Kingdom, said Chief Minister MK Stalin on Saturday. Colonel John Pennycuick was a British engineer who built the Mullaperiyar dam in 1895 in Kerala's Idukki which provides water to Theni, Dindigul, Ramanathapuram, Sivagangai and Madurai districts. The dam is currently operated by the Tamil Nadu government. According to India Today, Pennycuick is highly respected by the people of the five districts in Tamil Nadu and is even worshipped by many.

Sources: 
Tamil Nadu govt to install statue of British officer in UK, India Today, Jan 16, 2022
Tamil Nadu Government - [ Press Release No . 108 ] Statement of the Honourable Chief Minister on erection of statue for Colonel John Pennycuick, who built the Mullaiperiyar dam at his native place in England -Jan 15, 2022
 
16. International Council of Museums
 

University museums should reconsider holding items that were acquired illegally or unethically, according to guidance from the International Council of Museum’s committee for university museums and collections. Acknowledging the “intense debate” around the issue, the guidance states: “University museums often have long and complex histories of acquisition, and many hold items in their collections which were acquired unethically and/or illegally by their collectors/donors. It is only now becoming more widely recognised that the circumstances of acquisition of some of these items should be considered unacceptable, and that holding certain items should be reconsidered.” Such items include:
  • items which are recognised to be culturally significant by their communities of origin
  • items recognised as having ancestral and/or contemporary value by communities, including secular, ceremonial, and secret or sacred items.
 
Read the full guidance here.

Source: 
Guidance for Restitution and Return of Items from University Museums and Collections, ICOM
 
17. English Heritage

English Heritage has updated Sir Richard Arkwright’s online blue plaque to highlight his links to slavery. An industrialist and inventor, Sir Richard Arkwright is best known for developing the cotton-spinning machinery that revolutionised the manufacture of cotton in Britain. The entry now reads:
 
INVENTOR
Born in Preston, the son of a tailor, Arkwright began his career as a barber and wigmaker, settling in Bolton in 1750. In 1767 he met clockmaker John Kay, and together they developed a roller spinning machine that revolutionised the manufacture of cotton and was eventually patented by Arkwright in 1769. In 1768 Kay became indentured to Arkwright, but he was dismissed in 1772. He appeared in court against Arkwright during his patent trials in the 1780s (see below).
During the 1770s Arkwright put his pioneering device into operation, setting up cotton mills in Nottingham and Cromford in Derbyshire. In 1775 he patented certain instruments and machines for preparing silk, cotton, flax and wool for spinning, in an attempt to monopolise the cotton industry. As business boomed in the second half of that decade, he set up mills in Bakewell, Wirksworth, Litton, Rocester in Staffordshire, and Manchester. 
 
THE COTTON INDUSTRY
Arkwright later became known as the ‘father of the factory system’. This system not only saw products produced by machines but also demanded that workers kept pace with them. While initially novel this was to become the norm as the industrial revolution progressed.
Raw cotton for Britain’s mills was imported from the Americas, where it was grown and harvested under inhumane conditions on plantations by enslaved people who had either been forcibly transported to the Americas as part of the transatlantic slave trade or who had been born to enslaved women and so were enslaved from birth.
The machinery in Arkwright’s mills allowed vast quantities of raw cotton to be processed quickly and cheaply, increasing productivity and profits. But those who worked in Arkwright’s mills – some as young as nine years old – often endured long hours, danger and poor pay. The working conditions of the millworkers eventually provoked criticism and the workers themselves began forming societies and unions to represent their own interests. Ultimately legislative changes were enacted to improve conditions.
 

Drawing of Sir Richard Arkwright’s spinning machine patented in 1769, engraved by JW Lowry in the 1830s© Universal History Archive/Getty Images
 
LONDON AND THE PATENT TRIALS
Arkwright was eventually confronted by industrialists willing to challenge the monopoly that his patents gave him. Keen to see his interests protected, he took legal action against those using them without a licence. From 1781, he became involved in a series of trials regarding his various patents, which he tried rigorously to enforce. The trials drew Arkwright to London and he spent much of the last five years of his life living at 8 Adam Street, ideally situated close to the lawyers in the Inns of Court and the law courts at Westminster Hall. Within view of the house was the Society of Arts, the Secretary of which – Samuel More – was among those who spoke on Arkwright’s behalf at his lawsuits. 
The trials continued until 1785 and the courts heard claims that Arkwright had stolen the idea for his spinning machine from others such as Kay. The cases were finally settled against Arkwright and his patents were set aside. Although Arkwright was unsuccessful in defending his patents, his business remained extremely lucrative and he made large profits in the 1770s and 1780s. He was knighted in 1786, and by the time of his death in 1792 he was an extremely wealthy man. 
 
Source: 
ARKWRIGHT, SIR RICHARD (1732–1792) – English heritage
 
18. Durham University

Durham University has repatriated two Japanese war-time flags that had been in its collections for decades after the government of Japan made contact with the descendants of their original owners. The repatriation was approved by the university’s acquisitions and disposal panel, which oversees collections. In a report to the university senate, the panel said:
 
“The panel also approved repatriation of two Japanese flags, taken as souvenirs during the Second World War, for return to the next of kin of their original owners. Flags of this type (hinomaru yosegaki) were traditionally presented to a man prior to his induction into the Japanese armed forces or before his deployment. The hinomaru offered communal hopes and prayers to the owner every time the flag was unfolded. During the Second World War hinomaru yosegaki were often taken from the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers by allied servicemen in search of souvenirs. In most cases, the Japanese casualties have no recorded grave. Many Japanese people believe that the spirit of their dead relatives live within their hinomaru yosegaki. As one widow exclaimed to her children when her husband’s flag was returned to her: “Father has finally come home. His spirit was so strong he would not rest until he returned to his family.”

The process was undertaken in collaboration with the Japanese Government.
 
Professional organisations in libraries, archives and museums are all active in decolonisation and diversification of collections. The Museums Association has just published their guidance on decolonisation in the museums sector. In 2021/22 we will establish a working group to address work around decolonisation, diversification, and repatriation, with colleagues from across ULC, academic, Equality Diversity and Inclusion and student colleagues.”
 
There have also been media reports that Durham University is ‘decolonising’ the maths curriculum. In a statement to Policy Exchange, the university said:
 
“Mathematical Sciences at Durham are a rigorous and comprehensive discipline. The maths curriculum our students learn remains the same, and we also encourage students to be more aware of the global and diverse origins of the subject, and the range of cultural settings that have shaped it. Two plus two will always equal four.”
 
Sources: 
Senate – Durham University – 18th January 2022 
‘Decolonise’ maths by subtracting white male viewpoint, urges Durham University, The Telegraph, 9th April 2022
Policy Exchange History Matters Project
 
19. Museum of London

A bronze sculpture of Robert Milligan, removed from West India Quay in June 2020, will join the collections of the Museum of London. In a statement, the Museum said:

“The acquisition follows a public consultation, in partnership with the Tower Hamlets Council and landowners Canal & River Trust, which concluded that the statue should be housed in a museum where it can be fully contextualised.

The controversial landmark, based outside No.1 Warehouse since 1997, was detached from its plinth after a petition signed by over 4,000 people called for it to be removed from public view. It followed the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests that led to the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol in June 2020.

The consultation, which sought views on the future of the statue, its plinth and the area’s historical relationship to slavery, found that 76% of people were in favour of the statue being presented in an exhibition. 43% believed it should be moved into storage at the museum and 15% said it should be kept permanently out of public view.

Those in favour of keeping the statue on display suggested that it be shown with context about Milligan’s involvement in the creation of the docks, his links to the slave trade, and the recent Black Lives Matter movement.

The Museum of London Docklands, one of only three museums in the UK to address the history of the transatlantic slave trade, will now take possession of the statue as part of its collection. It will be held in storage whilst the museum consults further with local communities about how best to present it.

A Museum of London spokesperson, said: “Over the last 15 years, the museum has been working with academics, community leaders and activists to tell the story of London’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, and give voice to its legacy. The West India Docks, championed by Milligan using wealth from the slave trade, are a visible reminder of how this history has shaped our city. It is right and important that we acknowledge this in the statue’s story. We will now take time to consult with the local community to decide how best to take this forward as part of our collection.”

Ros Daniels, director for London & South East at the Canal & River Trust, said“We want to thank everyone who took part in the consultation. Although views were mixed about the treatment of the statue, many were united in feeling we should not shy away from telling all aspects of our history. In line with preferences indicated in this survey, we’re pleased to offer this statue to the Museum of London Docklands.”

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesperson, said: “It’s important that following the public consultation the statue of Robert Milligan will be displayed in the Museum of London Docklands with appropriate context to build on the fantastic work they already do in confronting and educating people about this part of our history. We continue our wider discussion with residents about what should happen to other monuments, plaques, buildings and roads in our borough that remain at odds with our values of equality and tackling racism.”

Born in 1746, Robert Milligan was a prominent British slave trader and the driving force behind the foundation of West India Docks.

As a slave trader and manager of his family's Jamaican sugar plantations, Milligan’s wealth resulted directly from his trade in enslaved people. By the time of his death, he owned 2 sugar plantations and 526 slaves in Jamaica.

The West India Dock Company commissioned Richard Westmacott to create the statue of Milligan following his death in 1809. Originally unveiled in 1813, it commemorates his ‘genius, perseverance and guardian care.’ The statue was initially situated near the dock offices (1813-1875) before later being moved to the nearby Main Gate (1875-1943). It was placed in storage during the latter part of the Second World War and stayed there for over fifty years before being re-erected in February 1997 outside No.1 Warehouse.

In 2020, in the wake of Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd protests that led to the toppling of the Colston statue in Bristol, a petition to remove the Robert Milligan statue from public view quickly acquired over 4,000 signatures. On 9 June 2020, the Museum of London issued a statement advocating for the statue's removal on the grounds of its links to colonial violence and exploitation. The Museum worked with Tower Hamlets Council and the Canal & River Trust to remove the sculpture on 9 June.

The statue has been given to the Museum of London by the Canal & River Trust and becomes part of its permanent collection from March 2022. A decision has yet to be taken on the statue’s plinth, which remains at West India Quay.”

Source: 
Statue of Robert Milligan joins Museum of London collection – Museum of London – 23 March 2022
 
20. University of Stirling

Various articles in the media report that Jane Austen has be removed from the curriculum at the University of Stirling in a decolonisation drive. In a statement to Policy Exchange, the University of Stirling said:

“Contrary to erroneous media reports, the University has not withdrawn or replaced – nor do we have plans to withdraw or replace – the teaching of Jane Austen from our curriculum. The English programme covers a wide variety of canonical authors and literary periods - and Austen remains part of our teaching. 

“By definition, our ‘Special Authors’ module does not permanently focus on one particular author – it changes on a regular basis and Toni Morrison is the novelist currently featured. 

“As you would expect from a forward-looking university, we routinely refresh our curriculum and are proud that our programmes are broad and inclusive, and enable divergent voices to be featured in our teaching."
 
Source:
Policy Exchange’s History Matters Project
 
21. Engels

Home, a centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film in Manchester, has denied it intends to remove a statue of Friedrich Engels.

Statement from Home
We want to clarify that there is not an intention to remove the artwork installation of Friedrich Engels from the front of our building.

Friedrich Engels sits outside HOME as a previously co-commissioned piece of work with Manchester International Festival. It is part of the artwork and film Ceremony created by artist Phil Collins, which tracked the journey of the decommissioned statue from its previous position in Ukraine, here to Manchester.

Given the origins of the artwork, everyone involved believes it is important that we consider its meaning in the context of the illegal invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Army. We also want to do more to explain how the installation came to Manchester and the reasons behind this. We are in discussions with the co-commissioners Manchester international festival and the artist Phil Collins about how best to do this.
 
Source: 
Statement from HOME regarding the artwork installation of Friedrich Engels, 4th March 2022

Read more:
Engels mustn’t fall, Michael Mosbacher, The Spectator, 9th March 2022
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