The Cambridge college group that had been formed to study Churchill and race disbanded.
After a commission set up to examine at the former prime minister’s links to the empire and race was disbanded, a Cambridge University faculty has declared that it will continue to debate the conduct of historical giants such as Sir Winston Churchill.
The disintegration of the organisation, which was formed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in the United States last year, has been described as “very sad and very worrying” by a Churchill College academic.
Churchill’s grandson criticized an online event organized by the group and hosted by the college in February for “trashing” the wartime leader’s reputation.
The event — The Racial Consequences of Churchill – reached a “new low in the current fashion for the denigration in general of British history and of Sir Winston Churchill’s legacy in particular,” according to former Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames.
After hosting the occasion, he questioned whether the college should continue to gain from its relationship with Churchill.
Professor Priya Gopal, a member of the working group on Churchill, race, and empire, said the institution was “extremely unsettled” by the event and the coverage of it, and that no more panel discussions will be held.
She claimed that attempts to organize a third commemoration event, which would look at statues and memorials to historical personalities, were met with a “back and forth” with the college, which eventually said it couldn’t host the event.
“People involved in myths of British imperial greatness have put pressure on the college not to conduct certain sorts of talks around Churchill,” said Prof Gopal, a post-colonial studies professor.
It’s very disheartening and alarming in terms of what it entails for academic freedom and open debates about empire and race.
She said she told the working group and college master, Professor Dame Athene Donald, in May that the group “should dissolve itself” owing to “frustration with the veto wielded by (the college) council” over future activities.
However, she stated that this had not occurred and that the college had closed the group by email on Thursday. (This is a brief piece.)