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CRESJ Seminar: Elite schools and slavery in the UK

Wednesday 8 February 2023, 3.00PM to 4.00pm

Speaker(s): Sol Gamsu, Assistant Professor at Durham University

The paper will combine a range of sources to examine which educational institutions and their alumni have substantial economic and cultural links to the enslavement of Black people. We find two principal forms of connection, firstly in donations and foundations of schools from those who made their fortune in the slave trade and secondly through the sources of income of boys attending the schools. Drawing on data from the Legacies of British Slavery dataset we show that the schools with the largest numbers of alumni benefitting from the slave trade are the most traditionally prestigious boys’ private schools. This aligns with accounts suggesting that Caribbean plantation owners frequently educated their sons at major private schools. To trace the links between founders and private schools we examine the histories of several secondary schools founded by, or in receipt of, substantial donations from slave-owning families. Combining these histories we provide a theorization of the relationship between elite education, capital, class formation and slavery. We find that exploitative, extractive and violent forms of capital accumulation have been and remain central to the formation and maintenance of elite schools.

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Location: SLB/003

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