Churchill College was founded in 1960 with Winston as chairman of trustees. It is holding a year-long review into his ‘significant flaws’
Cambridge’s Churchill College will hold a debate this evening on the “racial consequences” of the prime minister after whom it is named.
The event is part of a review of Winston Churchill by the college, which describes him as having “significant flaws” and being backwards on race.
The event is described as a “critical re-assessment of Churchill’s life and legacy in light of his views on empire and race”.
Speakers will include Priyamvada Gopal, a Cambridge academic; Kehinde Andrews, a professor of black studies from Birmingham City University; Madhusree Mukerjee, an Indian-American writer and Onyeka Nubia, a writer and historian.
Gopal said at an event last year that there was a “huge personality cult” around Churchill.
The college’s website says it is holding a year-long series of events to engage with the former prime minister’s words and actions on empire and race.
“Churchill, as a successful leader in time of war, must not be mythologised as a man without significant flaws; on race he was backward even in his day,” it says.
At the opening event last year Dame Athene Donald, the master of the college, said: “We were horrified by the death of George Floyd this summer, a truly appalling event which quite rightly reignited the long-smouldering grievances surrounding racism.
“That those protests in London focused on the Churchill statue was a cause of particular concern at the college. We have an additional responsibility given the name that the college carries.”
She said it aimed to “lead an ongoing critical dialogue” about his legacy and had set up an equality, diversity and inclusion committee as well as a working group.
At the same event last year Gopal said the conversation around Churchill was “long overdue not just at college but nationally”. She added: “This is a difficult conversation that will require courage for all parties who engage in it, but it is a necessary conversation.
“There is a huge cult around Churchill, in many ways it is a personality cult but it is also iconic of how Britain wishes to think of itself.”
She later said that “there are a great many people who will hear no ill of Churchill but also a great many, not just outside but also within Britain, who feel anything from criticism to deep revulsion at the figure of Churchill. Whatever our views on that we are obliged to ask why.”
She said that some in the world saw him as monstrous and problematic.
Last year Andrews criticised the singing of Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory at the Last Night of the Proms, describing the songs as racist propaganda that “celebrates the British Empire which killed tens of millions of people”.
He has just published a book called The New Age of Empire: How Racism and Colonialism Still Rule the World.
It houses the Churchill Archives Centre, which was founded as the national and commonwealth memorial to the former leader and was described as “a bridge between the achievements of the past and the possibilities of the future”.
In 1969 Lady Spencer-Churchill gave her husband’s post-1945 papers to the college.
The college was the first to be named from the date of its foundation after a living person. A national appeal raised £3.5 million — equivalent to about £75 million today — to build and endow it, with contributions from 2,000 British companies and individuals.
A body of trustees was formed comprising war leaders, academics, and industrialists, with Churchill as its chairman.
Cambridge college named after Churchill to debate his ‘backward’ views on race
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