21:35 GMT12 June 2021
Listen Live
    UK
    Get short URL
    234
    Subscribe

    Last year Oriel College in Oxford voted to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from the building after a protracted protest, which gathered strength after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Rhodes was a diamond tycoon who helped shape the British Empire’s strategy in southern Africa.

    The governing body of Oriel College has announced a U-turn and says it will not take down the statue of Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes.

    A specially appointed commission had recommended it be removed from the side of the college building but on Thursday, 20 May, the college said its removal posed “regulatory and financial challenges”' and it would instead focus on “improving educational equality, diversity and inclusion amongst its student cohort and academic community.''

    The decision was immediately greeted on social media by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson who said it was a “sensible and balanced decision.”

    ​Conservative commentator Toby Young went further and tweeted: “This is a victory for common sense over the woke Taliban.”

    The campaign to remove the statue gained momentum last year during the Black Lives Matter protests.

    Rhodes made his fortune in the late 19th century from gold and diamond mines where African miners labored in brutal conditions.

    ​The entrepreneur, who died in 1902, would eventually give his name to Northern Rhodesia (what is now Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and would also influence the British government’s thinking in South Africa.

    The college’s governing body said “(We have) considered the regulatory and financial challenges, including the expected timeframe for removal, which could run into years with no certainty of outcome, together with the total cost of removal."

    Oriel College's principal, Neil Mendoza, said: “It has been a careful, finely balanced debate and we are fully aware of the impact our decision is likely to have in the UK and further afield.”

    ​Rhodes left £6 million - a huge amount of money in those days - in his will to Oriel College. 

    His legacy includes Oxford University's prestigious Rhodes scholarships, which have been awarded to international students for over a century. Famous Rhodes scholars include former US President Bill Clinton and feminist writer Naomi Wolf.

    Rhodes was a symbol of colonialism and his statue was removed from the University of Cape Town in South Africa amid cheers in 2015.

    ​Last year statues were of Confederate generals were removed from several US cities and a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston was removed from its pedestal in Bristol and thrown into the harbour.

    But in September last year Britain’s Culture Minister Matt Warman said statues should be "retained and explained,” rather than torn down.

    Tags:
    Black Lives Matter, British Empire, Oxford
    Community standardsDiscussion