The Codrington Legacy
Christopher Codrington, a former Fellow of All Souls, died in 1710, leaving a bequest of £10,000 to the College for building a new library and stocking it with books; this new library became generally known as the Codrington Library, although that name was never formally adopted by the Statutes of the College. Codrington’s wealth derived largely from his family’s activities in the West Indies, where they owned plantations worked by enslaved people of African descent.
The College has taken several steps to address the problematic nature of the Codrington legacy.
It has erected a memorial plaque at the entrance to the Library, ‘In memory of those who worked in slavery on the Codrington plantations in the West Indies'.
It has pledged a series of donations to Codrington College, Barbados (a theological college also founded by a bequest in Codrington’s will) to a total of £100,000.
It has established three fully funded graduate studentships at Oxford for students from the Caribbean. These are named after Sir Hugh Springer (1913-94), who was a Visiting Fellow of the College in 1962-3, and who became Governor-General of Barbados in 1984. In effect, £6 million of the College’s endowment is now set aside, on a permanent basis, to produce the income that funds these studentships.
The College has decided that the statue of Codrington which stands at the centre of the Library will remain there. It will be contextualised by a digital display in the ante-room of the Library, through which users pass, which will draw attention to the labour of enslaved people on the Codrington plantations, and will express the College’s abhorrence of slavery. In the main body of the Library, the statue will be contextualised by digital display stands and by technology allowing for the projection of words or images onto the statue itself.
The College also decided in June 2021 to donate £1 million over ten years to Oxford University’s new Black Academic Futures programme to support UK graduate students who are of Black or Mixed-Black ethnicity; to offer further financial support to Codrington College in Barbados; to establish an annual lecture on the modern Atlantic World with reference to slavery and colonialism; and to fund a programme of visiting fellowships and travel grants enabling Caribbean researchers to come to Oxford.