All Souls College and 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.
Over the last three years the College has taken several steps to address the problematic nature of the Codrington legacy. It has erected a large 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. And it has set up three fully funded graduate studentships at Oxford for students from the Caribbean; 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.
At a meeting of its Governing Body in November 2020, All Souls College decided to cease to refer to the College Library as 'the Codrington Library'.
The College also decided that the statue of Codrington which stands at the centre of the Library will remain there. Rather than seek to remove it the College will investigate further forms of memorialisation and contextualisation within the library, which will draw attention to the presence of enslaved people on the Codrington plantations, and will express the College’s abhorrence of slavery. The College also decided to investigate some further academic initiatives that would address the issue of the Codrington legacy.