Cecil rhodes

Rhodes, Columbus and the next heritage battle

On 12 October this year, Columbus Day, a statue of the Italian in Belgrave Square was vandalised by activists from Extinction Rebellion who described Columbus as ‘father of the slave trade’. Entirely ignorant of his life and ambitions, Columbus’s critics frequently turn to the searing denunciations of Bartolomé de Las Casas who excoriated the Spanish policy towards the native peoples of America. They are unaware that Las Casas was a great admirer of Columbus, and that this friar, who felt such pity for the native Americans, actively recommended the mass importation of black African slaves as an alternative labour source. In the same week as the Extinction Rebellion stunt a

Rhodes to redemption: why Oxford needs a monument to Benjamin Jowett

Not since September 1642, when a mob of Parliamentary soldiers opened fire on the sculpture of the Virgin Mary carved into the side of the University Church, has Oxford been in such a fury over statues. The ‘Rhodes must fall’ campaign that started among radical students in 2016 has now spread to the senior common rooms, particularly the SCR of Worcester College which, astonishingly, has taken over from Balliol and Wadham as the headquarters of the workers’ revolution. More than 150 academics have signed a petition calling for their fellow dons to maintain a virtual picket line around Oriel College — that is, to refuse to teach its students or

Roman cancel culture didn’t stop at statues

The mob is at work again in Oxford, protesting against the existence of Oriel’s statue of Cecil Rhodes. But this is a mob of dons who, rather than doing anything about it, have decided just to stop teaching at Oriel. And that will solve the problem? The Romans were a little more proactive. ‘Statue’ derives from statuo, ‘I place X so as to remain upright’. That was its correct position, where it could be kissed, garlanded and so on. Cicero mentions a deity whose mouth and chin had been worn down by worshippers. Vandalism and indeed theft were known, but it was damnatio memoriae (‘condemnation of memory’, a designation invented

Watch: Rees-Mogg mocks Oxford ‘pimply adolescents’

In recent months Jacob Rees-Mogg has kept a low profile in Westminster. The leader of the House is kept mainly these days to the confines of managing parliamentary business with the mile-long ‘Mogg conga’ queuing system last June being one of the few occasions he has returned to the limelight. So Mr S was delighted to see the Old Etonian demonstrate he has lost none of his wit or wisdom when he came to the Commons today to field questions from backbenchers. A question by Ipswich Tom Hunt MP decrying the ‘wokeification’ of British universities offered Rees-Mogg the chance to offer his thoughts on Churchill college Cambridge potentially rebranding, 150 Oxford academics refusing

What happens now that Rhodes didn’t fall?

Oriel College, Oxford’s decision to retain the statue of Cecil Rhodes has generated the usual voluminous fury. It has also shown it to be just that: noise. The university’s willingness to face down activists could mark a turning point in proving that when campaigners don’t get their way, the world continues to turn. This might sound obvious but it marks a welcome change to the often depressing cycle of inevitability of protest-social media storm-surrender. All too often, it seems power really does lie with the various campaign groups, charities, and commentators pushing for change. The fact that Rhodes hasn’t fallen, whatever you might think of the man himself, shows that it doesn’t. This is why they are activists

The first step towards restoring the National Trust

It is poetically fitting that the resignation of the chairman of the National Trust, Tim Parker, was announced on the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. The collective mistakes that have so damaged the Trust’s reputation were bound up in the rush of many institutions to ‘take the knee’, metaphorically and literally. Immensely delicate questions about how best to study the connections of Trust properties with slavery and (ill-chosen word) ‘colonialism’ were rushed and politicised. The view inevitably spread that the Trust now bears an animus towards the past whose glorious buildings and landscapes it is supposed to protect so that millions may enjoy them. That animus is