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The University of Glasgow and its Historical Connections to Slavery


The University of Glasgow, a prestigious institution of higher education located in Scotland, has a complex history that encompasses both positive academic achievements and connections to the transatlantic slave trade. This report aims to provide an overview of the University of Glasgow's historical involvement with slavery, emphasising the steps taken by the institution to acknowledge and address this troubling past.

Historical Context:

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Glasgow had deep ties to the transatlantic slave trade, with the city's merchants and industry benefiting from the profits derived from enslaved labor and trade in places such as the Americas and the Caribbean. The University of Glasgow, as an integral part of the city, was inevitably entangled in this historical context.

Benefactors with Slavery Ties:

Several influential figures associated with the University had connections to slavery. For example, Robert Cunninghame Graham of Gartmore, who served as the University Chair of Civil History, amassed considerable wealth through plantation ownership and the labor of enslaved African people.

Financial Contributions:

The University of Glasgow directly benefited from financial contributions made by individuals linked to slavery. These donations, such as those from William Cunninghame of Lainshaw, who derived wealth from slave plantations, helped fund buildings, scholarships, and other academic initiatives at the university.

The Slavery, Abolition, and the University Project:

Recognising the need for increased awareness and accountability, the University of Glasgow launched the Slavery, Abolition, and the University project in 2007. This initiative aimed to investigate the university's historical connections to slavery and to promote dialogue, research, and public engagement regarding this painful past.

Reparative Justice and the Emancipate Glasgow exhibit:

As part of the Slavery, Abolition, and the University project, the University of Glasgow has taken steps towards reparative justice. In 2018, the institution unveiled the Emancipate Glasgow exhibit, acknowledging the contributions of African and Caribbean people and their fight for emancipation. The university has also committed to a reparative justice initiative that includes a scholarship program benefiting descendants of enslaved individuals.


The University of Glasgow, like many institutions, acknowledges its historical connections with slavery. By undertaking initiatives such as Slavery, Abolition, and the University project and embracing reparative justice efforts, the university demonstrates its commitment to addressing and learning from the past. By acknowledging its complex history and engaging in dialogue, the University of Glasgow ensures that it is actively shaping a more inclusive, honest, and equitable educational institution for present and future generations.

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