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‘Horrified’ Students Demand Gladstone Building Renamed Due to Former Leader’s ‘Racially Marred Legacy’

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AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
VIRGINIA HALE

“Horrified” students have launched a campaign to remove the name of four-time British Prime Minister William Gladstone from a University of Liverpool building, claiming he was insufficiently devoted to the abolition of slavery.

The Liverpool Guild of Students will discuss whether to lobby the university on renaming the new Roscoe and Gladstone building  — which is being demolished for redevelopment  — after more than 50 students backed the assertion that Gladstone and his “racially marred legacy” should be removed in favour of Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow.

“William Gladstone was a former UK Prime Minister, his politics were funded by his father Sir John Gladstone’s wealth which was built on the back the Slave Trade,” writes campaign leader Alisha Raithatha on the Guild website, where she launched a poll on renaming the building.

Adding that the 19th century liberal prime minister “is known to have fought for reparations for slave traders like his father during the abolition of the trade”, the veterinary medicine undergraduate from Birmingham said: “Someone with this background should not have a university hall named after them.

“As former residents of the halls, we were horrified to find out we had been living in a building named after such a figure for a whole year without even realising,”

Raithatha told the Liverpool Echo: “I lived in those halls in first year and didn’t realise – I don’t think anybody did.

“I looked it up a bit more and realised William Gladstone wasn’t in favour of abolishing slavery. I was a bit disgusted to live in the building, not realise that history and that it hadn’t changed.

“I had a few friends say I was covering up history, but the slavery museum is a great way to remember, rather than commemorating someone so controversial.”

Raithatha was driven to launch the campaign along with fellow students Tinaye Mapako and Tor Smith, after they visited Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum, according to the Echo.

The museum  — which focuses on the Transatlantic slave trade  — presents slavery as a uniquely European and racist endeavour, ignoring the estimated more than a million Europeans who were kidnapped and enslaved by Arabs.

While villages on the coasts of Italy and Spain were hardest hit by North African pirate raids, Christians in northern Europe were also captured by corsairs as galley slaves and concubines for Muslim overlords, with the entire population of Baltimore, Ireland, seized in 1631.

Thousands of people were kidnapped from coastal towns in England and enslaved, while just over a decade ago it was announced that one of the richest treasure wrecks found off the nation  — at Salcombe in Devon  — was a 16th-century Barbary pirate ship en route to capture English slaves.

Despite sub-Saharan Africans having been enslaved by Arabs since the 8th century, the International Slavery Museum makes no mention of this, claiming that “Africa before European slavery” was a rich and happy continent where “art, learning and technology flourished”.

“Africans were especially skilled in subjects like medicine, mathematics and astronomy,” the museum’s website instructs. “As well as domestic goods, they made fine luxury items in bronze, ivory, gold and terracotta for both local use and trade.”

Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool, said the debate over the University of Liverpool building was “tokenistic”, telling the Echo that the former prime minister was “a worthy recipient of honours”.

“He was born on [Liverpool’s] Rodney Street, and was the only person who has been prime minister on four occasions,” he said, noting that Gladstone’s government “laid the basis of the welfare state, widened who could vote and did so many things we take for granted in this country.

“Gladstone was, without doubt, an abolitionist – precisely what he argued to get it through is not for me to doubt,” he added.

Chairman of the Bow Group  — Britain’s oldest conservative think tank  — Ben Harris-Quinney told Breitbart London that Gladstone is “a towering figure in British history, and someone his native Liverpool should be extremely proud of.

“The attitude of assessing the character and achievements of great figures of the past through the lens of the fleeting attitudes of the day shows a staggering immaturity to both history and human nature,” he said.

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