University Removes Name of Liberal Prime Minster from Residence Hall over Ties to Slavery

1894: William Ewart Gladstone (1809 - 1898) taking it easy during a fete at his home, Harwarden after his resignation from the Premiership in March 1894. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The University of Liverpool has cowed to pressure from left-wing student activists during the nationwide assault on British history and agreed to remove the name of former Prime Minister William Gladstone from a hall of residence over “his views on slavery”.

During his long political career in the 1800s, William Gladstone enjoyed widespread support among the working-class population in the UK, particularly in the North of England, Scotland, and Wales, earning him the moniker ‘The People’s William’.

However, the Liberal prime minister’s legacy of support from the working-class was apparently not enough to save him from the wrath of Liverpool student activists amidst the leftist purge of British historical figures that is currently underway throughout the nation.

The students demanded that Gladstone Hall be renamed over the Liberal Party prime minister’s historic family connections to the slave trade, insisting that the university stop “normalising people like William Gladstone by naming our campus after them”.

“William Gladstone’s views on slavery followed in continuity with the views of his father,” they said in a letter seen by the Liverpool Echo.

Gladstone’s father, John Gladstone, was indeed an owner of some 2,500 slaves in the West Indies before the abolition of slavery. Gladstone himself did not own any slaves and nominally opposed the slave trade, but argued for educating slaves through apprenticeships before liberating them and advocated for financial payouts to former slaveholders — a position that would have benefitted his own family.

Gladstone is best remembered, however, as a proponent of Home Rule for Ireland, as an advocate for free trade, and as a British statesman.

Liverpool University said in a statement: “We share in the shame that our city feels because its prosperity was significantly based upon a slave economy.”

“We have an important opportunity to send a clear message about the commitments we have made to our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff and student community and the University will work with the Guild of Students and with staff and student groups to agree on an appropriate alternative name for the hall,” the university added.

The statement went on to trumpet its racially-sensitive bona fides by pointing to the university’s involvement in the Universities Studying Slavery project, saying: “Our Centre for the Study of International Slavery works closely with the City’s International Slavery Museum and undertakes important research into modern slavery.”

The move comes as historical monuments throughout the country have been defaced or removed during a series of Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd in the American city of Minneapolis.

On Monday, the left-wing mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced that he has tasked the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm to undertake a review of all landmarks in London, including statues, memorials, street art, street names, and public murals. Khan argued that supposedly racist symbols of the past should be replaced with figures from the LGBTQ+ and racial minorities in order to reflect the “diversity” of the British capital.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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