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BLM Goes International: Trinity College In Dublin Launches Investigation Into ‘Colonial Past’
The Rubrics, the oldest building within Trinity College, ca 1690, Dublin, Ireland, 17th century.
DEA/S. AMANTINI/via Getty Images

Trinity College in Dublin launched a two-year “extensive” project that will “examine, interrogate, and reflect” on the school’s “colonial past.” The school thanked the Black Lives Matter movement for sparking the investigation. 

The investigation is called the “Colonial Legacies Project” and will be led by two university professors, Dr. Ciaran O’Neill and Dr. Patrick Walsh. In a press release, the university’s Provost Patrick Pendergast admitted that the project was sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“This project is the outcome of many months of deliberation here in Trinity, sparked off by the important debates that arose from the Black Lives Matter movement,” Pendergast said. “We are conscious that we, as one of the world’s oldest universities, have a particular responsibility to study our past, and to reflect the impact of Trinity as an institution on the lives of people, both positive and negative.” 

The probe calls for “further historical interrogation” of connections established between the college and “imperial activities” in India, Africa, and East Asia dating back to the school’s founding in 1592. Members of the investigative team have already argued that the school was used as an instrument of colonialism.

“The study will also look closer at home as the College itself was, arguably, an instrument of colonialism within Ireland. Like other European Universities at the time, Trinity was the beneficiary of the seventeenth-century land confiscations,” the university said. “Such confiscations happened in Ireland on a greater scale than elsewhere, enriching the Fellows and continuing to provide revenues for the College until the end of the twentieth century.”

Trinity has fallen under fire from activists in the past because of its library’s namesake. The library, which was completed in 1967, is named after George Berkeley, a globally renowned philosopher who owned slaves. This prompted not only an investigation but a debate about how Trinity’s financial standing is connected to the transatlantic slave trade. 

According to a description of the project, the investigation will also review the school’s ties to slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. 

Results from the investigation will be presented in a publication that explores the school’s colonial legacy and its “commemorative practices.” This includes an investigation into whose names are “celebrated.” The results will inform the school’s future decisions about the naming of buildings. 

Trinity College offered no further comments on the investigation. 

According to Trinity News, other universities in the United Kingdom have moved to rename their buildings following pushback from the Black Lives Matter movement. The University of Liverpool renamed “Gladstone Hall,” citing former Prime Minister William Gladstone’s connections to slavery. City University of London renamed its business school, initially named after Sir John Cass, because of the merchant’s ties to the slave trade. City University of London has opened a subsequent investigation into its funding sources and their connections to slavery as well. 

Renaming buildings and statues have become common-place in America as well. The San Francisco school district voted to rename 44 of its schools named after “racist” and “controversial” figures. 

According to The Associated Press, students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison also lobbied to have a 70-ton boulder removed from campus because at the time the rock was discovered it was referred to with a racial slur. 

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