After the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue, campaigners are calling for Oxford’s Cecil Rhodes statue to follow suit but just who was Cecil Rhodes?
Since the death of George Floyd on May 25th, anti-racist protests have erupted across the globe.
While violent clashes between police and protestors were front-page news in the US, the UK has also seen demonstrations taking place with the biggest headline-grabbing story in recent days being the unceremonious tearing down of a statue in Bristol.
The statue was that of Edward Colston whose work as a slave trader has long been a stain on Bristol’s reputation.
And now, attention is turning to other similar monuments across the country to Britain’s colonial past.
After the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue, campaigners have now turned to a statue of Cecil Rhodes in Oxford but just who was Cecil Rhodes?
Campaigners want Cecil Rhodes’ statue removed
The Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford’s Oriel College has long been a point of contention.
A previous campaign to have the statue removed in 2016 was rejected and now, with the renewed onus brought by the Black Lives Matter protests, Rhodes’ statue is up for debate once again.
More than half of Oxford City’s councillors are reportedly in favour of removing the statue according to the BBC and have signed a letter describing the statue as “incompatible” with Oxford’s “commitment to anti-racism.”
On Tuesday, June 9th, there is expected to be a protest at the Cecil Rhodes statue calling for it to be taken down.
The scene we saw in Bristol, of Colston’s statue behind torn down and dumped in the River Avon, are unlikely to be repeated as Rhodes’s statue is protected by fencing and is located high up on the side of a building.
Who was Cecil Rhodes?
Cecil Rhodes was a British businessman, mining magnate and an imperialist statesman and politician who lived from 1853 to 1902.
He was described by historian Richard A. McFarlane in 2007 as the George Washington or Abraham Lincoln of British imperial history.
Cecil Rhodes spent much of his life running the British South Africa Company which was a prominent diamond mining company in southern Africa and resulted in the country of Rhodesia (modern-day Zambia and Zimbabwe) being named after Rhodes himself.
As well as being the founder of the South Africa Company, Rhodes also served as the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, now South Africa, in the 1890s.
One of Rhodes’ key beliefs, to quote his own last will and testament, was that the Anglo-Saxon race was “the first race in the world.”
Comment: What should happen to the statue
The two most likely outcomes for the Cecil Rhodes statue are blatantly obvious.
Either it will remain in place despite the campaigning and unsettling message it sends or it will indeed be taken down.
With Rhodes’ chequered history, the case for the statue to be removed is a strong one.
But unlike Colston’s statue in Bristol, it shouldn’t end up dumped in the River Thames, which runs through Oxford, but put in a museum so that the lessons of colonialism can still be learned without resorting to cluttering up the UK’s waterways with statues of slave traders and colonial magnates.