Culture secretary

UK Culture Secretary grants Grade II status to Cecil Rhodes plaque in Oxford

UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has granted list status to a plaque commemorating industrialist and colonialist Cecil Rhodes at a college at the University of Oxford.

The Oriel College memorial in Oxford bears a plaque of Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) on the outside wall, just around the corner from the much-contested statue of the British mining magnate and politician.

“Special historical interest”

In 2018 Historic England advised the government that the plaque should not be listed.

However, on Friday, UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, head of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), said she believed it was of “particular historical interest”. .

“We are committed to conserving and explaining our heritage so that people can examine all parts of Britain’s history and understand our shared past,” a DCMS spokesperson told the BBC.

Listed Category 2 is defined as a UK building or structure which is of “particular interest, justifying every effort to preserve it”. This means it cannot be removed.

19th century British colonialist industrialist Rhodes was associated with southern Africa and Rhodesia, had a country named after him, made his fortune founding the diamond company The beers, and became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. He donated a huge sum in his will to Oriel College to fund scholarships.

According to historians, Rhodes laid the foundations of modern apartheid.

Protesters in Oxford city center during a demonstration calling for the removal of the statue of 19th century imperialist politician Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College, Oxford, UK, posted May 20, 2021 (Joe Giddens/PA)

A “Rhodes Must Fall” student protest erupted in 2016 and then again during the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, although it was later decided not to scrap the law, citing “regulatory and financial challenges”.

Laws were enacted in 2021 to protect England’s cultural and historical heritage.

Under the regulations, if the council intends to grant permission to remove a particular statue and historical artefacts from England, the Communities Secretary will be informed so that he can make the final decision on the request in question.

Protect the statues

The UK government has also introduced a series of measures to protect the statues, including new bills providing for prison sentences for damaging memorials, planning permission for the demolition of monuments and threatening institutions with funding cuts if they removed historical objects during demonstrations.

Unlike the Rhodes statue, the Colston statue was toppled during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7, 2020, before being dumped in Bristol Harbor and later recovered by Bristol City Council.

Colston, a 17th century British merchant and philanthropist, profited from his shares in the Royal African Company (RAC), whose members traded in gold, ivory and enslaved Africans. He was also an active member of the governing body of RAC for 11 years.

Alexander Zhang and Lily Zhou contributed to this report.

Owen Evans

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Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist who covers a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.