The work leading to this website has been conducted under the aegis of the Oxford and Colonialism network (see our ‘History’ tab). The network provided a common space for an exchange of ideas between the various parts of the collegiate University and shone a light on the urgent need to engage critically with colonial legacies. One of our first findings was that the devolved nature of the collegiate University meant that we were still often unaware of what other parts of our community are thinking or doing.

This website aimed to help bridge this gap by spotlighting the relevant conversations, activities, ideas, debates and actions taking place throughout the collegiate University, collated in 2020–21. We also reached out to the wider community to explore how the legacies of colonialism are being thought about and addressed outside of our walls, with the aim of finding synergies to work together. 

Our crowdsourcing approach

The website curators have invited all Colleges, departments and faculties, University institutions, and relevant student and University groups to offer their contribution to the debate. We stress that this is just the beginning of this virtual conversation. Not all parts of the collegiate University were represented on the website. This does not necessarily reflect a lack of commitment, but rather it is a nod to the fact that we are all in different stages of thinking and acting on these issues and have differing capacities and resources to engage in projects like this at any given time. Indeed, as you read through the submissions, it is often the diversity of approaches to engaging with colonial legacies which is most striking, clearly reflecting the decentralised nature of the collegiate University itself.  

As the name suggests, the ‘Oxford & Colonialism project’ is first and foremost about critically reexamining and engaging with the colonial past. However, one of the unmistakable manifestations of this past is present-day societal systemic racism, a link rightly called out in many of the profiles and reflected in their Janus-faced character - looking back through the memory lens and looking forward to the decolonising process. Each contribution is under the responsibility of the respective contributors.

It is hoped that this exercise can be a rare opportunity for a real exchange of knowledge and ideas within as well as outside the University, as we all seek to rise to the challenge of meaningfully interrogating our past and forging a better future.  


The governance structure of this project is under discussion at the University level.


I am mindful of the writer James Baldwin’s words: ‘History…does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past…on the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us… and history is literally present in all that we do.’ In Oxford, we are surrounded by history in our architecture, landscapes, dining halls, libraries and chapels. We cannot wholly change that historic landscape, but we can address the history we carry within us. We can acknowledge its presence in all we do, and aim with personal integrity and collective effort to improve the future.

Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor, Oxford University (extract from Oration 2020)