The College’s long past is not uncomplicated and, like many British historic institutions, is tied to the abhorrent transatlantic slave trade in enslaved African persons. Two significant benefactors, Sir Joseph Williamson and Lady Elizabeth Hastings, both benefitted financially from investments in the Royal African Company (RAC), the largest company trading in enslaved peoples in the history of the Atlantic slave trade. Williamson also held offices in the Company and its precursor, the Company of Royal Adventurers. As such, he was a significant member of the network of individuals in industry and government who together established the trade in Britain during the mid-17th century.
The College recognises that there’s a range of views on how to assess and absorb the past into our understanding of what Queen’s is today. Joseph Williamson was a major benefactor to the College whose presence is visible both in its buildings, especially the Back Quad, and through his financial and other gifts. History contributes profoundly to lived and lasting experiences of the world and we seek to apply the same critical, rigorous, and thoughtful approach to its study that we encourage in the academic work of our members. As part of our own conversations on racial equality and combatting racism, we continue to look to the past to examine and understand its legacy, and we look to the future to be part of building a better world.