Open letter objecting to the proposed closure of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Thursday 29 October 2020

We as scholars of Imperialism, Decolonisation and Commonwealth Studies write to strongly protest the University of London’s proposal to close the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS).  Its loss would cause severe reputational damage to the university and British academia.

 The ICwS was founded in 1949 to understand nations bound by British colonialism.  It began, and remains, a genuine multidisciplinary institute with expertise, collections and events that cover the breadth of the postcolonial experience.  It has always brought together a community of scholars and students from around the globe to help understand not only the legacies of the British Empire, but also the common challenges and issues that face the third of humanity that resides in the Commonwealth. It has attracted and trained diplomats, civil society, royalty and freedom fighters. The institute is the centre of the world so far as the study of the Commonwealth is concerned. 

At a time when the representation of slavery and empire are being heavily debated; while Black Lives Matter and other related protests force us to examine how we respect and protect diversity of all kinds; when students are desperate to better understand colonial legacies; and as the government after Brexit attempts to make a “Global Britain” through stronger Commonwealth ties, the idea that the ICwS should be abolished is frankly irresponsible and counterproductive. The Institute’s vital initiatives on Black British History, Decolonisation, Documenting the End of Empire, and International Oral Histories have particularly attracted admiration, thanks to the Institute’s respected and expert staff under the directorship of Professor Philip Murphy. 

The ICwS represents the best scholarly diversity that the Commonwealth offers.   It is not merely a British institution, but one that has been shaped by the engagement of scholars and citizens globally. As scholars of the Commonwealth and all its manifestations we urge the University of London’s leadership to reconsider its proposal to close the ICwS.  To close it would suggest to the world that the University is insular and turning its back on understanding the crucial legacies of empire and on those millions who were affected by British colonialism.

181 UK and World Academics Listed Below

Dr H. Kumarasingham, University of Edinburgh

Professor Saul Dubow, University of Cambridge

Emeritus Professor James Manor, University of London

Professor Richard Drayton, King’s College London

Professor Sarah Stockwell, King’s College London

Dr Kate Quinn, University College London

Emeritus Professor Shula Marks, SOAS

Dr Chris Moffat, Queen Mary, University of London

Emeritus Professor Richard Rathbone, SOAS

Emerita Professor Catherine Hall, University College London

Professor Linda J. Colley, Princeton University

Professor John Darwin, University of Oxford

Professor David Throup, George Washington University

Emeritus Professor David William Cohen, University of Michigan

Dr Steven Pierce, University of Manchester

Professor Anindita Ghosh, University of Manchester

Emeritus Professor Shula Marks, SOAS

Emeritus Professor A. J. Stockwell, Royal Holloway, University of London

Emeritus Professor A. G. Hopkins, University of Cambridge

Dr Leigh Denault, University of Cambridge

Professor Richard Toye, University of Exeter

Dr Donal Lowry, University of Oxford

Dr Robert Saunders, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Faisal Devji, University of Oxford

Professor Gareth Austin, University of Cambridge

Professor Emma Hunter, University of Edinburgh

Dr Mark R. Frost, University College London

Dr Andrew Dilley, University of Aberdeen

Dr Sara Rich Dorman, University of Edinburgh

Professor Miles Larmer, University of Oxford

Professor James Mayall, University of Cambridge

Professor Duncan Bell, University of Cambridge

Dr Derek O’Brien, Oxford Brookes University

Dr Marc-William Palen, University of Exeter

Dr Kate Law, University of Nottingham

Professor Robert Bickers, University of Bristol

Professor Sujit Sivasundaram, University of Cambridge

Professor Richard Reid, University of Oxford

Associate Prof. Michael Collins, University College London

Dr Daniel Haines, University of Bristol

Dr Donal Coffey, Maynooth University

Dr Martin Farr, University of Newcastle

Dr Andrew Cohen, University of Kent

Associate Prof. John C. Mitcham, Duquesne University

Dr Hilary Sapire, Birkbeck, University of London

Associate Prof. Sunil Purushotham, Fairfield University

Dr Tripurdaman Singh, University of London

Professor Diana Paton, University of Edinburgh

Dr Tom Dyson, Royal Holloway, University of London

Associate Prof. Nayanika Mathur, University of Oxford

Professor Mélanie Torrent, Université de Picardie Jules Verne

Professor Stuart Ward, University of Copenhagen                               50

Dr Camilla Schofield, University of East Anglia                                             

Emeritus Professor John Lonsdale, University of Cambridge

Emeritus Professor John MacKenzie, Lancaster University

Professor Steven Friedman, Rhodes University and University of Johannesburg

Professor Kate Alexander, University of Johannesburg 

Emeritus Professor William Beinart, University of Oxford

Dr Shruti Kapila, University of Cambridge

Professor Mark McKenna, University of Sydney

Professor Bill Schwarz, Queen Mary, University of London

Professor Francis Robinson, Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr Raphaëlle Khan, Institute for Strategic Research, Paris

Professor Andrew Harding, National University of Singapore

Professor Christopher J. Gerry, University of Oxford

Professor Kevin YL Tan, National University of Singapore

Professor Carl Bridge, King’s College London

Associate Prof. Elisabeth Leake, University of Leeds

Dr Peter Clegg, University of West of England

Profssor Anne Twomey, University of Sydney

Associate Prof. Faridah Zaman, University of Oxford

Dr Neil Fleming, University of Worcester                                          

Dr Sue Thompson, Australian National University                

Dr Asanga Welikala, University of Edinburgh

Professor Stephen Tierney, University of Edinburgh

Associate Prof. Jonathan Saha, University of Durham

Professor Pippa Catterall, University of Westminster

Dr Sumita Mukherjee, University of Bristol

Dr Leslie James, Queen Mary, University of London

Professor Emeritus Peter Vale, Rhodes University

Professor Sarah Ansari, Royal Holloway, University of London

Professor Zoë Laidlaw, University of Melbourne                                

Dr Arthur Asseraf, University of Cambridge

Professor Joya Chatterji, University of Cambridge

Dr Matt Graham, University of Dundee

Professor Anne Pitcher, University of Michigan

Associate Prof. Marc Matera, University of California, Santa Cruz

Dr Miles Tendi, University of Oxford

Dr Coel Kirkby, University of Sydney

Professor Samita Sen, University of Cambridge

Dr Arun Kumar, University of Nottingham

Dr David Washbrook, University of Cambridge                                 

Professor Robin Jeffrey, Australian National University

Dr Rob Waters, Queen Mary, University of London

Dr Markus Daechsel, Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr Andrew Wyatt, University of Bristol

Dr Lorna Lloyd, Keele University

Professor Katherine Adeney, University of Nottingham

Professor David Lowe, Deakin University

Professor Philippe Lagasse, Carelton University

Professor Andrew Stewart, Australian National University

Professor Dane Kennedy, George Washington University                  100

Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King’s College London

Emeritus Professor Tony Payne, University of Sheffield

Associate Prof. Yasmin Khan, University of Oxford

Dr Paul Sutton, University of Hull

Professor Christopher Cramer, SOAS

Dr Deborah Potts, King’s College London

Dr Zoe Groves, University of Leicester

Professor Norman Hilmer, Carelton University

Associate Prof. Joanna Lewis, London School of Economics

Professor Susan Pedersen, Columbia University                                 

Professor Robert Hazell, University College London

Dr Helen McCarthy, University of Cambridge

Professor Andrew Williams, University of St Andrews

Professor Robert Fletcher, University of Missouri

Professor Robert Aldrich, University of Sydney

Dr Cindy McCreery, University of Sydney

Emeritus Professor Robert Ross, Leiden University

Dr Deborah Gaitskell, SOAS

Professor Andrew van der Vlies, Queen Mary, University of London

Dr Rebekah Lee, Goldsmiths, University of London                          

Dr Nada Zecevic, Goldsmiths, University of London

Dr Erica Wald, Goldsmiths, University of London

Neil Parsons, University of Botswana

Professor Jocelyn Alexander, University of Oxford

Professor Cherryl Walker, Stellenbosch University

Professor Susan D. Pennybacker, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Professor Simon J. Potter, University of Bristol

Dr Natasha G. Wheatley, Princeton University

Professor Mitra Sharafi, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr Naimah Talib, University of Canterbury, New Zealand                

Professor André M. Everett, University of Otago

Associate Prof. Jane Buckingham, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Professor Stephen Howe, University of Bristol

Dr Priya Mirza, University of Delhi

Professor Douglas M. Peers, University of Waterloo

Emeritus Professor W. David McIntyre, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Professor Christopher Hilliard, University of Sydney

Dr Susan Conway, University of Sussex

Professor Michael Frank Titlestad, University of the Witwatersrand

Gaurav Mukherjee, Central European University                                           

Emily Kearon-Warrilow, University of Liverpool

Dr Lawrence Marceau, University of Auckland

Professor Frank Mort, University of Manchester

Nicholas A Sims, London School of Economics

Associate Prof. Carole Spary, University of Nottingham

Dr Deana Heath, University of Liverpool

Professor Albert Grundlingh, Stellenbosch University

Professor Preben Kaarsholm, Roskilde University

Dr Kate Sullivan de Estrada, University of Oxford

Dr Benjamin Schonthal, University of Otago                                                  150

Dr Emily Manktelow, Royal Holloway, University of London

Associate Prof. Svati P. Shah, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Professor Deborah James, London School of Economics

Professor Philippa Levine, University of Texas at Austin

Professor Wale Adebanwi, University of Oxford

Professor Barbara Harris-White, University of Oxford

Dr Helena Pérez Niño, University of Cambridge

Professor James Vernon, University of California, Berkley

Professor Martin Thomas, University of Exeter

Dr Andrew Arsan, University of Cambridge                                                   

Emeritus Professor Heidi Safia Mirza, University College London

Professor Olaf Zenker, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Dr Emma Wild-Wood, University of Edinburgh

Dr Rohit De, Yale University

Associate Prof. Rachel Sturman, Bowdoin College

Professor Jan Plamper, Goldsmiths, University of London

Dr Joel Cabrita, Stanford University

Dr James Kennedy, University of Edinburgh

Dr Mark Rolls, University of Waikato

Dr Igor Cherstich, University of Birmingham                                                 

Dr Jeremy Krikler, University of Essex

Professor David Simon, Royal Holloway, University of London

Professor Ailsa Henderson, University of Edinburgh

Dr Brain J. Adams, Griffith University

Dr Sharath Srinivasan, University of Cambridge

Dr Malcolm McKinnon, Victoria University of Wellington

Dr Megan Laws, London School of Economics

Dr Kate Meagher, London School of Economics

Dr Michael W. Scott, London School of Economics

Dr Michael O. Eze, University of Winnipeg

Dr Jim Masselos, University of Sydney