The Codrington Library, its connection to slavery, sugar and Oxford

 

The Codrington library at All Souls, Oxford.

 

Some years back, I made preparations to go  to the Eastern Caribbean.

 

“ If you go to Barbuda,” said Bill Heine  who presented a programme on BBC Radio Oxford, “send me a postcard.”

The capital of Barbuda is Codrington and Bill remembered how a portrait of  Codrington hung in All Souls College, Oxford which he had attended. He’d found Codrington glowering down on him unsettling.

When I got myself to Barbuda ( it’s the sister island of Antigua)  I went to the post office to buy a postcard and a stamp.

There were no postcards so I bought two envelopes, wrote on one, folded it up and put it inside the second envelope.  Next,  to buy  a stamp.

The man behind the counter offered me an array of stamps. “ Pick,” he said. They all had different pictures on them including ones of Winston Churchill, a parrot and a kettle. I chose the parrot one.

“ This OK for Europe?” I asked him and he replied cheerfully: “ Whichever.” The card reached its destination. Job done.

Today it’s Open Doors Day in Oxford so I am going to All Souls to see the Codrington Library which has been closed to visitors for some months.

The Codrington family set up sugar plantations in this part of the Eastern Caribbean in the 1600s.

Now, here’s the irony: under Codrington’s rule, slaves were forbidden to learn how to read  while at the same time, Codrington slave money was used to establish a library for the privileged few back in England.

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