Christopher Codrington – College Campuses (Pascal S.)

Controversial Monuments On College Campuses

By Pascal Sambor

The Issue

The calls for the removal of the statue of Christopher Codrington, in Codrington Library on the campus of All Souls College, Oxford. 

The legacy of Christopher Codrington, the founder of the Codrington Library, has been called into question as the questionable nature of his past looms large over All Souls College.

Pressure begins to mount on Oxford after yet another issue with monuments, following the highly publicized Rhodes Must Fall Campaign.

All Souls College, Oxford

Using the debate surrounding the monument of Christopher Codrington, I will aim to further analyze the different viewpoints surrounding controversial monuments, with the added commentary on how it differs when the issue involves college campuses and college students.

Who Was Christopher Codrington?

Christopher Codrington was a Barbadian – born British soldier, plantation and slave owner, bibliophile, and colonial governor. He was born in Barbados in 1668. His father, Colonel Christopher Codrington, was captain-general of the Leewards Islands. As a young man, Codrington was sent to England to be educated and went to school in Enfield.

From 1685, he attended Christ Church, Oxford, as a gentleman commoner. He was elected to All Souls College as a probation fellow in 1690. He was an enthusiastic book collector.

Statue of Christopher Codrington in Codrington Library

Having fought with distinction at Huy and Namur, he was made a captain of the 1st regiment of foot guards in 1695. In the same year, he accompanied the king to Oxford and in the absence of the public orator, was selected by the University to deliver the university oration. As a governor, his rule did not seem to have been very popular. An appeal was made against his behavior in 1702 by the people of Antigua. This appeal/document is still located within the Codrington Library at All Souls College with his comments attached. The document was laid before the House of Commons and was eventually dismissed.

Codrington’s first military operations as captain-general proved successful, but an expedition against Guadeloupe in 1703 turned out to be a failure. After his resignation from his military position, he retired to his estates in Barbados and passed the remainder of his life in seclusion.

Codrington’s Barbadian Roots

The context of 18th century Barbados plays a role as to why Codrington’s legacy has been significantly tainted. Barbados was regarded by many as England’s first tropical agricultural export colony and also as the springboard for English colonization in the Americas. It is estimated that between the years 1625 to 1807, close to 400 000 Africans were shipped to Barbados against their will to be slaves. The manner in which they were transported to the island was also a huge cause of concern and outrage, with overcrowded and unsanitary ships being used.

Barbadians working on sugar plantation, c. 1908. Source: Royal Geographic Society.

The reality of the matter was that the high mortality rate among slaves who worked on plantations required a constant stream of new slaves to be imported in order to keep a steady workflow. Codrington’s Barbadian roots and his lack of empathy towards slavery, coupled with his promotion of slavery sparked outrage and calls for his name to no longer be synonymous with ‘greatness’.  This shows me that Codrington kept his slave plantations up till death, which many of his detractors have been using as a reason as to why he should not be allowed to have his legacy remembered within All Souls College, a college that has accepted and fully integrated black students into the school.

Whitener, Bradford. “Barbados Slave Codes.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Dec. 2016,

Times Have Changed

Christopher Codrington, Cecil Rhodes, and Edward Colston have had statues erected based on their achievements and large donations to schools and cities. However, the changing social climate has brought to light the not so honorable means in which these men amassed their fortunes. This raises yet another question. Do we abolish their monuments, as well as the scholarships and other measures they had implemented in their time? Or do we keep these implementations but rename them/disguise them as something else so as to not bring light to their names any further?

How can we attempt to acknowledge those who created these institutions with the source of the wealth and power, while also understanding the means in which they went about amassing that same source of income?

Herein lies an important question that links back to larger questions of identity and public memory. Much like how people are beginning to question who built Britain, these same questions can be translated with regards to who really built All Souls College and Codrington Library.

Rhodes Must Fall Campaign & The Similarity to Codrington Uproar

All Soul’s College only makes reference to the nature of Codrington’s wealth once on their college website. “A substantial legacy of £10,000 received by the College in 1710 from Christopher Codrington, sometime Fellow and governor general of the Leeward Islands. His family wealth principally derived from sugar plantations that were worked by slaves in Antigua and Barbados.”

While the library’s webpage does it state how Codrington amassed his wealth mainly through the use of slaves, nowhere in Codrington Library or on his monument does it show the nature of how he made his fortune.

Students from Oriel Collge, Oxford, protesting the statue of Cecil Rhodes.

The statue of Christopher Codrington, like that of Cecil Rhodes, is accompanied with a plaque that states in Latin “Christopher Codrington, who built this library and enriched the books out of his will, a monument of gratitude for his spirit,” once again fails to mention that the library was more than likely to have been built off the back of slaves. This is what is perceived to be downright disrespectful in the eyes of the protesting students, that the Codrington library does nothing to reflect the true nature of the history in which the name and the statue come from. The anger stems not so much from the statue being built, but more so from a lack of anything being done to at least question the legacy of a man whose glorification remains highly questionable. 

However,  with Rhodes perhaps not having the best intentions for the use of his money, but in a way, the school has managed to ‘turn his cash for the better’. This is what I feel to be one of the larger issues at hand, which is ensuring that minority students are given a fair crack at making it. While there is certainly still a long way to go, I believe that the issue of how scholarship money is being used supersedes whether a monument should stay or go, or whether a scholarship should be renamed.

Should Everything Associated With Codrington/Rhodes Be removed from Colleges?

Oluwafemi Nylander protesting the monument of Christopher Codrington.

All Soul’s College student, Oluwafemi Nylander, a prominent member of Rhodes Must Fall Oxford and campaigner against colonial commemoration at Oxford, stood outside All Souls College in protest against the Codrington Library and commemoration of its founder, Christopher Codrington. After being told that “The library exists for students and researchers. Its name and statues reflect facts of history which, like the history of slavery itself, cannot be changed.” by the British Economist, ex-chair of the Independent Commission on Banking and Fellow of All Souls College, Sir John Vickers. Nylander’s response to this statement was “I thought I would remind them what the history of slavery was,” before he carried out his demonstration by standing shirtless outside the High Street entrance to the college, with a chain around his neck with the words ‘All Slaves College’ painted in red on his chest.

Statue of Cecil Rhodes, Oriel College

Is it Right for Students Opposing Codrington/Rhodes To Still Use their Scholarships/Facilities?

This bigger picture is a fight for equal rights, not a fight to censor or remove our history. Black students of All Souls College want assurances that they are able to receive the same opportunities as anyone else, and they feel that the presence of Christopher Codrington or Cecil Rhodes monuments tells them that their school is not ready to grant them said opportunities.

However, students like Ntokozo Qwabe have taken a more direct approach. Qwabe’s utilization of the very same Rhodes Scholarship that he has been so strongly opposing, has sparked a debate about whether students can slate something, while also reap its benefits.

Qwabe’s answer to this is that the money from the scholarship was stolen from his ancestors by Rhodes and that he is simply taking back ‘what is rightfully his’.

“Ntokozo Qwabe, and Sophia Cannon, Debate.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 Dec. 2015,

 The Counter Argument

Professor Beard does pose another important question with regards to how minority students oppose Rhodes, but still, utilize the money from his scholarship. “And then there’s the money. I really don’t think that you can have your cake and eat it here. I mean, you can’t Whitewash Rhodes out of history, but go on using his cash. His cash has done a huge amount of good in bringing foreign students to the country. Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate what we have managed to achieve with his money despite his views?

Poster from the Rhodes Must Fall campaign on Christopher Codrington’s role in promoting slavery.

If he was inherently bad, then we have certainly turned his cash for the better.” Beard uses this argument to question what the whole argument from the Rhodes Must Fall(RMF) campaign stems from. If they are so opposed to anything related to Rhodes, what makes it okay to vilify him and still use the resources he has provided. The leader of the RMF campaign, Ntokozo Qwabe, endured the most of this backlash as he is on a prestigious scholarship for overseas postgraduates funded by Rhodes. His rebuttal, however, argued that fact that he was simply taking back what had been stolen from his people. “Those of us from Southern Africa who take the money of the Rhodes scholarship, do so because we are here for the change. We are here to take back the money. We are here to at least have some dignity that we take away from the undignifying dispossession and plunder that the likes of Rhodes committed on the continent. And so, I will not be told that I am a hypocrite for taking money that was stolen from my people.”


From my understanding, students and members of the public want these two monuments removed to show the Oxford is, as a school, progressing and giving their minority students every chance of succeeding.

The removal of these statues will mark a significant and symbolic victory for those who have been fighting for equal rights for students. However, the removal of these statues will only be papering over cracks of if no further steps are taken to ensure that future, and ongoing cases of inequality towards minority students become a thing of the past.


Pascal Sambor


Beard, Mary. “Cecil Rhodes & Oriel College, Oxford.” https://www.the­ Published. Dec 20, 2015. Oct 20, 2017.

Diver, Tony. “Student protests against All Souls’ Codrington.”­protests­against­all­souls­codrington/. Published. Jun 20, 2016. Web. Oct 19, 2017.

Elgot, Jessica. “Rhodes Must Fall campaign marches through Oxford.” Published. Mar 9, 2016. Web Oct 20, 2017.

Jenne, Amelia. “Classicist praises campaign to rid institution of racism but says ‘history can’t be unwritten or hidden away.” Published. Dec 22, 2015. Web. Oct 20, 2017.

Mitchell, David. “The Trouble With People Who Lived in the Past.” Published. Mar 13, 2016. Web. Oct 19, 2017.

Parry, Thomas. “Codrington College, in the island of Barbados,” (1795 ­ 1870) 32,58.

Dr. Watson, Karl. “Slavery & Economy in Barbados.” Published. Feb 17, 2011. Web Oct 19, 2017.

Whitener, Bradford. “Barbados Slave Codes.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Dec. 2016,

“Must Rhodes Fall? | Full Debate | Oxford Union |.” Youtube, uploaded by OxfordUnion.Jan 21, 2016,

“Ntokozo Qwabe, and Sophia Cannon, Debate.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 Dec. 2015,