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Elite schools and slavery in the UK – capital, violence and extractivism

Gamsu, Sol; Ashe, Stephen; Arday, Jason

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Jason Arday


Elite schools in the UK are bound to the history of British colonialism. This paper examines the material ties between these schools and the transatlantic slave trade. We combine a range of sources to examine which educational institutions and their alumni have accrued substantial economic capital derived from the enslavement of Black people. We find two principal forms of connection: first, in donations and foundations of schools from those who made their fortune in the slave trade: and second, through the sources of income of the boys attending these schools. Drawing on the Legacies of British Slavery dataset, we show that schools with the largest numbers of alumni benefitting from the slave trade are some of the most prestigious private schools for boys in England. This finding aligns with, and builds upon, existing accounts which suggest that Caribbean plantation owners frequently educated their sons at major private schools. Moreover, this paper traces the links between founders and private schools, as well as the histories of several secondary schools founded by, or in receipt of, substantial donations from slave-owning families. Combining these histories we provide a theorization of the relationship between elite education, capital, class formation, imperialism and slavery. In doing so, we argue that exploitative, extractive and violent forms of imperial capital accumulation have been, and remain central to, the formation and maintenance of elite educational institutions in England.


Gamsu, S., Ashe, S., & Arday, J. (2024). Elite schools and slavery in the UK – capital, violence and extractivism. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 45(3), 325-345.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 8, 2024
Online Publication Date May 5, 2024
Publication Date May 5, 2024
Deposit Date Jan 16, 2024
Publicly Available Date May 5, 2024
Journal Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education
Print ISSN 0159-6306
Electronic ISSN 1469-3739
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 45
Issue 3
Pages 325-345
Public URL


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