The working group was established to engage with Churchill’s views and actions concerning empire and raceVysotsky

Churchill College has disbanded their working group on Churchill, Race and Empire, which was set up last year in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, a statement released by the College said.

The statement, written by Professor Dame Athene Donald, Master of Churchill College, stated that the work of the group had “changed direction” and had disbanded itself.

The move is said to have followed comments from Churchill Professor and academic in postcolonial literature, Priyamvada Gopal, that “the group might as well dissolve themselves and I [the Master] was told that, at their meeting of 20th May, the group decided that they would not make further recommendations on a third event. Rightly or wrongly, as Master, I took that statement at face value.”

According to the Master’s statement, Gopal’s comments were fuelled by her “frustration” at proposals for a further event being adjusted made by the College Council, which were made on the basis that the changes “fitted better with the aspirations originally set out.”

Donald’s statement also noted that the series of talks had gradually strayed from the original aims since the establishment of the group.

In a series of tweets published this afternoon (17/06) Gopal criticised the Master of Churchill College for disbanding their working group, adding that members of the working group were informed that “they had dissolved themselves”, a claim that she described as “untrue”.

She added that the third event in the group’s series, themed around commemoration, was not held due to pressure exerted by the Churchill family and Policy Exchange, as well as backlash towards the College following the group’s second event, held in February of this year.

The working group has previously held two events, one entitled “Churchill, Empire and Race: Opening the Conversation”, and a second entitled “The Racial Consequences of Mr Churchill”.

Gopal criticised the College for giving in to external pressure, stating: “Cancel culture is real [and] disgraceful. Giving in to it is worse.”

The group, which Donald’s statement noted was “in the usual way of College governance [...] intended to have a finite lifetime,” was established as a year-long series of events “to engage with the facts surrounding Sir Winston Churchill’s words, views and actions relating to empire and race.”

The working group’s webpage states that the College considers it “imperative” to “consider what we can and must do to be fully inclusive.” It continues: “Churchill, as a successful leader in time of war, must not be mythologised as a man without significant flaws; on race he was backward even in his day. We aim to lead an ongoing critical dialogue about his own legacy in global history”.

Gopal stated that she had received an email “essentially firing” the working group, and claimed that this was due to the group’s intention to release a statement “about what we’ve had to endure in the last four months”.

She urged her followers to watch the first two events, which she described as “highly successful”, writing: “Watch them before those get taken down too.”

In her tweets, Gopal described the “appalling, truly appalling racial discourse” she and other members of the group have experienced, saying that this discourse came from “within and without the college.”


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The University has previously condemned abuse towards Gopal and other academics. Donald also deplored the abuse received by participants of the second talk in today’s statement, adding: “We knew that this would require some difficult conversations, and would hold us up to scrutiny by the international press, but we were quite prepared to manage this as we know how much these conversations matter.”

However, Gopal further criticised Churchill College, arguing that it “has a serious institutional problem when it comes to race, and the hagiography and mythologies around its founding figure contribute directly to that problem.”

She added: “Is this [Churchill College] a comfortable place for p.o.c [people of colour] and their allies to be?”

Gopal also called attention to the role of the Daily Mail, describing them as a “pressure group”, whose coverage of the working group has “resulted in the successful shutting down of necessary critical discussion on Churchill’s legacies.”

In November of last year, the Daily Mail agreed to pay £25,000 in damages for libel to Professor Gopal, having claimed that she “was attempting to incite an aggressive and potentially violent race war”.

Donald’s statement closed: “It will not stop us looking at all aspects of our community and our work to ensure we create an environment welcoming to all. Our work here has only just begun.”