Al Nasir's college, St Catharine's, said they 'are committed to upholding freedom of speech'Louis Ashworth for Varsity

Former Conservative MP, Antoinette Sandbach, has threatened to sue the University over research which found her ancestors to be slave owners.

Malik Al Nasir, a third-year PhD student at St. Catharine’s college, found that himself to be a descendant of slaves owned by prominent merchant Samuel Sandbach, a relation of the former Tory MP.

Al Nasir has spent over 20 years researching his family’s links to slavery, and has shown his ancestors to have been enslaved on Samuel Sandbach’s plantation in the former colony of British Guiana, now Guyana, throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Al Nasir claimed in a TEDx Talk that Antoinette Sandbach has benefited from the wealth accumulated from her descendant’s involvement in slavery.

Mr Sandbach, under the terms of the Slave Compensation Act 1837, shared compensation of over £35,000 for the liberation of over 500 slaves on two estates he co-owned.

In his research, Al Nasir states: “The estate of Samuel Sandbach was 5,000 acres, it incorporated not only Hafodunos Hall, sold off in the 1930s, but the surrounding farms, with cottages that now form part of Antoinette Sandbach’s estates known as Hafodunos Farms Limited”.

This has been refuted by the former MP as inaccurate, asserting her family’s fortune was not made from slavery and that she no longer lives on the land connected to the Sandbach estate.

Ms Sandbach has threatened legal action over the discussion of her ancestry in the talk given by Al Nasir. Ms Sandbach argues that she has the right to privacy as she is no longer a public figure, having not been an MP since 2019. She also claimed there were some inaccuracies in Al Nasir’s research.

Ms Sandbach’s request to have named reference to her removed from the TED Talk was rejected following an investigation by the University’s Information Compliance Office (ICO).

Al Nasir told Varsity that the threat “is an attack on academic freedom” adding that this is a fundamental right that is being put under threat and objective historical facts being challenged.

“The threat of legal action is an affront to academic freedom, as a historian it is imperative that I have academic freedom to research history and to display without fear or favour what I find”, Al Nasir said.


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Al Nasir also told Varsity that all of Ms Sandbach’s points of inaccuracy were addressed and presented to his academic supervisor at the Faculty of History, who was sufficiently satisfied that Al Nasir’s research was sound.

In a statement to The Guardian, the College stated: “St Catharine’s is absolutely committed to upholding freedom of speech and ensuring all of our students, including Malik Al Nasir, are able to freely pursue their scholarly interests by providing access to academic, pastoral and – where possible – financial support throughout their studies”.

When approached for comment, the University said: “This is an ongoing legal matter and so we are unable to comment”.