The President and Council of the Royal Historical Society are extremely disappointed and concerned by the University of Chichester’s recent decision to terminate its MRes in the History of Africa and the African Diaspora. This action also sees the redundancy of Professor Hakim Adi, the course leader and a prominent UK contributor to the understanding and communication of Black British history. News of Professor Adi’s redundancy came a week before inclusion of his latest book, African and Caribbean People in Britain: A History, on the 2023 Wolfson Prize shortlist.
From contact with historians on this subject, we know many others share our concern about the treatment of Professor Adi; the serious implications for Chichester students currently studying for the MRes; the rapidity with which this damaging decision has been carried through; and the wider implications for the study of the histories of Africa, the African diaspora UK, and Black Britons. This broad concern is further evident in responses to the History Matters petition on behalf of Professor Adi and the MRes in History of Africa and the African Diaspora.
October 2023 sees the fifth anniversary since publication of the Royal Historical Society’s Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History. Among that report’s findings was the virtual absence of Black History staff in UK universities. Welcome advances have been made since 2018, notably with the active mentoring and recruitment of historians of colour, the creation of dedicated lectureships, and broader curriculum development. However, these remain first steps that we must continue to promote and encourage.
With its decision, the University of Chichester goes against initiatives that seek to build an infrastructure for teaching and researching Black British History—one that’s accessible to students of diverse backgrounds across the UK.
As the Society commented earlier this year, provision of History is now, very regrettably, at risk in a growing number of UK universities. Loss of courses, student choice and specialist knowledge is always of great concern everywhere. This is especially so when—as at Chichester—it closes a pioneering, distinctive and rare degree in the history of the African diaspora and Black Britain. Explanations for Chichester’s decision highlight the pressures faced in a marketized HE economy. Financial considerations are indeed a reality of the modern university. But, equally, we simply cannot afford such losses if what’s taught in UK History departments is to speak both to the interests and diversity of students and to our complex past.
The President, Officers and Council Members of the Royal Historical Society