Since the early 1980s, October has been designated Black History Month, a month for promoting and celebrating the history and contributions of Black people to the social and cultural fabric of the UK, and to the world. As a school we have spent time thinking about how we emphasise the inseparability of the histories and stories of those who have been marginalised, overwritten or otherwise untaught from what we might see as our ‘own’ story. We are a diverse community, and one that celebrates voices and cultures of all sorts. Our pupils are richer because of that diversity; not just in October but throughout their time at Winchester.
Thinking about how we celebrate diversity is taking place throughout the school wherever you look: from the Diversity and Inclusion Audit led by the Bursar; to ensuring that the English curriculum includes a range of voices, places and people; to promoting writing of and about people of colour in Moberly Library; to encouraging the boys to reflect on the role of Africa in the twenty-first century at Studium.
Div provides the natural landing place for many of the questions that pupils must ask to understand where we are now, and the space to explore the long shadow of the forces that have got us here. What assumptions informed and justified racial oppression and the expansion of colonial rule? How did these assumptions come to be? How can we examine the non-western world on its own terms? What happens when we look robustly and critically at ourselves and our cultures? How do these questions help us situate ourselves in the context of current events, and how do we best prepare our students for the world in which they will study, work and live?
Ultimately, these questions date back to our foundation in 1382, and the radical idea put forward by William of Wykeham: that we should be measured not by our birthright - or, we might add, by our race, - but on our own terms.
In the brief excerpt below from Dr Laurence Guymer's Div lesson with Year 10 pupils, he provides the context for their exploration of the Benin Bronzes, and what these might tell us about African history on its own terms.
"In Div, we look at assumptions about how the world worked in the past and how it works today - assumptions regarding, for example, racial and civilizational hierarchies that informed - and still inform - a lot of thinking about the world, what was, and is, worth studying in it, and how it should be studied. Such assumptions informed and justified the expansion of colonial rule in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Many of these assumptions persist in popular discourse, as well as in academic study in schools and universities. They can be heard here at Winchester, in Mugging Halls and Flint Court class rooms. For example, whilst many might not call certain societies ‘backward’ explicitly, many theories and practices of development depend on this very assumption – that progress can only be achieved by a white, Western, capitalist, model.
In 1963, the eminent British historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper, wrote: ‘Perhaps, in the future, there will be some African history to teach … But at present there is none … there is only the history of the Europeans in Africa. The rest is largely darkness.’ Over the last fifty years, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, geographers, and art historians have opened our eyes to African history, and proved wrong Hugh Trevor-Roper. Their work reveals societies of great complexity and global interaction from a very early time. Using a variety of different sources, it is possible to recover African history on its own terms."
20th October 2020
In the final instalment of our focus on Wordsworth, in this 250th anniversary year of his birth, we reveal a previously undiscovered treasure within the school's collection.
18th October 2020
Winchester College Bursar, Paresh Thakrar, shares the story of the musician Nina Simone. A classical pianist whose early ambitions were thwarted by 1950s prejudice, Simone's activism put her alongside Dr Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, James Baldwin and others. While her politics were bad for business, this article explores why her music will live on well beyond the campaign for equality.
13th October 2020
The texts pupils study in Div, English and other lessons provide springboards for discussion about a range of topics. Ensuring there is content that is both diverse and international in outlook encourages depth of study and understanding.
29th September 2020
To mark the 250th anniversary of the poet's birth, Fellows' Librarian Richard Foster explains the importance of one of the school's latest acquisitions.
19th September 2020
Science School has a diverse collection of fascinating objects, from an 18th-century microscope, fossils and taxidermy birds, to apparatus used to teach physics in the early 20th century. Twenty-four of the most interesting and unusual objects from the collection are now online.
26th June 2020
There is always something to celebrate at Winchester College and the last couple of years have been particularly full of significant anniversaries - the opening of the boarding houses and the conversion of Commoners into classrooms - and this summer sees the 150th anniversary of the opening of Moberly Library.