Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences



Alongside our continued research and critical engagement with the difficult legacies of Britain’s colonial past, SHS wants to create new and restorative legacies that can help to transform society

UCL’s Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences (SHS) is an intellectually diverse and world-leading faculty that is consistently ranked in the top fifteen globally across its subject areas, with three departments in the top ten.

The mission of the Faculty is to advance the core fundamental disciplines in the social and historical sciences and to develop cutting-edge cross-disciplinary and applied research and education in these areas. 

The Faculty brings together academics and students working across a wide range of social science and humanities disciplines, from highly quantitative research drawing on large datasets and cutting edge data analysis methodologies, to innovative use of ethnography, as well as lab- and field-based research in geographical, environmental, and archaeological sciences. The common threads running between these different disciplinary perspectives and methodological approaches is a deep commitment to impactful research that can improve the lives of people around the world. 

Today, UCL remains deeply committed to the promotion of equality and diversity in all that we do – a commitment shared by SHS – and there is still much work to be done. Challenging the legacies of colonialism and slavery is a fundamental part of this work, which requires thought leadership, clarity of purpose and well-evidenced policy-making. Academics within SHS are already working to provide these through research, teaching and policy engagement in a wide range of academic disciplines.

Alongside our continued research and critical engagement with the difficult legacies of Britain’s colonial past, SHS wants to invest in creating new, positive and restorative legacies that can help to transform not just the academy but also society.

Legacies of British Slave-ownership Centre

When slavery was abolished in Britain in 1834, the Government compensated slave owners to the equivalent of £17 billion whilst former slaves received nothing. UCL has led the national debate around the long-term impact of colonial slavery through the work of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership Centre.

“It has been the Centre’s mission to encourage a fulsome understanding of what centuries of Black enslavement has meant for nations, societies, and peoples. The shadows of the history of slavery follow us all. The present moment demands that we maintain active and informed dialogue on the roots of that history and its manifold endurances. This is an unshakeable aspect of the intellectual commitment of the work of our Centre, and one that we intend to advance through new research, public engagement, and activities with our community of collaborators within and outside the UK.”

Prof. Matthew Smith, Director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership. 

Since its inception, the Centre has documented the ways in which colonial slavery and its cultural, political and economic legacies have shaped modern Britain. The LBS database contains details of around 61,000 individuals connected as owners or associates of the slavery business. It has become a significant resource for the study of British slave-ownership, with more than one million users to date. The work of the Centre continues to move beyond a focus on slave-owners to document the lives of the enslaved as far as possible, in order to recognise the humanity and individuality which was denied to them by slavery.

Research uncovering the ways in which slave compensation money seed-funded a multitude of new business ventures and added to the existing wealth of many established elite families is ongoing. An additional phase of the work now seeks to uncover more about the lives and experiences of the enslaved. This is challenging and painstaking work that will require extensive research in the Caribbean itself, but vital to uncovering the realities of slavery in ways that can shape contemporary debates. 

Find out more: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/ 

The Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation

UCL’s Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism & Racialisation was established in 2019 in response to student-led demands for the transformation of the curriculum and a reparative reckoning with the powerful, but often unacknowledged, colonial and imperial histories of our university, our city and our nation.

The Centre is dedicated to the development of new, critical understandings of the mechanisms and impact of racism and the complex legacies of race-thinking — from the scientific and cultural impacts of racism on academic enquiry itself, to the continuing effects of racialized inequality in the workings of government, law, the arts, culture, science, technology, and social life. 

The Centre provides a focal point for scholarship, teaching and public engagement activities that address various problems of racial inequality and hierarchy from different perspectives, and has developed a strategic plan to build a cross-disciplinary programme of future-oriented research in the following key areas:

  • The impact of racial divisions and racial hierarchy on the social and political life of data
  • The significance of the climate emergency for post- and neo-colonial relations 
  • The continuing significance of race, racism and the inequalities they generate in relation to health and medicine

In 2021, we launched a new postgraduate taught Master’s programme in Race, Ethnicity and Postcolonial Studies (REPS) which will focus on the history of conceptions of ‘race’ and the social and cultural complexities of racialized inequality and injustice. This multi-disciplinary programme will enable students to better understand how racial divisions persist and are reproduced, equipping them with the critical knowledge and skills required to shape policy and action in government, civil society organisations and commercial sectors around the world. We are keen to increase the number of scholarships available to students interested in the programme who might otherwise not be able to afford to enrol. 

In addition to research and teaching activities, the Centre recently launched a podcast series, and has an active public engagement focus through relevant events and activities. 

Find out more: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/racism-racialisation/