Clive of India’s named dropped from house at his former school over links to British Empire
Clive of India’s name has been stripped from a house at his former private school over his links to empire, sparking warnings from professors about the “craven” trend of erasing history
The Merchant Taylors’ day school for boys in Hertfordshire briefly educated the low-born Robert Clive before he was expelled for fighting.
The East India Company clerk rose to become a notoriously wealthy military leader who led British expansion on the subcontinent, and was been blamed for mass famine and plundering.
Clive House at the £20,000 per year school has now been renamed following a consultation with past and present students to avoid associations with the “foundation of Empire”.
But professors and former pupils have cautioned against the “mindless attitude being taken towards the British Empire” by “pusillanimous revisionists”.
Historians have also argued the self-made Shropshire lad Lord Clive is an inspiration unfairly maligned by his contemporaries and by history, whose name should be revered and not removed.
Headmaster of Merchant Taylors’, Simon Everson, announced in a letter to old boys that: “Robert Clive has always been a controversial figure.
“His actions in India were the foundations of Empire, but were also questioned by his own contemporaries
“From this moment forward, Clive House will be renamed.”
The new name will honour former pupil and Surrey cricketer John Raphael, who was capped playing rugby for England and died a war hero in 1917.
John 'Jack' Raphael played for cricket Surrey, and won nine caps for England's rugby team
Mr Everson explained that Lord Clive was “a chap who was at the school for one year and was expelled, achieved extraordinary things, but is certainly questionable”, whereas the Surrey all-rounder was “exemplary”.
The head added that the decision to remove his name, while retaining a plaque dedicated to him, was made with the approval of current and former pupils, and school governors.
But Cambridge historian Professor Robert Tombs said removing vestiges of Britain’s imperial past is an example of the “craven and mindless attitude being taken towards the British Empire by many public institutions”.
He added that history is to help us understand the past and “not impose our own values on it”.
Former pupil and Tory MP Lord Andrew Robathan said: “The school authorities should be ashamed of themselves. “Clive existed, a brave, successful and probably ruthless adventurer, perhaps corrupt, but in the context of the 18th Century.
“He should not now be ‘cancelled’ by pathetic and pusillanimous revisionists.”
Clive joined the East India Company in 1743 and after a failed suicide attempt went on to defeat Muhgal forces with company troops at the Battle of Plassey, allowing British expansion into Bengal.
He amassed a huge amount of wealth and has been accused of plundering the population, and causing starvation in the region by mismanagement.
Merchant Taylors' has boasts old spanning politicians, poets, and bishops
His own contemporaries shunned him and he brought up corruption charges and later cleared before purportedly taking his own life at the age of 49.
Historian Dr Zareer Masani has argued against the historical reputation of Clive as a brutal colonialist, and criticised the decision to remove his name from the school house.
He said: “It’s absurd that people are now demonising him, he had mixed reputation in his time, quite unfairly denigrated by rather snobbish Whig oligarchy who though the as a kind of self-made mad for having made his wealth himself rather than inherited it
“He is a model of someone who really pulled themselves up. We should be honouring people like this who made something of themselves.”
Mr Everson the decision to rename Clive House was an “opportunity to debate rather than cancel” and a plaque would remain in place marking brief Clive’s presence at the school
He added that pupils and focus groups agreed with the decision to honour Raphael.