By James Walvin
Last updated 2011-02-17
All Souls College, Oxford, houses one of the city's finest libraries, which is named after a former fellow who had strong Caribbean connections. Christopher Codrington was born in Barbados in 1668. His father was captain-general of the Leeward Islands and one of the wealthiest planters in Barbados. At the time, Barbados was the centre of Britain's slave islands, its sugar plantations disgorging unprecedented wealth based on the labour of enslaved Africans.
Codrington was educated at Christ Church College Oxford before becoming a Fellow of All Souls. He was a great book collector, but embarked on a military career in Europe before returning to replace his father in the Caribbean as governor-general. In the last years of his life he devoted himself to his plantation. When he died in 1710, he bequeathed his books (12,000 volumes) to All Souls. They consisted of a wide range of mainly 17th-century French and Italian books. He also left a huge legacy of £10,000 to All Souls, £6,000 of which was to be spent on building a library, and the rest on buying books. Although not formally completed until 1751, the library has been used by scholars ever since. Like so many of the buildings from this period, the library is rooted in the slave trade.