Tuesday, 19 September 2017
A special assembly delivered by Boys’ Division Headmaster Philip Britton marked the 166th birthday of Lord Leverhulme, who played a pivotal role in the re-foundation of Bolton School just over a century ago. Whilst many pupils were familiar with his project at nearby Port Sunlight and some knew of his involvement with Leverburgh in the Outer Hebrides, few knew of his work further afield in Leverville in what was the Belgian Congo (and is now Lusanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo). Mr Britton explained how from 1911-21, Leverhulme’s main focus was on improving profits by sourcing and supplying palm oil to his Wirral soap-producing factories.
The boys learnt how Leverhulme travelled to Africa in his pursuit of palm oil and after initially being rebuffed in Nigeria, he gained permission from King Leopold of Belgium to develop his own plantation in the Belgian Congo. The Headmaster explained the concept of a Victorian patrician who wanted to do good to people rather than for people. However, there was unrest in the Congo as the indigenous population that had owned the land suddenly became wage earners! Opened earlier this year on the site of Unilever’s first plantation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a “White Cube” represents the cornerstone of the Lusanga International Research Centre for Art and Economic Inequality and offers a space for reflection on the past.
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