An English council has insisted a tiny village is not named after Robert Clive, following calls to remove a statue of the controversial 18th-century figure.
Over 7,000 people have signed a petition to take down the statue of Clive, known as Clive of India, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.
The petition criticises the 18th-century figure for his role in "disastrous" colonial policies that led to the death of around a third of Bengal’s population during a famine that lasted from 1769 to 1773.
Shropshire Council has now clarified that the village of Clive in north Shropshire is not named after Robert Clive – who was the MP for Shrewsbury at the time of his death.
The village of Clive in north Shropshire isn’t named after Robert Clive. We believe it derives from the word Cliffe. The village is marked as Clive on John Rocque’s 1752 map of the county, when Robert Clive was still in the process of assembling his fortune, power and notoriety. pic.twitter.com/LQa7PSM0Fq— Shropshire Council (@ShropCouncil) June 9, 2020
The council tweeted: “The village of Clive in north Shropshire isn’t named after Robert Clive. We believe it derives from the word Cliffe.
“The village is marked as Clive on John Rocque’s 1752 map of the county, when Robert Clive was still in the process of assembling his fortune, power and notoriety.”
The call for the removal of Clive’s statue comes as local campaigns and online petitions demand universities, a hospital and councils to take down statues of individuals linked to the slave trade or to re-label buildings named after them in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.
On Tuesday, a statue of slave owner Robert Milligan was removed from its plinth at West India Quay in London, while protesters toppled the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol on Sunday.
A petition to remove the Robert Clive statue states: “While this statue is not anti-black racism, it goes some way to illustrate how embedded racism is in the UK.
“This statue commemorates Clive, and by so doing embodies the racist and inhumane nature of his actions.
“If we are not comfortable with a statue of Joseph Stalin or Genghis Khan, how can we be comfortable with a statue of Clive?”
Clive helped establish British colonial control of India during his time at the East India Company, which saw widespread looting of Bengal’s wealth and treasures.
Defending his policies following the famine of Bengal, Clive said he rendered “great and meritorious services to his country”.
The petition adds: “Clive stands on a plinth in the centre of The Square, but was central to 200 years of theft, misrule that led to thousands of deaths, and eye-watering brutality in large swathes of the Indian subcontinent.
“It illustrates how embedded racism and white supremacy is in the UK. That’s why #CliveMustFall.”
A second petition for the statue’s removal adds: “Just because a figure is historical, that doesn’t make him good.
“He is nothing more than a figure of oppression and white supremacy that has, whether consciously or not, been celebrated and commemorated in Shrewsbury Town centre for hundreds of years.”
Business minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Wednesday that decisions over the future of controversial statues of historical figures should be taken democratically.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that people should be able to examine the UK's history "warts and all" without a feeling of "self-loathing" and without forgetting "the good things we've done”.
He argued that the priority should be on improving the opportunities for people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, with people deciding how political leaders respond via "the ballot box".