Aerial view of the early university medical campus. LSTM is on the bottom right

The LSTM story

The LSTM story

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine was founded in November 1898 - the first institution in the world dedicated to research and teaching in the field of tropical medicine.

Since then, we have been at the forefront of translational research and the training of leaders in global health. 

Why was LSTM founded?

We were founded in response to a call from Joseph Chamberlain, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Chamberlain called upon the General Medical Council and leading medical schools in the UK to engage in teaching and research into tropical diseases –including illnesses such as malaria and yellow fever. This was in response to the high mortality rate of colonial officers, white settlers and the city’s mercantile workforce which resulted in high costs to the Colonial Office and British government. Tropical diseases, such as malaria, came with substantial economic cost to the British Empire, and the government was keen to address the problem, though primarily interested in protecting colonisers and colonists.

Two schools were subsequently founded – one in Liverpool and the other, six months later, in London.

Addressing our colonial past

Celebrating our 125-year anniversary from 2023 – 2024 provides us with a landmark opportunity to confront and research our institutional history and heritage, with digitalisation and decolonisation of our archive collections the first step in a long-term commitment.

Digitalisation and decolonisation of the collections will democratise access to information, decolonise colonial legacies, and empower us to talk about our history in an informed and evidence-led way. This forms one element of an overarching institutional History and Heritage Strategy which we will look to develop as a longer-term priority.

In the more immediate term, we will focus our efforts on a long-term colonial history research project led by experts (both academic and non-academic) who are affected by legacies of slavery and colonialism. Developing a rigorous public record of our history will create a vehicle for public engagement, widening participation and knowledge exchange. It will enable us to consider opportunities for meaningful restorative action, memorialisation, and decolonisation of the archives, education and research.

Since 2022 LSTM’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, team, and Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Staff Network have hosted a number of successful events to strengthen knowledge surrounding LSTM’s colonial history and archives. These events have been led by national and international experts and have provided rich learnings on how institutions with links to slavery and colonialism can tackle their history in a decolonial and anti-racist way, decolonising the archives and restorative action. The work supports LSTM’s strategic commitments to tackle racial inequity and become an anti-racist employer.

You can find links to these talks and panel events below:

Further Reading/Resources

Stephen Small. Reparations for Liverpool imperialism and West Africa. Writing on the Wall