Out of the good books: from the Berkeley Library to the ‘X library’

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union is demanding the college rename the Berkeley Library after it became known that the 18th-century philosopher George Berkeley was a slave owner. Is the timing right

Gabi Fullam, students’ union president, Trinity College: ‘We know slave-owned people received little justice in their lifetimes. Why delay?’ Picture: Fergal Phillips

When Trinity College Dublin opened a major new library building in 1967, few would have objected to it being called after George Berkeley. Here was one of the most influential philosophers of the 18th century, considered by some the father of modern idealism – and a Trinity graduate to boot.

Berkeley might not have seemed problematic at the time, but recent scrutiny of his slave-owning past has fuelled anger over the library’s dedication. More than ...