Born on September 25, 1911, Dr. Eric [Eustace] Williams was the son of Elisa and Henry Williams, a minor Post Office official in Trinidad. He was educated at Queen's Royal College and won the Island Scholarship to Oxford University. At Oxford, he placed first in the First Class of the History Honours School and received his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1938. His doctoral thesis, The Economic Aspect of the West Indian Slave Trade and Slavery, was considered an important contribution to research on the subject and was published in 1944 in Williams' Capitalism and Slavery. Much of Williams' educational pursuits at Queen's Royal College and Oxford University is documented in his book, Inward Hunger: The Education of a Prime Minister.
In 1939, Williams migrated to the United States to teach at Howard University. He became an assistant professor of social and political sciences and organized several courses, especially a humanities course for which he developed a three-volume work called Documents Illustrating the Development of Civilization (1947). While at Howard, Williams began to work as a consultant to the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, a body set up after the war to study the future of the region. In 1948, he left Howard to head the Research Branch of the Caribbean Commission. He later (1955) resigned from the Commission in protest against its crypto-colonialist policies.
Williams returned to Trinidad and Tobago and
became more involved in politics. His first major political
speech was titled My Relations with the Caribbean Commission
(1955). A year later, Williams formed the People's National
Movement (PNM), a political party of which he became the leader.
In September of 1956, the PNM won the national elections and he
became the chief minister of the country from 1956 to 1959,
premier from 1959 to 1962, and prime minister from 1962 to 1981.
During his term as prime minister, Williams led Trinidad and
Tobago into the Federation of the West Indies and to
independence within the Commonwealth in 1962. Williams died in
office on March 29, 1981. Often called the "Father of the
Nation," Williams remains one of the most significant leaders in
the history of modern Trinidad and Tobago.
From Columbus to
Castro: The History of the Caribbean 1492-1969
Paperback: 608 pages
"Mr. Williams is forced to write about so much greed and
cruelty that it is remarkable that he keeps his temper and his
perspective. He succeeds, and his practical discussion of the
current state of the Caribbean is among the best of its
kind...He writes better than many historians and almost all
From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean is about 30 million people scattered across an arc of islands -- Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados, Antigua, Martinique, Trinidad, among others-separated by the languages and cultures of their colonizers, but joined together, nevertheless, by a common heritage. For whether French, English, Dutch, Spanish, Danish, or-latterly-American, the nationality of their masters has made only a notional difference to the peoples of the Caribbean. The history of the Caribbean is dominated by the history of sugar, which is inseparable from the history of slavery; which was inseparable, until recently, from the systematic degradation of labor in the region. Here, for the first time, is a definitive work about a profoundly important but neglected and misrepresented area of the world.
Paperback: 307 pages
Slavery helped finance the Industrial Revolution in England. Plantation owners, shipbuilders, and merchants connected with the slave trade accumulated vast fortunes that established banks and heavy industry in Europe and expanded the reach of capitalism worldwide.
Eric Williams advanced these powerful ideas in Capitalism and Slavery, published in 1944. Years ahead of its time, his profound critique became the foundation for studies of imperialism and economic development. Binding an economic view of history with strong moral argument, Williams' study of the role of slavery in financing the Industrial Revolution refuted traditional ideas of economic and moral progress and firmly established the centrality of the African slave trade in European economic development. He also showed that mature industrial capitalism in turn helped destroy the slave system. Establishing the exploitation of commercial capitalism and its link to racial attitudes, Williams employed a historicist vision that set the tone for future studies. In a new introduction, Colin Palmer assesses the lasting impact of Williams' groundbreaking work and analyzes the heated scholarly debates it generated when it first appeared.
The Education of a Prime Minister
Paperback: 352 pages
"When the author, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, was a lad, his country was a British Crown Colony, and its government offered one university scholarship a year to the entire population. Young Williams won it, and went off to Oxford to study history and politics. He became an authority on West Indian history and, back home, founded the People's National Movement Party, which has repeatedly returned him to office. Mr. Williams' education has endowed him with a lucid style and, despite his dedication to his homeland, a mind that is anything but insular. This account of his efforts to make a new nation closes in 1968; one looks forward to another installment." 'New Yorker In the meantime, this autobiography has become a classic in African-Caribbean history.
Paperback: 436 pages
This volume reproduces Eric E. Williams' most important political writings, written during his years as premier, chief minister and prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Supplementing these essays are chapters analyzing Williams' contributions and discussing his political legacy.
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