Dr. Eric Williams

Eric Eustace Williams (25 September 1911 – 29 March 1981) served as the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. He served as prime minister from 1962 until his death in 1981. He was also a noted Caribbean historian, and is widely regarded as "The Father of The Nation."

"Williams specialised in the study of the abolition of the slave trade. In 1944 his book Capitalism and Slavery argued that the British abolition of their Atlantic slave trade in 1807 was motivated primarily by economics—rather than by altruism or humanitarianism. By extension, so was the emancipation of the slaves and the fight against the trading in slaves by other nations. As industrial capitalism and wage labour began to expand, eliminating the competition from slavery became economically advantageous.

Before Williams the historiography of this issue had been dominated by (mainly) British writers who generally were prone to depict Britain's actions as unimpeachable. Indeed, Williams' impact on the field of study has proved of lasting significance. As Barbara Solowand Stanley Engerman put it in the preface to a compilation of essays on Williams that was based on a commemorative symposium held in Italy in 1984, Williams "defined the study of Caribbean history, and its writing affected the course of Caribbean history.... Scholars may disagree on his ideas, but they remain the starting point of discussion.... Any conference on British capitalism and Caribbean slavery is a conference on Eric Williams."

In addition to Capitalism and Slavery, Williams produced a number of other scholarly works focused on the Caribbean. Of particular significance are two published long after he had abandoned his academic career for public life: British Historians and the West Indiesand From Columbus to Castro. The former, based on research done in the 1940s and initially presented at a symposium at Atlanta University, sought to debunk British historiography on the region and to condemn as racist the 19th- and early 20th-century British perspective on the West Indies. Williams was particularly scathing in his description of the 19th-century British intellectual Thomas Carlyle. The latter work is a general history of the Caribbean from the 15th through the mid-20th centuries. Curiously, it appeared at the same time as a similarly titled book (De Cristóbal Colón a Fidel Castro) by another Caribbean scholar-statesman, Juan Bosch of the Dominican Republic.

Williams sent one of 73 Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages to NASA for the historic first lunar landing in 1969. The message still rests on the lunar surface today. He wrote, in part: "It is our earnest hope for mankind that while we gain the moon, we shall not lose the world."

Literary Works: 

Capitalism and Slavery, 1944.   https://archive.org/details/capitalismandsla033027mbp

Documents of West Indian History: 1492–1655 from the Spanish discovery to the British conquest of Jamaica, Volume 1, 1963.

History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago, 1964.

British Historians and the West Indies, 1964.

The Negro In The Caribbean, 1970.

Inward Hunger: The Education of a Prime Minister, 1971

From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean 1492–1969, 1971.

Forged from the Love of Liberty: Selected Speeches of Dr. Eric Williams, 1981.

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