Eric Williams and the Anticolonial Tradition

Eric Williams and the Anticolonial Tradition: The Making of a Diasporan Intellectual

Maurice St. Pierre
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 272
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    Eric Williams and the Anticolonial Tradition
    Book Description:

    A leader in the social movement that achieved Trinidad and Tobago's independence from Britain in 1962, Eric Williams (1911-1981) served as its first prime minister. Although much has been written about Williams as a historian and a politician, Maurice St. Pierre is the first to offer a full-length treatment of him as an intellectual. St. Pierre focuses on Williams's role not only in challenging the colonial exploitation of Trinbagonians but also in seeking to educate and mobilize them in an effort to generate a collective identity in the struggle for independence. Drawing on extensive archival research and using a conflated theoretical framework, the author offers a portrait of Williams that shows how his experiences in Trinidad, England, and America radicalized him and how his relationships with other Caribbean intellectuals-along with Aimé Césaire in Martinique, Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic, George Lamming of Barbados, and Frantz Fanon from Martinique-enabled him to seize opportunities for social change and make a significant contribution to Caribbean epistemology.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3685-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    This study examines the efforts of Dr. Eric Williams, the Trinidad and Tobago (Trinbago) Oxford University–educated historian and intellectual, much like Caliban’s efforts with Prospero in William Shakespeare’s playThe Tempest, to use the knowledge he had acquired as a colonial subject and a historian to rail against—“curse”—the language of colonialism. Williams’s efforts, along with those of other, similarly situated individuals, resulted in political independence from Britain for Trinbago in 1962 and, more importantly, the generation of a body of “new” knowledge or intellectual activity on his part.

    Williams’s anticolonial “cursing” occurred during three distinct but overlapping...

  5. 1 Colonialism in Early Twentieth-Century Trinidad and Tobago: The Construction of a Socially Dishonored Status
    (pp. 11-32)

    Trinidad and Tobago’s early history, like that of other Caribbean territories, such as Guyana and Jamaica, reflects a struggle for contested space by various European powers. In Trinidad, for instance, the Spanish introduced a cedula of population in the form of a decree issued from Madrid on 24 November 1783; it was designed to increase the amount of labor on the island by way of a free grant of land to every settler who came to Trinidad with his slaves. Since a requirement of the cedula was that the immigrant had to be a Roman Catholic and the subject of...

  6. 2 Life Abroad: The Academic Intellectual and the Struggle for Credentialism
    (pp. 33-51)

    In this chapter I examine a number of factors that led to Williams’s emergence as an academic intellectual and the inception of his role as a public intellectual toward the end of his relationship with Howard University. I will therefore turn my attention to his involvement in the habitus of knowledge accumulation, production, and marketing as an academic intellectual, which also involved the inception of his association with exceptional minds, arguably a key component of his intellectualism. The resources of energy, productive use of time, discipline, and single-mindedness of purpose that had characterized Williams’s sojourn at QRC were pressed into...

  7. 3 The Native Son Returns: The Public Intellectual and the Quest for Credibility
    (pp. 52-70)

    In this chapter I examine Williams’s efforts to consolidate his role as a public intellectual, or as Jerzy Szacki might put it, to fail to “mind his own business,” in this instance by coming out of “the libraries and laboratories into the political market-place” and thereby into the forum of public life. This sense of mission embodied in the right to act on behalf of the masses, Szacki stresses, is “intrinsic to the consciousness of the intellectual.”¹ This Williams did by using his knowledge of history as a resource to pontificate on, and to educate his public regarding, issues that...

  8. 4 In Search of Relevance: The “University of Woodford Square” and the Political Party Paper
    (pp. 71-87)

    Reference has been made to Williams’s efforts as a public intellectual to widen a “public” who received his thoughts and ideas, his use of the public sphere for discussion and debate regarding matters of concern to the society, and his views with respect to the creation of a West Indian university. However, he also had specific views concerning the university as an institution for instruction with respect to political independence, involving face-to-face interaction consistent with thespokenword and the use of the print media for transmission of thewrittenword. In this chapter I examine the manner in which...

  9. 5 Exploiting the Political-Opportunity Structure: The Emergence of the People’s National Movement Party
    (pp. 88-115)

    In this chapter I focus on another facet of Williams’s ongoing transition to a social-movement intellectual and his efforts to secure space for the role. He and other movement intellectuals sought to expand the nationalist movement through the establishment of the People’s National Movement as a social-movement organization. The PNM, which came into existence on 26 January 1956, was the twin island’s first mass-based political party. Accordingly, I will examine the manner in which the PNM’s emergence opened up opportunities for intellectual labor, first, by utilizing previously organized entities; second, by promulgating a party philosophy that was unique to Trinidad...

  10. 6 From Pedantic Visionary to Elected Politician
    (pp. 116-141)

    In this chapter I examine the manner in which Williams continued to create space, specifically as a social-movement intellectual, for his views and those of the PNM regarding independence in the political arena and, as a consequence, to formally enter the political arena as an elected politician. This was done by emphasizing especially therelevanceof the ideology of the party, the economy, race relations, constitutional reform, and party politics, while continuing to capitalize on the existing political-opportunity structure and discredit the politics of “anything goes.” Accordingly, I take a further look at how, as nascent political entrepreneurs, Williams and...

  11. 7 The Bachacs Confront the “Hydra-Head” of Colonialism: The American Presence in Trinidad and Tobago
    (pp. 142-170)

    In previous chapters I examined the manner in which Williams used historical knowledge as a weapon to “curse” the language of oppression exemplified by the various “heads” of colonialism in Trinidad and Tobago. These included imperialism, enslavement, indenture, and the trappings of colonialism in its various forms—political, economic, sociocultural—especially in the sport of cricket. In this chapter I analyze Williams’s continuing efforts to use historical knowledge to “curse” another manifestation of Prospero’s language, again by nibbling away at the American presence at the Chaguaramas base, which he considered to be the principal, or “Hydra,” head of colonialism in...

  12. 8 Caliban and the Anticolonial Tradition
    (pp. 171-200)

    In this chapter I seek to provide a summary of Williams’s intellectualism and to situate it within the wider context of the diasporan intellectual. In spelling out the parameters of intellectualism, I noted that intellectuals never seem to be satisfied with the way things are and that they provide settings for their antiestablishment railing as they create an audience and a space for the “new” knowledge that is produced. Williams’s early experiences with the language of oppression involved his exposure to the habitus, or “rules of the game,” regarding social differentiation, which was based on race, marriage, and the acquisition...

  13. Afterword: The Head That Wears the Crown Lies Uneasy
    (pp. 201-206)

    There are instances when, according to Frantz Fanon, a member of the oppressed stratum who has acquired power may be perceived as a betrayer of the oppressed masses. This occurs when native political leaders of former colonies occupy the positions left vacant by former colonists and transform themselves into the new bourgeoisie by enriching themselves and exploiting the masses for their own benefit. The peasantry, then, is systematically left out of most of the propaganda of the nationalist parties.¹

    Roughly a decade after the 22 April 1960 march to the “University of Woodford Square” demanding that the Americans vacate the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 207-230)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 231-246)
  16. Index
    (pp. 247-254)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-256)