Beckles, Hilary McD (onald) 1955-
BECKLES, Hilary McD (onald) 1955-
Born 1955, in Barbados. Education: Hull University, Ph.D. (economic history).
University of the West Indies, professor of economic and social history, chair of Department of History, 1992-96, dean of Faculty of Humanities, 1995-98, director of the Centre for Cricket Research at Cave Hill Campus, pro-vice chancellor of the university. Coordinator of Annual Vice Chancellor XI Cricket Match; coordinator of Caribbean Community/University of the West Indies Cricket Conference, 2000; chairman of the board of University of the West Indies Press; led Barbados delegation to Third United Nations World Conference against Racism, Durban, South Africa, 2001; Eric E. Williams Memorial Lecturer, Florida International University, 2002; director of Colonial Life Insurance Company Holdings, Barbados; consultant, principal writer, and committee member for United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization Slave Route Project. International Advisory Council, member of board of trustees of youth advocate program, 2003).
Black Rebellion in Barbados: The Struggle against Slavery, 1627-1838, Antilles (Bridgetown, Barbados), 1984.
Afro-Caribbean Women and Resistance to Slavery in Barbados, Karnak House (London, England), 1988.
Corporate Power in Barbados: The Mutual Affair; Economic Injustice in a Political Democracy, Lighthouse Communications (Bridgetown, Barbados), 1989.
White Servitude and Black Slavery in Barbados, 1627-1715, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 1989.
Bussa: The 1816 Revolution in Barbados ("Rewriting History" series), Department of History, University of the West Indies (Cave Hill, Barbados), 1998.
The Development of West Indies Cricket, Volume 1: The Age of Nationalism, Volume 2: The Age of Globalization, Press University of the West Indies (Barbados), 1998.
Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society, M. Wiener (Princeton, NJ), 1999.
Contributor of essays to anthologies, including For Love of Country: The National Heroes of Barbados, Foundation (St. Michael, Barbados), 2001.
(With Verene Shepherd) Caribbean Slave Society and Economy: A Student Reader, New Press (New York, NY), 1991, revised and expanded as Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World, M. Weiner (Princeton, NJ), 1999.
(With Verene Shepherd) Caribbean Freedom: Society and Economy from Emancipation to the Present, I. Randle (Kingston, Jamaica), 1993, published as Caribbean Freedom: Economy and Society from Emancipation to the Present; A Student Reader, M. Wiener (Princeton, NJ), 1996.
An Area of Conquest: Popular Democracy and West Indies Cricket Supremacy ("Studies in West Indies Cricket Culture" series), I. Randle (Kingston, Jamaica), 1994.
(With Brian Stoddart) Liberation Cricket: West Indies Cricket Culture, Manchester University Press (Manchester, England), 1995.
Inside Slavery: Process and Legacy in the Caribbean Experience (Elsa Goveia memorial lectures, 1987-93), foreword by Woodville K. Marshall, Canoe Press, University of the West Indies (Kingston, Jamaica), 1996.
Member of editorial boards of history journals, including Journal of American History and Journal of Caribbean History.
Barbadian history professor Hilary McD. Beckles has written widely on the subject of slavery, as well as both the exploitation and oppression of the people and economies that comprise the West Indies. He is also a well-known cricket historian. After receiving his Ph.D. in economic history at Hull University in England, Beckles returned to his native Barbados as one of the first professionally trained historians native to the island.
Beckles's 1989 book White Servitude and Black Slavery in Barbados, 1627-1715 traces four stages in the formation of the British plantation system in the New World and the institution of "proto-slavery," necessary for the creation of wealth for plantation owners. At the core of the book is the little-known subject of the white English, Scottish, and Irish indentured servants—a mix of migrants, beggars, criminals, and those said to be possessed by spirits—who first cultivated the British colonial sugar cane plantations on Barbados during the early 1600s. Beckles tells of the rise and fall of this class of workers, from their important role carrying out the physical labor required on a plantation, to when they began to be replaced by African slaves during the 1660s, and their fall into poverty and redundancy as black slaves became more valuable by the early 1700s. His research shows that the white servants suffered the same ill treatment that African slaves would later suffer: they were kidnapped, bought and sold, transported under deplorable conditions, had no legal rights, were whipped and tortured, and received harsh treatment when finally freed.
R. T. Brown, in a review of White Servitude for Choice, wrote, "No other book has so thoroughly treated this important segment of British colonists in the 17th century." Kenneth Morgan, writing in the English Historical Review, pointed out that Beckles "tantalizingly suggests that there may have been separate urban and rural classes of servants, each with a different consciousness and outlook." Marcus Rediker, in a review for the Journal of Social History, noted that Beckles "makes indentured servants important actors in the unfolding contest of capital and labor in Barbados. He documents their malingering and marronage, their arson and armed revolts, noting the interracial nature of some of their struggles.… But in the end he does not directly connect the resistance of servants to the accelerated movement toward slavery, preferring instead the more neo-classical arguments about labor supply and market rationality." Franklin W. Knight, in the Journal of American History, found that the book "skillfully weaves in the long-term social, cultural, and psychological consequences of this revolutionary transition for the colony and commerce." Knight called the work "an important addition to the dynamic literature on the evolution of New World societies."
In Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados Beckles looks at the multiple roles that black slave women—who constituted the majority of the population on plantations—had to assume in Barbados in the early 1700s. Beckles shows that women, although sexually exploited and as ill treated as male slaves, played a central role in plantation culture. They were successful vendors in local markets, vocal participants in antislavery movements, bulwarks of slave families, and producers of the future supply of laborers. O. N. Bolland, in a review for Choice, praised Beckles's "extensive use of quotes from original sources, such as plantation records," and called the book "clearly written." Rediker, in the Journal of Social History, concluded that Beckles shows "slave women cannot in any way be considered marginal to the history of early Barbados; they were, rather, utterly central to it." Rediker said "Beckles has established himself as a serious, talented scholar and a major new voice in labor and social history."
Beckles's A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Nation-State begins with the seldom-discussed period of the precolonial years, from 650 to 1540, when native Amerindian peoples inhabited the island. His historical narrative continues through the period of British colonization and slavery, through slave rebellions and emancipation, to the decline of the sugar plantations, the anticolonial movement, and independence in 1966. Beckles then discusses Barbados's culture and society in modern times. Knight, in a review for Choice, found the book to be "highly readable," although "its breezy style tantalizes rather than satisfies." Edward L. Cox, writing in the Journal of Southern History, noted that Beckles "skillfully discusses the mechanisms" by which British colonizers exploited the Barbadians and their resources, even after slavery ended. Jay R. Mandle, in the Journal of Economic History, found the "tone of opposition" to the conservative leadership of Grantley Adams during the push for independence to be "jarring," saying he felt it was "ironic for a politically left historian such as Beckles" to attack the politician, whose regional integration goals matched those of the left today. Still, Mandle concluded that the book is "a valuable historical synthesis that will become the standard reference" on the island's history.
Developed as a history text for a course at the University of the West Indies, Liberation Cricket: West Indies Cricket Culture, is a collection of essays that explore the adoption of the British game by African West Indians and its evolution as a popular sport in the island's culture. The book also celebrates the work of the Trinidadian historian C. L. R. James, who wrote the definitive book on the history of West Indian cricket, Beyond a Boundary (1963). R. McGehee, in a review for Choice, commented that the book shows the paradox of cricket as "both a vehicle for breaking down class and race structures and a retained symbol of colonialism and British culture."
Beckles's 1999 work Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society tells the history of black and white women in Caribbean slave society. Thoroughly researched, using both primary and secondary sources, the book covers a wide range of topics, which are organized by chapter. Subjects covered include the exploitation of slaves, prostitution, the gendered division of labor, the racial differentiation of sexual identity, and the role of women as entrepreneurs. In a review for the Journal of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, Georgina Waylen found the book to combine a "theoretically informed approach together with some detailed readings of primary sources …to produce a …scholarly volume." Bolland, reviewing the book for Choice, noted that Beckles "writes thoughtfully" about his subject and that his analysis of the lives of women "are excellent."
The two-volume Development of West Indies Cricket is a historical analysis of the sport in the region drawing on the work of C. L. R. James and others, as well as on Beckles's own extensive research. Beckles, a former cricket player, is both the founder and director of the Centre for Cricket Research at the University of the West Indies. In volume one, The Age of Nationalism, Beckles mentions the influence of famed players such as Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards, women's cricket, and the effects of apartheid and colonialism on the sport. In volume two, The Age of Globalization, he explores the effects of globalism on West Indian cricket, showing how prospective players are lured by offers from U.S. universities to play basketball, football, and baseball instead. He also discusses how the sport has been affected by the declining West Indian economy and the lack of a West Indian federation. A contributor to the Stylus Publishing Web site called Beckles's history of the sport "lively, well-researched and thought-provoking" and "comparable to none other in the field." Laurie Taylor wrote in the Manchester, England, Guardian that Beckles has written "a widely praised inquiry into the cultural forces which have affected his nation's cricket fortunes." Huw Richards, also of the Guardian, wrote of Beckles: "A thwarted international cricketer he may be, but at 44 he is a test-class historian. His book was hailed by Scyld Berry—a cricket writer well qualified to judge—as the most important book ever written on the game's history."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice, February, 1990, R. T. Brown, review of White Servitude and Black Slavery in Barbados, 1627-1715, pp. 997-998; September, 1990, O. N. Bolland, review of Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados, p. 200; November, 1991, Franklin W. Knight, review of A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Nation-State, p. 507; October, 1995, R. McGehee, review of Liberation Cricket: West Indies Cricket Culture, p. 332; November, 1999, O. N. Bolland, review of Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society.
English Historical Review, April, 1991, review of White Servitude and Black Slavery, pp. 401-402.
Guardian (Manchester, England), June 9, 1999, Laurie Taylor, review of The Development of West Indies Cricket, p. 7; June 13, 2000, Huw Richards, review of The Development of West Indies Cricket, p. 12.
Journal of American History, December, 1990, Franklin W. Knight, review of White Servitude and Black Slavery, pp. 988-989.
Journal of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, November, 2000, Georgina Waylen, review of Centering Woman, p. 192.
Journal of Economic History, March, 1992, Jay R. Mandle, review of A History of Barbados, pp. 265-266.
Journal of Social History, fall, 1991, Marcus Rediker, reviews of White Servitude and Black Slavery and Natural Rebels, pp. 144-147.
Journal of Southern History, May, 1992, Edward L. Cox, review of A History of Barbados, p. 399.
New Statesman, June 2, 1995, Andrew Blake, review of Liberation Cricket,, p.47.
Reference & Research Book News, August, 1997, review of Caribbean Freedom: Economy and Society from Emancipation to the Present: A Student Reader, p. 89.
Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago Web site,http://www.emancipationtt.org/ (October 15, 2003), "Hilary Beckles."
Florida International University Web site,http://www.fiu.edu/ (spring, 2002), "The Global Politics of Reparations: Before and after Durban."
Stylus Publishing Web site,http://styluspub.com/ (November 2, 2003), review of The Development of West Indies Cricket.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus Web site,http://www.cavehill.uwi.edu/ (November 2, 2003), "Beckles, Hilary McD."*