Dr. Eric Williams: A Historical Figure in Trinidad and Tobago

Topics: Slavery, Caribbean, British Empire Pages: 5 (1950 words) Published: July 25, 2006
Eric Williams
Amongst the various historical figures in the history of Trinidad and Tobago, one man that greatly stands out from the rest is Dr. Eric Eustace Williams. Dr. Williams was born on September 25, 1911 and died one March 29, 1981. He is best known as the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. He career in politics began in 1956. He remained in office until his death in 1981. Aside from being a politician he was also a noted Caribbean historian. Dr. Williams was the son of Henry and Elisa Williams (Race and History, Online) His father was a Postal worker and a mother was a descendant of the French Creole elite (Wikipedia, Online). It was not noted if he has any siblings. Nonetheless much emphasis has been placed on his academic and political life. In addition much has been said about his work towards society. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Williams was educated at Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain, where he excelled at academics and football Wikipedia, Online). He the recipient of scholarship in 1932 which helped fund his time at Oxford University. This is where he received his doctorate in 1938. His doctoral thesis was titled The Economic Aspect of the West Indian Slave Trade and Slavery (Wikipedia, Online).

By 1939 Dr. Williams accepted a position at Howard University, becoming a full professor by 1947. Initially, 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 (Raceand History, Online). While at Howard, in 1944, 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 (Race and History, Online). In 1948, he left Howard to head the Research Branch of the Caribbean Commission. In the midst of all that, in 1948, Dr.Williams returned to Trinidad as the Commission's Deputy Chairman of the Caribbean Research Council (Wikipedia, Online). In Trinidad Williams delivered a series of educational lectures for which he became famous (Wikipedia, Online). In 1955 after disagreements between Williams and the Commission, he resigned from the Commission in protest against its crypto-colonialist policies (Race and History, Online) Continuing with Dr. Williams many deeds and accomplishments, it was stated that on January 15, 1956 Williams introduced his own political party, which was know as the People's National Movement. Until this time his campaign of lectures had been carried out under the auspices of the Political Education Movement (PEM) a branch of the Teachers Education and Cultural Association, a group which had been founded in the 1940s as an alternative to the official teachers' union (Wikipedia, Online). The PNM's first document was its constitution. Unlike the other political parties of the time, the PNM was a highly organized, hierarchical body (Wikipedia, Online). Its second document was The People's Charter' in which the party strove to separate itself from the transitory political assemblages which had thus far been the norm in Trinidadian politics (Wikipedia, Online).In elections held eight months later, on September 24, the PNM won 13 of the 24 elected seats in the Legislative Council, defeating 6 of the 16 incumbents running for re-election. Although the PNM did not secure a majority in the 31-member Legislative Council,Williams was able to convince the Secretary of State for the Colonies to allow him to name the five appointed members of the council (despite the opposition of the Governor Sir Edward Betham Beetham)(Wikipedia, Online). This gave him a clear majority in the Legislative Council. Williams was thus elected Chief Minister and was also able to get all seven of his ministers elected. In the post-war mood of decolonization, the decision was made to create an independent West Indies Federation...
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