Britain’s black debt to the Caribbean
March 22, 2013
Britain’s black debt to the Caribbean

A book which presents an argument for reparations for African enslavement in the Caribbean has been published by one of the region’s leading scholars.{{more}}

“Britain’s Black Debt” is the first scholarly work that looks comprehensively at the reparations discussion in the Caribbean.

Author Hilary McD. Beckles is a leading economic historian of the region and a seasoned activist in the wider movement for social justice and advocacy of historical truth, and as such, he is uniquely positioned to explore the origins and development of reparations as a regional and international process.

Since the mid-nineteenth-century abolition of slavery, the call for reparations for the crime of African enslavement and native genocide has been growing.

In the Caribbean, grassroots and official voices now constitute a regional reparations movement. It is a fractured, contentious and divisive call, but it generates considerable public interest.

Beckles, who is Chair in Social and Economic History, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, weaves detailed historical data on Caribbean slavery and the transatlantic slave trade together with legal principles and the politics of postcolonialism, and sets out a solid academic analysis of the evidence. He concludes that Britain has a case of reparations to answer, which the Caribbean should litigate.

“International law provides that chattel slavery as practised by Britain was a crime against humanity. Slavery was invested in by the royal family, the government, the established church, most elite families, and large public institutions in the private and public sector. Citing the legal principles of unjust and criminal enrichment, Beckles presents a compelling argument for Britain’s payment of its black debt, a debt that it continues to deny in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” a release from the publishers says.

Britain’s Black Debt is at once an exciting narration of Britain’s dominance of the slave markets that enriched the economy and a seminal conceptual journey into the hidden politics and public posturing of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.

“No work of this kind has ever been attempted. No author has had the diversity of historical research skills, national and international political involvement, and personal engagement as an activist to present such a complex yet accessible work of scholarship,” the release said.

Beckles is Principal and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Cave Hill campus of the UWI. He is Vice-President of the International Scientific Committee for the UNESCO Slave Route Project, and member of the International Advisory Board of the Cultures and Globalization Series.