Hilary Beckles: Wrote his book under constant death threats

Historians in the News

HISTORIAN PROFESSOR HILARY BECKLES has revealed for the first time that he wrote the first edition of his book: The History Of Barbados, "in the midst of endless death threats".

The principal of the University of the West Indies' Cave Hill Campus made this disclosure on Thursday night at the launch of the second edition of the book, which was originally published in 1990.

Beckles told a rapt audience at the Shell suite of the university that for three years he received calls threatening to kill him, to kidnap his children and to blow up his house from people who took issue with his public stance.

"We were told we were manufacturing history; we were told we were racist," stated Beckles, explaining how his position on Barbadian history was received at that time.

He said that on one occasion he received seven death threats in one day, prompting him to call the police and receive an armed escort for a night-time lecture he was giving.

"It is not easy to give a lecture looking at a gun," the professor said wryly.

The ordeal had been worth it, however, he said, for in the end it ushered in a new perspective on local history.

"This is a different time because many of the things we said then, now appear to be common sense."

Beckles' book traces Barbadian history from the time of the Kalinago (Caribs) right up to the 21st century.

In the late 1980s, he was embroiled in public controversy over what he termed the economic disenfranchisement of Barbados' majority black population, fiercely criticising a number of local companies for excluding Blacks from their boardrooms.

In particular, he targeted The Mutual, now Sagicor and in July 1989 sought – and failed – to get a seat on the board in an historic and highly publicised election campaign among policyholders.

comments powered by Disqus