Hilary Beckles

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Sir Hilary Beckles
Born (1955-08-11) 11 August 1955 (age 65)
Alma materUniversity of Hull
(B.A. 1976, Ph.D. 1980)
AwardsKnight of St. Andrew (2007)
Honorary degrees from the University of Hull (2004), KNUST (2009), and the University of Glasgow (2011)
Scientific career
FieldsAfro-Caribbean history, Barbadian history
InstitutionsUniversity of the West Indies (1980–)

Sir Hilary McDonald Beckles KA (born 11 August 1955) is a Barbadian historian. He is the current vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission.

Educated at the University of Hull in England, Beckles began his academic career at UWI, and was granted a personal professorship at the age of 37, becoming the youngest in the university's history. He was named pro-vice-chancellor and chairman of UWI's Board for Undergraduate Studies in 1998, and in 2002 was named principal of the university's Cave Hill campus. Although his focus has mainly been on Afro-Caribbean history, especially the economic and social impacts of colonialism and the Atlantic slave trade, Beckles has also had a longstanding involvement with West Indian cricket, and has previously served on the board of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).


Early life[edit]

Beckles was born in Barbados, and began his secondary education at Coleridge and Parry Secondary School in Speightstown, Saint Peter, Barbados. He was sent to England to complete his schooling, attending Pitmaston Secondary School and the Bournville College of Further Education in Birmingham. Beckles went on to the University of Hull, completing a BA (Hons) and PhD with the university's Department of Economic and Social History.[1]

Academic career[edit]

Beckles joined the University of the West Indies as a history lecturer at its campus in Mona, Jamaica, in 1979, but transferred to its Cave Hill campus in 1984.[2] Having been named a senior research fellow at the London-based Institute of Commonwealth Studies in 1986, he was named Chairman of the History Department at UWI in 1992, a role he served in until 1996, and he subsequently served as dean of the Faculty of Humanities from 1994 to 1998.[1] Beckles received a personal professorship in 1993, the university's youngest appointment to the position.[2] His work has covered a variety of areas within the broader topic of Afro-Caribbean history, with works covering early slave rebellions in Barbados, the role of women in the slave trade, and the greater effects of colonialism on present Barbadian society. Other works have focused more specifically on Barbadian history, including education, telecommunications, the labour movement, and sporting culture.[1]

Involvement with cricket[edit]

Having authored several papers and essays on the role of cricket in British West Indian culture, Beckles was the driving force behind the establishment of the Centre for Cricket Research at the Cave Hill campus in 1994, which resulted in the refurbishment of the on-campus 3Ws Oval. Two years later, in 1996, he convinced the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to organise a match between the touring New Zealanders and a team selected by the university's vice-chancellor.[3] Matches between touring sides and the Vice Chancellor's XI have since become a regular, almost annual, event.[4][5] In 1999, Beckles published a two-volume series on the history of cricket in the Caribbean, entitled The Development of West Indies Cricket.[1] Three years later, prior to start of the 2002–03 cricket season, the WICB announced that the expanded Red Stripe Bowl, the premier limited-overs competition in the West Indies, would feature the university's cricket team. UWI's two-season stint in the tournament was largely a result of the efforts of Beckles' efforts.[6] He remains a director of what is now the C. L. R. James Centre for Cricket Research (named in honour of C. L. R. James), and is also overall sports coordinator for the university.[2]

Awards and reputation[edit]

Beckles was named "Author of the Year" in 1991 by Barbados Cultural Promotions, and We Now Have a Country, a documentary that he wrote, narrated, and co-directed, was named "Documentary of the Year" in 1993 by the Barbados Association of Journalists. The following year, he was named the inaugural winner of the UWI Vice Chancellor's Award for Excellence in the Field of Research.[1] In 2004, Beckles was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, the University of Hull.[7] He has since received equivalent honorary degrees from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, in November 2009,[8] and from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, in June 2011.[9] In November 2007, Beckles was made a Knight of St. Andrew, the highest honour possible in the Order of Barbados.[10]

Some of Beckles' actions, regarding his role in both sports and academics at the university, have been controversial. One commentator has accused him of engaging in the "exploitation of the nation's traditional love of education and qualifications", referring to Beckles' role in the university's development as "empire-building";[11] another commentator has criticised his decisions made while on the board of the WICB.[12] In May 2011, Beckles made a statement suggesting that Chris Gayle was the "don" of West Indian cricket, comparing him to Jamaican drug lord Christopher Coke (otherwise known as "Dudus").[13][14] The West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) subsequently wrote to the WICB and UWI asking for Beckles' dismissal from the board, which did not eventuate.[15]

Other positions[edit]

Beckles serves on the editorial boards of several academic journals, including William and Mary Quarterly, Journal of Caribbean History, and Sports in Society, and is an international editor for the Journal of American History.[2] Outside of academia, he has filled the following positions:

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Cricket without a Cause: Fall and Rise of the Mighty West Indian Test Cricketers, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 2017. ISBN 978-9766379605
  • Britain's Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide, University of the West Indies Press, 2012. ISBN 978-9766402686
  • A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Caribbean Single Market, Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0521678490
  • Liberties Lost: The Indigenous Caribbean and Slave Systems, with Verene A. Shepherd, Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0521435444
  • The Development of West Indies Cricket: The Age of Nationalism, vol. 1, Pluto Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0745314624
  • The Development of West Indies Cricket: The Age of Globalization, vol. 2, Pluto Press, 1999. 978-0745314723
  • Afro-Caribbean Women and Resistance to Slavery in Barbados, Karnak House, 1988. ISBN 978-0907015260


  1. ^ a b c d e f Curriculum vitae of Hilary Beckles – Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Office of the Principal: Biography – University of the West Indies. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  3. ^ VC Viewpoint: Symbols of the West Indian SpiritThe Pelican. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  4. ^ Other matches played by University of West Indies Vice Chancellor's XI Archived 15 December 2018 at the Wayback Machine – CricketArchive. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  5. ^ Buchanan-Hind, Elizabeth. Tracing the Journey: The Vice Chancellor's XI cricket matchThe Pelican. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  6. ^ Popplewell, Georgia (2004). "Who's Really Who In West Indies Cricket" Archived 14 January 2013 at the Wayback MachineCaribbean Beat. Issue 66 (March/April 2004). Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  7. ^ Honorary Graduates: A to E – University of Hull. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  8. ^ KNUST Crop and Soil Sciences Dept to run PhD programme – GhanaWeb. Published 27 November 2009. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  9. ^ Honorary Degrees 2011 – University of Glasgow. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  10. ^ Two new knights for BarbadosNation News. Published 30 November 2007. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  11. ^ Hal Austin, "From a Native Son: Economic Prosperity is Tied up with Improved Education", Barbados Underground. Published 31 May 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  12. ^ Campbell, Junior (2011). Male bashing in Barbados (#4): Sir Hilary Beckles' "bashment" Archived 12 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine – All Voices. Published 25 September 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  13. ^ "Beckles Caught In The Slips", The Gleaner. Published 22 May 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  14. ^ UWI Cave Hill Director Sir Hilary Beckles Under Fire for Calling Cricket Captain Chris Gayle a "Don" Like "Dudus" – Zimbio. Published 14 May 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  15. ^ WIPA condemns Beckles for Comparing Chris Gayle with Dudus CokeJamaica Observer. Published 10 May 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  16. ^ a b Executive Profile: Hilary McD Beckles B.A. (Hons.) Ph.D.Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  17. ^ "Past Officers". ASWAD. Retrieved 20 April 2016.