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Britain's Black Debt

For Release Upon Receipt - Thursday, March 14, 2013

 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.

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. Beckles 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.

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.

If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview, book signing or author tour with Hilary McD. Beckles , please call Donna Muirhead, Marketing and Sales Manager, UWI Press at 876-702-4081/2, 876-977-2659 or email


About the Author

Professor Sir Hilary McD. Beckles holds a Chair in Social and Economic History, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, where he is also Principal and Pro-Vice Chancellor. 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. A leading voice on reparations issues, he led the Barbados National Delegation and coordinated Caribbean actions at the UN Conference on Race in Durban, 2001. His many publications including Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados; Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society; and A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Nation-State.


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