Editor: Bill Schwarz

Caribbean migration to Britain brought many new things—new music, new foods, new styles. It brought new ways of thinking too. This book explores the intellectual ideas that the West Indians brought with them to Britain. It shows that, for more than a century, West Indians living in Britain developed a dazzling intellectual critique of the codes of Imperial Britain. Chapters discuss the influence of, amongst others, C. L. R. James, Una Marson, George Lamming, Jean Rhys, Claude McKay and V. S. Naipaul. The contributors draw from many different disciplines to bring alive the thought and personalities of the figures they discuss, providing a picture of intellectual developments in Britain from which we can still learn much. The introduction argues that the recovery of this Caribbean past, on the home territory of Britain itself, reveals much about the prospects of multiracial Britain.

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For C. L. R. James West Indian identity was something to be celebrated, associated as it was for him, with the whole of the Caribbean, from Cuba and Haiti to Martinique, Trinidad and Jamaica. 1 Its distinctive character he saw as intimately linked to its particularly modern history, with the plantation at the centre of a global capitalist system linking slavery with

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Crossing the seas

There exists a moving photographic record of West Indian emigrants arriving in British cities in the 1950s, first by steamship and steam train, then later, by the end of the decade and into the 1960s, by plane. We still see, in our own times, these images of men and women who, for all their apprehensions, were stepping across the threshold into new lives, bringing with them a certain

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The predicament of history

The moment in 1968 when C. L. R. James explicitly named a tradition of West Indian intellectuals symbolised an ending rather than a beginning. Essentially, the West Indian intellectual, so named, was a colonial phenomenon. As Catherine Hall demonstrates in the opening chapter, the term ‘West Indian’ always represented a complex of competing ideas, a resource for both

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West Indian intellectual

could she be called a West Indian? Rhys herself was uncertain at times, and some of her critics have hotly debated the question. There is no doubt of her love for the disturbing beauty of her native Dominica, a recurrent if occasional theme from her earliest stories onwards, evoked most powerfully in her final novel, Wide Sargasso Sea . Yet in all her writing about the island there is the sense

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The BBC’s Caribbean Voices

On 27 November 1953 Henry Swanzy, the producer of the BBC’s literary radio programme, Caribbean Voices , wrote from his Oxford Street office in London to the programme’s West Indian contact, Gladys Lindo, in Kingston, Jamaica. His letter sought advice on editorial comments which he intended to make in a future programme

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West Indian, most famously in withdrawing the manuscript of Guerillas (1975) from publisher Secker and Warburg after being described in a catalogue as ‘the West Indian novelist’. 3 His career as a determinedly ‘extraregional’ writer of fiction, travel books and memoir 4 has been both stellar and controversial. In 1990 he was awarded Trinidad’s Trinity

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain

boyhood on the beach and in the sea with ‘beach-boys’, or in the country, at my grandfather’s with country boys and girls. I was not therefore in a position to make any serious intellectual investment in West Indian middle class values. 2 The two statements are not necessarily in opposition. C. L. R. James was speaking

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Feminism, anti-colonialism and a forgotten fight for freedom

When we think about the factors that have contributed to the beginnings of a West Indian British intellectual tradition, we would commonly bring to mind the towering figure of C. L. R. James and his comrades of the pre- Windrush generation, such as George Padmore. It would also be important to acknowledge the generation of nationalist writers and thinkers based in the Caribbean itself, such

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they came, in 1950, West Indian immigration to Britain was approaching its zenith. Selvon and Lamming, sharing Selvon’s Imperial typewriter, charted this immigration, a middle passage in reverse, explored its historical origins and cultural dynamics – and noted its subversiveness and challenges. For as West Indians ‘creolised’ the cities, and indigenised (in Susan Craig James’s memorable phrase

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain