UWI community mourns the passing of Historian Professor Brinsley Samaroo

by July 13, 2023

The University of the West Indies (The UWI) is deeply saddened by the loss of Professor Brinsley Samaroo, a distinguished historian and former Head of the Department of History at The UWI, St. Augustine Campus. Today, we join together as a community of current and past students, as well as staff, to mourn the passing of this remarkable individual.

“Brinsley was my brother and colleague for over 40 years. I admired his grasp of historical forces and we shared a common reading of the Caribbean past. He was a kind and generous colleague and a university man to the bone. We shall miss him as we celebrate his considerable contributions to our Caribbean community,” said Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of The UWI.

In addition to his prominent role as Head of the History Department, Professor Samaroo was a respected member of Parliament for Nariva and a minister in the government of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR). While his contributions as a Parliamentarian in the 1980s were noteworthy, it is his profound impact as the head of the History Department at The UWI and his significant contributions to the field of Trinidad and Tobago’s history, the working class, and Indo-Caribbean history that have earned him the utmost respect.

Reflecting on the profound impact Professor Samaroo has made, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus Principal at The UWI St. Augustine Campus, expressed her gratitude for his invaluable contributions not only to the university but also to the wider country and the Caribbean region, “Professor Samaroo’s legacy extends far beyond his authored books and research journals, as he exemplified the true essence of an unselfish and conscious academic. His commitment extended beyond the confines of the campus, as he actively engaged with communities, including our First Peoples, generously sharing his knowledge. He had the special touch to make history vibrant and urgent. His absence will be deeply felt by all those who had the privilege of knowing him.”

Although Professor Samaroo retired from his academic duties at The UWI, his presence remained at the Alma Jordan Library, where he tirelessly continued his research. His extensive writings on the history of Trinidad and Tobago, with a particular focus on working class movements, Indo-Caribbean history, and political and institutional development, have enriched our understanding of our nation’s past. Some of his books include “India in the Caribbean,” “Glimpses of the Sugar Industry,” “Adrian Cola Rienzi: The Life and Times of an Indo-Caribbean Progressive,” and “The Price of Conscience: Howard Noel Nankivell and Labour Unrest in the British Caribbean.”

“Brinsley Samaroo was both an academic historian and a public historian. As an academic, he pioneered research on the history of the Indian diaspora in the region and helped to make this field a flourishing one with new work coming out all the time. But he was far from being an “ethnic” historian. He also wrote extensively on labour and class struggles in T&T and his heroes were the persons who tried to forge inter-ethnic, class based alliances, like A.C.Rienzi. As a public historian, he gave innumerable talks and lectures outside the walls of academia and got involved in many initiatives to educate the public about our history. He was immensely generous with his time and helped so many researchers and students. And he was a beloved teacher to the hundreds who took his courses. His passing is a huge loss to his many friends and colleagues locally, in the region, and further afield.”Bridget Brereton, Emerita Professor of History at The UWI, St Augustine Campus

“On behalf of the Department of History of the University of the West Indies St Augustine Campus, it is with profound regret that we learn of the passing of our distinguished and greatly esteemed colleague, Professor Brinsley Samaroo. He was a consummate researcher and writer of Caribbean history and tirelessly offered his professional services to advance the discipline. He will be greatly missed,” said Dr. Gelien Matthews, Head of the Department of History.

The UWI St. Augustine Campus wholeheartedly extends its heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Professor Brinsley Samaroo during this difficult time. We mourn his passing and honour his outstanding contributions, which will continue to inspire future generations of scholars.