Sunday, July 19, 2015

Inward Hunger: The Education of a Prime Minister

Williams, Eric, Inward Hunger: The Education of a Prime Minister, London: Andre Deutsch, Ltd., 1969.

First chapter available online.

Reviewed by Shiva Naipaul.

In Inward Hunger, Williams recounts that in the period following his graduation: "I was severely handicapped in my research by my lack of money.... I was turned down everywhere I tried ... and could not ignore the racial factor involved". However, in 1936, thanks to a recommendation made by Sir Alfred Claud Hollis (Governor of Trinidad and Tobago, 1930–36), the Leathersellers' Company awarded him a £50 grant to continue his advanced research in history at Oxford.[1] He completed the D.Phil in 1938 under the supervision of Vincent Harlow. His doctoral thesis, The Economic Aspects of the Abolition of the Slave Trade and West Indian Slavery, was both a direct attack on the idea that moral and humanitarian motives were the key facts in the victory of British abolitionism, and a covert critique of the idea common in the 1930s, emanating in particular from the pen of Oxford Professor Reginald Coupland, that British imperialism was essentially propelled by humanitarian and benevolent impulses. Williams's argument owed much to the influence of C. L. R. James, whose The Black Jacobins, also completed in 1938, also offered an economic and geostrategic explanation for the rise of British abolitionism.

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