Prof Emeritus Brinsley Samaroo – Photo by Roger Jacob
A brilliant writer, a conscious academic and a remarkable individual. This is how UWI will remember historian and retired lecturer Prof Brinsley Samaroo.
Samaroo, who was also a past government minister under the NAR, had been taken ill recently. His family said he died peacefully at 12.45 pm on Sunday.
He was a professor of history at UWI, St Augustine and also served as the head of the history department.
In a release, the campus administration said it was deeply saddened by Samaroo’s passing and described him as a distinguished historian.
UWI vice chancellor Prof Sir Hilary Beckles said Samaroo was both a brother and a colleague to him.
“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.”
Campus principal Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine said she was thankful for his “invaluable contributions…Not only to the university but also to the wider country and the Caribbean region. (His) legacy extends far beyond his authored books and research journals, as he exemplified the true essence of an unselfish and conscious academic.”
She said his commitment went beyond the campus, as he was actively engaged with several communities, including the First Peoples.
“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.”
Samaroo wrote extensively about TT’s history with particular focus on working class movements, Indo-Caribbean history and political and institutional development, the release said.
His books include: India in the Caribbean;Glimpses of the Sugar Industry; Adrian Cola Rienzi: The Life and Times of an Indo-Caribbean Progressive; The Price of Conscience: Howard Noel Nankivell, and Labour Unrest in the British Caribbean.He also edited an unfinished manuscript by Dr Eric Williams, The Blackest Thing in Slavery Was Not the Black Man, published a year ago.
The campus’s current history department head, Dr Gelien Matthews, said Samaroo was a consummate researcher and writer of Caribbean history. He added that Samaroo “tirelessly offered” his professional services to advance the discipline.
Bridget Brereton, emerita professor of history, said Samaroo was not just an academic historian but a public one.
“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 TT and his heroes were the persons who tried to forge inter-ethnic, class based alliances, like AC 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.”
She said he was immensely generous with his time and helped many researchers and students.
In a Facebook post, Kenneth Ramchand, retired professor of literature, said their lives and careers were intertwined.
He said Samaroo was “always a source of written information and, increasingly, an oral hotline to social behaviours, cultural practice, echoing places and events in our history.
“I will miss him as a knowledgeable, kind, considerate and humorous human being.
“With his passing I now have no one to turn to when I need an unselfish source and someone to discuss things with. Nor will I be able to rush up the steps and see in the flesh, fixed like a living installation in the West Indian library, that inspiring model of disciplined and unrelenting commitment to work without end.”
Economist and lecturer Dr Vaalmiki Arjoon also took to Facebook to mourn his “dear friend.”
He said Samaroo was an extraordinary person and he felt devastated and was in disbelief.
“(I am) deeply saddened that I’ll never see him strolling around the campus again.
“There wasn’t a single conversation with him that I didn’t learn something new, whether it be about our nation’s history, culture, politics or life in general. He was always uplifting and never hesitated to inspire many of us to embrace new challenges and strive for excellence.
“He was a beacon of wisdom and a titan, not only among historians and academics, but among us all Trinidadians.”
Antoine told Newsday the campus administration is liaising with Samaroo’s family to plan a memorial.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalised.