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Summary Article: Williams, Eric
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Trinidad and Tobago centre-left politician and historian, prime minister 1956–81. After a career as a university lecturer and professor in the USA he founded the People's National Movement (PNM) in 1956. As chief minister, he took Trinidad and Tobago into the Federation of the West Indies in 1958, but seceded in 1961, and achieved full independence within the British Commonwealth in 1962. Economic downturn and increasing authoritarianism led to Black Power riots in 1970, but during the 1970s rising oil prices provided the basis for large-scale industrialization and nationalization by his government. In 1976 Williams oversaw Trinidad and Tobago's shift to republican status.

Williams' centre-left nationalist PNM was the country's first political party, and drew support chiefly from the majority African elements of the population. On joining the Federation of the West Indies, he insisted on a powerfully centralized government, but when this failed to materialize and Jamaica seceded in 1961, he took Trinidad and Tobago out of the union, declaring ‘one from ten leaves zero’. In the negotiations towards independence, his slogan was ‘Discipline, Production and Tolerance’. His popularity soared until economic and political unrest erupted in April 1970, the violence of the US-inspired Black Power movement leading to an army mutiny, and a state of emergency being briefly imposed.

Williams was educated at Queen's Royal College, Trinidad, and St Catherine's College, Oxford. He took a doctorate in history in 1938. He was renowned as one of the most forceful leaders in the Caribbean, and was an eloquent opponent of racism. However, in latter years, he was accused of authoritarianism by his political adversaries, and was unable to halt the rise of Black Power militancy. His writings include Capitalism and Slavery, 1944, and From Columbus to Castro: A History of the Caribbean 1492–1969, 1970.

His administration won great popularity for its spending on social services and public works, but economic recession in the 1970s brought growing dissent, and he committed suicide in 1981.

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