CARIBBEAN bookshelves are being expanded and enriched by a commendable vision and commitment of Ian Randle Publishers (IRP) of Jamaica that could only prove to our ultimate benefit as the diverse peoples of a region who need to know so much more about ourselves in order to contribute to a better life and future.
With over 200 titles in some 34 years to its credit, the 'IRP' logo of the Kingston-based publishing enterprise is increasingly becoming quite familiar to readers of serious works, in and out of the Caribbean region.
In his characteristic unassuming manner, the enterprising Ian Randle, founder of IRP, moved among academics, cultural personalities, media people and others at events in Barbados last month when he came for a conference of the Association of Caribbean Historians.
He was ready not only to participate in the launch of two more books by the Barbados-born Caribbean historian Hilary Beckles - `Great House Rules’ and its companion `Chattel House Blues’.
The Jamaican publisher, who may well have laid a solid foundation with IRP for a much talked about Caribbean Publishing House, was armed with the latest collection of books released for 2003 and 2004 as well as a draft 2004-2005 catalogue of recent and forthcoming publications.
Think of the widest range of subjects pertaining to Caribbean peoples and our ways of life - history, literature and drama, art and leisure, economics, politics and international relations, sociology and religion, education, biography and memoirs, law, arts and leisure - and Ian Randle Publishers have been imaginatively engaged in the process.
When one thinks of a lean period in the history of publications in the Caribbean of very relevant studies by some of our outstanding academics, a few of them having had to mortgage properties to ensure publication of their books, IRP stands today as a tremendous influence for current efforts by a still fledgling Caribbean Publishers Network (CPN).
As a journalist of this region, it has been my good fortune to have benefited from the publications of IRP, especially the works published within the past five years offering inspiring perspectives on contemporary regional and international developments; on issues of governance, security, globalisation and our shared future through economic and cultural integration.
Some of the very useful contributions in the range of IRP publications within the past four years would be:
`Contending with Destiny (The Caribbean in the 21st Century), edited by professors Kenneth Hall and Denis Benn, later to jointly edit also `Governance in the Age of Globalisation - Caribbean Perspectives’.
Both are valuable publications with analyses by some of the finest intellectual minds of the Caribbean region as presented at conferences sponsored, variously, between 1999 and 2002 by the University of the West Indies, CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Development Bank.
A cause for regret, as voiced by some of the presenters themselves at those conferences, is that too often contributions are largely focused on the Anglophone region which, though our proud castle, remains small in the Greater Caribbean.
IRP had also released `Globalisation - A Calculus of Inequality’, joint publication of Benn and Hall, in which they examined the phenomenon of globalisation from the perspectives of the poor and undeveloped southern patch of the globe, to help inform developing nations in the shaping of economic and social policies
Benn, who is Michael Manley Professor of Public Affairs/Public Policy at the UWI Mona Campus, is perhaps one of the more prolific authors of books released by IRP, his most recent being `Multilateral Diplomacy and the Economics of Change’; and `The Caribbean -An Intellectual History (1774-2003)’.
Well respected for his research and analyses on issues of Caribbean intellectual history, governance and economic development, Benn's `Multilateral Diplomacy and the Economics of Change’ constitutes a lucid discourse on the vision and efforts of the developing countries that contributed to the spawning of the New International Economic Order (NIEO)
I must confess to a particular attraction to what is among IRP's latest released package of books - Benn's focus on our region's "intellectual history" that spans some 600 years in the growth and development of political ideas from the late 18th century to an era of `Black consciousness and Black affirmation’, with the latter embracing the imagination and struggles from Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney.
A significant revision of an earlier published work in the 1970s, Benn has taken into consideration his own deep appreciation for the seminal works of Gordon Lewis -`Main Currents in Caribbean Thought: The Historical Evolution of Caribbean Society in its Ideological Aspect’ and Paget Henry's `Caliban Reason’ - in his presentation of the current version.
With 26 pages of valuable references and 10 pages of index that should be of much interest to scholars, researchers and readers of wide-ranging interest, Benn's intellectual history of the Caribbean carefully contextualise the contributions by some of our leading thinkers.
The examination begins with an assessment of the planter historians and the old representative system (by Edward Long and Bryan Edwards); and culminates with the "intellectual dimensions of black protest (from Garvey to Rodney).
There are to be found also Benn's interpretations of the ideas of icons like J.J Thomas, Eric Williams; Arthur Lewis, Lloyd Best, George Beckford and Norman Girvan (a surprising omission being William Demas); and C.L.R.James and Cheddi Jagan
A wealth of information and analyses on current national/regional issues like crime and security and the significance of a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) also await readers keen enough to make the time and effort to secure two other new IRP publications.
These are Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith's `Caribbean Security in the Age of Terror (Challenge and Change)’; and Duke Pollard's `The Caribbean Court of Justice - Closing the Circle of Independence’.
Pollard's `CCJ’ should prove a handy reference source for an understanding of the history of such a regional institution, its importance in the functioning of a Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and development of a West Indian jurisprudence.
Griffith's `Challenge and Change’ is a multi-faceted approach to national/regional security in its widest dimension at a time of global terrorism, and is a welcome companion to his earlier `Drugs and Security in the Caribbean’ published in 1997 by Pennsylvania State University Press.
Basically a collaborative effort involving the UWI, Florida International University and the Jamaica Defence Force, this offering by Griffith largely comprises a range of contributions, from various perspectives, by Caribbean thinkers and others abroad who specialise in Caribbean development.
Altogether, the latest package by IRP, including Hilary Beckles' `Chattel House Blues (Making of a Democratic Society in Barbados)’, should make quite a difference in helping to generate informed opinion and stimulate debate on Caribbean society and culture, political and economic development.