Close Menu



In light of our responsibility to address the social, cultural and economic problems facing the Caribbean region, and in keeping with the University’s overall mission to unlock the potential of the region, the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work sets itself the following objectives:
To develop a research, policy and service-oriented culture of high academic quality based on solid theoretical and empirical foundations. This will be achieved through: defining relevant areas of research, policy and service on which we will be focused;

training students in social and behavioural analysis,research and problem solving skills, applied social work and community intervention skills;

and encouraging the active engagement of its staff, students, graduates (alumni) and associated professionals with societal issues.

Our History

The Department of Sociology was formally established in May 1961. However, research and teaching in Sociology were actively pursued at the (then) UniversityCollege of the West Indies long before that date, so a brief background is useful.
The importance of Social Science analysis for the development and well-being of Caribbean society was recognized from the foundation of the university. The Institute of Social and Economic Research (I.S.E.R), now re-named The Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) was established in 1948, at the same time as the first teaching Faculty of the University, the faculty of Medicine. The first Director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research, Dr. H.D. Huggins, an agricultural economist, was appointed in September 1948. The Institute was initially funded for the period 1949-1954 by the Social Science Research Council of Britain.

Early members of the ISER staff were George Cumper, later to become Head of the Department of Economics, Lloyd Braithwaite, later to become Head of the Department of Sociology, and a visiting Fulbright Fellow, urban sociologist Leonard Broom from the University of California. Other earlier personalities associated with the ISER were Fitzroy Augier (now Professor Sir Roy Augier), and Miss Nora Siffleet, later Mrs. Nora Mailer.

By 1953 Michael G. Smith, anthropologist, fresh from his prize-winning ethnographic work in West Africa, was also a staff member. During 1953 and 1954, teams of North American graduate students were attached to the ISER undertaking fieldwork assignments under the supervision of Sidney Mintz of YaleUniversity. Other ISER associates undertaking social research in these early years were Edward P.G. Seaga, George Simpson of Oberlin College, U.S.A., and J. Mayone Stycos of the Conservation Foundation, U.S.A.
Also in 1953, the ISER flagship journal Social and Economic Studies began publication and has continued without interruption to the present day. Historic early articles published in this journal include:

  • Lloyd Braithwaite, Social Stratification in Trinidad
  • Rawle Farley, Rise of a Peasantry in British Guiana
  • George Roberts, Emigration from Barbados
  • Raymond Smith, Land Tenure in 3 Villages in British Guiana
  • Sidney Mintz, The Jamaican Internal Marketing Pattern
  • George W. Simpson, Political Cultism in West Kingston, Jamaica
  • Edward P.G. Seaga, Parent-Teacher Relationships in a Jamaican Village

The small selection of writings listed above gives an indication of the extensive and relevant sociological work undertaken at UCWI before the Department of Sociology was established. The sociologists and anthropologists developed academic relationships with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Research Institute for the Study of Man, New York, and published two important symposia:

  1. Caribbean Studies: A Symposium (1957) 
  2. Social and Cultural Pluralism in the Caribbean (1960).

M.G. Smith published A Framework for Caribbean Studies (1955), West IndianFamily Structure (1962), and Kinship and Community in Carriacou (1962). Important studies of family, fertility and population also were undertaken by several researchers.
In 1955, a Department of Economics was established in the Faculty of Arts, independent of the ISER, offering courses towards a London B.A. General in Economics,. However, by 1959 the Department of Economics was united to ISER, and teaching for a B.Sc.(Honours) in Economics began in October 1959. In June 1960 the Faculty of Social Sciences was constituted, including ISER and the Department of Economics, and with the subjects of Government and Sociology included in the degree B.Sc. (Econ.). The format was that all students took courses in all Social Science subjects in their first year, and then opted for a specific area of specialization in their second and third years. Professor Kenneth E. Boulding of the University of Michigan spent the 1960-61 year as Professor of Economics and Head of the Department.

In that 1960-61 year there were 102 students in the B.Sc. (Econ.) course (out of a total of 858 students registered in all degree courses of the University). A one-year course in Public Administration also was established in the new Department of Government in October 1960, under a Carnegie Foundation grant. Also in that 1960-61 year, a Caribbean Census Research Programme was set up in the Department of Sociology/ISER, under the leadership of George W. Roberts, with strong consultative support from the Population Council, New York, the Research Institutr for the Study of Man (New York), the London School of Economics, and representatives of the Statistics and Planning Institutes of the West Indian Governments.

The first Head of the Department of Sociology, formally established as stated above in May 1961, was the University Principal William Arthur Lewis. Other members of the Department were Dr. Michael G. Smith, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Mr. GeorgeW. Roberts, Senior Lecturer in Demography, and Mr. Lloyd E.S. Braithwaite, Senior Lecturer in Sociology. During the year Dr. M.G. Smith resigned to take up an appointment as Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

During August/September 1961 the Departments moved into the new Social Sciences Faculty Building. In April 1962 the University of the West Indies was established by Royal Charter. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, was the first Chancellor, and William Arthur Lewis, former Principal, was the first Vice-Chancellor. By June 1962 the legal incorporation of the former UniversityCollege of the West Indies into the new University of the West Indies was complete. Also around this time, in February 1962, Guyana announced its intention to withdraw financial support from the new University of the West Indies and to establish its own University.

The new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lewis, resigned from his position as Head of the Department of Sociology and Mr. Lloyd Braithwaite was appointed, initially as Acting Head. Dr. Raymond T. Smith, Research Fellow at ISER, was seconded to the Department of Sociology. By this time, in the 1961-62 academic year, out of 83 students in the Social Sciences in their second and third years, 11 were specializing in Sociology.

By the following academic year, 1962-63, Miss Joycelin Byrne, a 1962 graduate of the Department, joined the staff as a Research Assistant in the Census Research Programme. Mr. George Roberts appeared by invitation before the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives, to give testimony on the demographic situation of the Caribbean. There were then 20 students specializing in Sociology, out of a total of 120 Social Sciences students in their second and third years.

In October 1963, Colleges of Arts and Sciences were established at St. Augustine, Trinidad and Cave Hill, Barbados. Already in 1960 the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture (ICTA) at St. Augustine had become affiliated with the UCWI and the Faculty of Agriculture had been established there, as well as the Faculty of Engineering. The establishment of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences gave the opportunity for teaching in the Social Sciences at all three UWI campuses. In the 1963-4 academic year at St. Augustine, 36 students took Sociology as a first year course for the B.A. (General Honours) degree, and the numbers continued to grow over the years. However, introductory courses in Sociology were not taught at Cave Hill until 1968.

At Mona, the main events from 1963 onward were the offering of Sociology courses for the B.A. (General Honours) degree, which substantially increased the number of students taking Sociology courses, and also the introduction of evening programmes which expanded even more the size of the student enrolment. Associated with this expansion, Mrs. Hermione McKenzie joined the Department in 1963 as an Assistant Lecturer.

In the 1964-65 academic year, the Certificate in Social Work was transferred to the Department of Sociology from the Department of Government, where it had been established in 1961 under the broad framework of Social Administration/Public Administration. The academic staff of the Department was thereby increased by the Social Work staff consisting of Dr.Douglas Manley, Senior Lecturer, Miss June Dolly Besson, Tutor in Social Work, and Miss Adele Wint. By this time, in addition to undergraduate students there were three students in the Department registered for the M.Sc. Sociology.

Prepared by
Hermione McKenzie, BSc, MMHS, CD
Caribbean Sociologist

Top of Page