Walton Look Lai was born in 1940 and educated in Trinidad.

Like Nelson and Hosein, Look Lai was a Caribbean student, and the history and origins of his family are intricately connected with the history of slavery, colonialism and the British empire. Look Lai’s family is descended from indentured labourers brought to the Caribbean after the abolition of slavery, to work on former slave plantations and do the work of formerly enslaved peoples under little better conditions. Indo, Afro-, and Sino-Trinidadians are seen as the three major communities in the country. 

Unlike Nelson and Hosein, Look Lai arrived in Oxford five years after the election of his country’s first Prime Minister, Dr. Eric Williams, also educated at Oxford, at St. Catherine’s, and two years before the official declaration of Trinidad and Tobago’s independence from Britain in 1962. Look Lai came to a very different Oxford from a very different Caribbean. 

At St. John’s, Look Lai studied Law and Jurisprudence, taking his BA degree in 1963, and his MA in 1968. Notwithstanding his legal qualifications, Look Lai went on to become a highly-regarded historian of Chinese labour in the Caribbean, and indentured immigration the West Indies. He has taught history at the City University of New York and Rutgers University, and published scholarly monographs on Chinese migration and diaspora, the history of indentured labour in the Caribbean, Caribbean nationalism, and the Chinese in Latin America.[i] Look Lai retired as Professor of History in the University of the West Indies, and we hope very much to learn more about his scholarship and career, and will continue to look for further records of his time at St. John’s. 

[i] https://independent.academia.edu/waltonlooklai

Walton Look Lai