THE blight surrounding the compilation and publication of the Foundational History text on Trinidad and Tobago continues, with the discovery of wrong page insertions and numbering in a chapter written by eminent historian Dr James Millette.
Chairman of the committee appointed to consider and receive contributions for the publication, Prof Theodore Lewis, walked off and away from the project.
He declined to attend the launching ceremony in the midst of a battle to get what he considers adequate compensation for his work. He has pursued his legal options in that effort. The chapter he developed for the publication is not part of the published text.
So too is the chapter on the contribution of the Chinese community written by Dr Walton “Wally” Look Lai. Both men had refused to negotiate away their right to have final review of the galleys before the Ministry of Education released the text for printing and publication.
In examining the published text, noted historian, retired UWI academic Dr Rita Pemberton, remarked that the work was short on information concerning Tobago. Prof Lewis responded by saying that nothing stopped her from offering to make such a contribution when the “call for papers” was issued. He has argued at length that this was the preferred method of soliciting material for the publication because the ministry did not contribute financially to the gathering of the necessary material.
Prof Lewis has included Dr Pemberton as being in the UWI group who may have had issues with his appointment as chairman of the committee. The team was appointed in January 2016, with a mandate to complete its work in a year.
He has said that by February 2017 the manuscript had been submitted. The launch took place July 30, 2019. Prof Lewis accused Education Minister Anthony Garcia of “sitting on the project”. He has advanced his own reasons as to why, none of them complimentary to the minister and his senior team at the ministry. He took offence at the fact that the foreword in the book’s first edition was written by Lovell Francis, Minister in the Ministry.
Renowned West Indian History professor, Dr James Millette, now resident in Ohio, USA, contributed a chapter on crown colony government. He wrote to Prof Lewis on September 24 complaining bitterly that his chapter, as published, was “a garbled, meaningless mess.” He said there were “many tales which could be told,” but “I will stick to mine.” Pages were mixed up, such that, page 186 is followed by page 193. Page 191 is followed by page 191 which is again followed by page 192. Page 194 is followed by page 191, which is again followed by page 192. Page 198 is followed by page 197, followed by another page 198. The chapter ends abruptly on page 196, and the last six or seven pages are all missing, he complains. The Notes to the chapter are not fully provided. Notes 1-11 are missing and Notes 12-36 alone are provided.
Dr Millette said at that point of discovery, he had not read further, and then became “fearful of what I may discover on further reading. I am saying as strongly as I can, that all authors should acquire copies of the book and check their submissions as soon as possible.”
He was moved to speculate that “no editing or even proof-reading was done of the book in its final stages of publication. I warned about the farcical belief that a book of this complexity and sophistication could be published without the closest, most meticulous attention to detail. No one can persuade me that any good can come from dismissing the editor and leaving the book apparently to handle itself,” he argued.
Responding to these howlers, Prof Lewis was nonplussed. He said he had a late electronic copy of the manuscript, after work had been done on it by Prof Maureen Warner and Sandra John, and that copy does not contain the errors which turned up in Dr Millette’s chapter.
Ms John is identified as the “technical editor” on the project.
“I pleaded with the ministry down to the last, in writing, to be allowed to see the final galleys. They did not allow me, but I understand that I am listed as editor, along with committee colleagues.” Prof Lewis fretted further. If no one at the ministry interfered technically with the editing of the work of Ms John, then something could have gone wrong at the printers. He said someone had to have the responsibility for okaying the printing of the publication.
Prof Lewis’s apologetic response to Dr Millette, dated September 24, was copied to Minister Garcia and Dr Francis, in addition to one other senior official at the ministry who was a member of the committee.
There has, however, been no response from the ministry thus far, to this and my own request in the matter, dated October 2.