The University of the West Indies (UWI), at Cave Hill, Barbados

The University of the West Indies

at Cave Hill, Barbados

Sir Arthur Lewis
Staff |
The Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) is named after the distinguished St. Lucian economist Sir W. Arthur Lewis, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics (1979), former Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and former President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

William Arthur Lewis was born in St. Lucia on January 23, 1915 to George Ferdinand and Ida Lewis. Arthur fell ill at age seven and had to remain at home for three months. His father, concerned that he might fall behind, taught him at home. Soon after, his father died and his mother raised him along with his four brothers. 

In 1932 he won a scholarship to read for a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the London School of Economics.In 1937, he graduated with first class honours.  In 1940, he earned his PhD in Industrial Economics there.

He is well-known for his work on economic growth and development, international economic history and industrial organisation. The time with the Colonial Office allowed him to attain first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of the colonial government and spurred his thinking and writing about development economies.

In 1948, he was the Stanley Jevons Professor of Political Economy and the Cobden Lecturer 1948 at Manchester University. Under Lewis’s leadership, the university emerged as the leading place to study development economics in Britain.

At the end of 1952, Kwame Nkrumah of the Gold Coast in Africa, asked Lewis to advise the government on industrialization. In 1953 his report on industrialization and the Gold Coast was published.

In 1959, he returned to the Caribbean to become the first West Indian Principal of the University College of the West Indies (The University of the West Indies (UWI). He was UWI’s first West Indian Vice-Chancellor (1962-3) and later became visiting Professor of Economics, teaching courses in development planning He worked tirelessly to promote the federation of the British West Indies and during this time, authored the “Agony of the Eight” a response to the collapse of the federation. 

In 1963, Lewis accepted a professorship at Princeton University in the USA. He was the first black professor to be appointed at an Ivy League College. He remained with Princeton until 1983.

In 1979, Sir William Arthur Lewis was jointly awarded with Theodore Schultz, the Nobel Prize for his outstanding contribution to economics, making him the first person of African origin to receive a Nobel Prize in a field other than peace.

Professor Andrew Downes addressed his contribution in the paper, ‘The Lewis Model after 50 years: Assessing Sir Arthur Lewis’ Contribution to Development Economics and Policy’, presented at the University of Manchester, in July, 2004. . His theory of economic development and unlimited supplies of labour remains an important and pioneering study.

In 1971, he took leave from Princeton University and returned to the Caribbean where he became President of the newly established Caribbean Development Bank, headquartered in Barbados.

In his later years, Sir Arthur returned to Barbados and lived close to the Cave Hill Campus where he enjoyed the simple pleasures of life.

He died there on June 15, 1991. He is buried in the land of his birth St Lucia.

His legacy extends beyond the region. The Arthur Lewis Community College in St. Lucia, The Arthur Lewis Building in Manchester and the Arthur Lewis Institute od Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) Cave Hill Campus in Barbados are all named after him.

To view information on the Sir William Arthur Lewis 1941-1988 three-volume publication edited by Patrick Emmanuel click here »

On January 23, 2015 W. Arthur Lewis would have celebrated his 100th birthday. In recognition of this centenary several events took place in the region and abroad to recognise this great Caribbean man.

What's New

Next Issue - Journal of Eastern Caribbean Studies
Look out for Volume 41, No. 2 - August 2016 Read more »

SALISES 19th Annual Conference 2018
"Sustainable Futures for the Caribbean: Critical Interventions and the 2030 Agenda" Read more »

Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies
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