Trinidadian Insight contributor, Angelo Bissessarsingh has launched A Walk Back in Time – Snapshots of the History of Trinidad & Tobago at a ceremony in Port of Spain, attended by hundreds and addressed by the country’s President Anthony Carmona.
Bissessarsingh, who curates his online Virtual Museum of Trinidad and Tobago, is also the author of Walking with the Ancestors – The Historic Cemeteries of Trinidad, launched in 2013.
This latest book by the 34 year old author and newspaper columnist was reviewed at the launch by historian Prof. Bridget Brereton who described it as one that did not follow the usual pattern of history texts but rather offered, as its title suggests, “snapshots” into the history of the twin-island Caribbean state.
Noted historian, Prof. Brinsley Samaroo, in his foreword says the book “affords a unique glimpse into the evolution of a nation through war and conquest, slavery and indentureship, and cultural developments such as festivals, leisure spots and commemorations.”
“It is this type of information, spread throughout the society, which will strengthen national identity and devotion to the nation,” he says.
The book also received high praise from President Carmona who paid personal tribute to Bissessarsingh who has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
During his turn at the podium, the author urged the overflowing audience, gathered at a city mall, to carry on his mission of retrieving what he said was left of the country’s history. “My time with you is very short,” he said.
He also suggested that the country’s history is “a story that we all share.”
“History,” he explained, “is only partially hinged on dates, names and a few places. Recording social history however is something that is relatively new and something I have tried to do.”
Bissessarsingh however lamented the fact that too much of what has been left over the passage of time is being allowed to go to ruin. “What was not burnt in fires was torn down to make place for development,” he said. “I wish that more could be done to preserve what little is left because I’ll tell you this much – that what we have as our residue of history is vanishing at an accelerating rate.”
He blamed this on the country’s vast accumulation of wealth. “Oil and the wealth that it brings has been more a curse to us than it has been a blessing,” the author said. “Because it has given us the money to throw out the old and bring in the new.”
Bissessarsingh’s Facebook-based “Virtual Museum” has accumulated a following of close to 5,000 and his weekly columns in the T&T Guardian chronicle often unveil little-known facts about the history of the two islands.
The author has previously written, in Insight, about historical connections between Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana in the sugar industry and the development of the soft drinks industry in Trinidad through assistance from what was then British Guiana.
A Walk Back in Time promises to be one of the most popular books ever published in the twin-island states. Advance orders outstripped available copies during the first weeks of its placement in book stores around the country and Bissessarsingh is currently engaged in a series of launches.
It has been published by Queen Bishop Publishing of Trinidad. The publishers are considering a digital version in the future.