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CLR James

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781472130136

Price: £25

ON SALE: 17th March 2022

Genre: Biography & True Stories / Biography: General

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Historian, revolutionary and cricket writer, CLR James was one of the truly radical voices of the twentieth century. Born in Trinidad in the final days of the Victorian era, he debated with Trotsky, played cricket with Constantine, was published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, inspired Kwame Nkrumah, and was a profound influence on the British Black Power movement.

And yet by the late 1970s, CLR James was all but forgotten. The books he had written over the past half century were nearly all out of print. There were a few circles in which his name rang a bell: serious students of Black history; obsessive cricket fans. But that was it.

When he died in Brixton in 1989, CLR James was internationally famous – lauded as the greatest of Black British intellectuals: the ‘Black Plato’, according to The Times.

The ideas he put forward in his own time – of the importance of identity alongside class, of rebellion coming from below, of the leading roles of Black people, women and youth in political struggle – have gradually made their way to the forefront of our political thinking. His two great books, The Black Jacobins and Beyond a Boundary, still have the power to change readers’ understanding of the world today.

But while CLR James’s work has been much examined, his long and remarkable life story has often been overlooked. For the first time, in a biography full of original research, human drama and keen insight, John L. Williams unveils the rich and compelling story of an intellectual giant. In doing so, he firmly establishes the importance of CLR James for the twenty-first century – if Black Britain has had a presiding genius, it remains CLR James.


A genius, a seducer . . . the firebrand author, historian and critic was a complex, fragile human being, as John L Williams's biography reveals.
Now this extraordinary polymath has been honoured with a biography to suit his talents
This finely written and powerful book. . . . Williams gives us the rawness and rare achievement of his life, and that is an invaluable contribution to now-times and future readers.
Morning Star
As John Williams states at the beginning of his absorbing biography, CLR James may have been born in the Victorian age but he belongs very much to ours . . . [The book] may be a single biography, but it describes multiple lives.
New Statesman
CLR James: A Life Beyond the Boundaries is just that - an unsentimental work that draws back the veil of legend to expose the man of blood and bone. With great subtlety, intelligence and expansiveness, Williams gives us a view onto the thinker's groundbreaking ideas while rooting us firmly in the world that helped to shape him, a world living out the immediate aftershocks of colonialism. This is a profound, stirring and necessary book
Esi Edugyan
John L Williams's exciting and briskly written biography, CLR James: A Life Beyond the Boundaries, offers the perfect introduction to this titan of 20th-century politics and culture
The Times
CLR James: A Life Beyond the Boundaries . . . is the full-scale, scrupulously researched, admiring but clear-eyed biography of the T&T intellectual icon that Caribbean readers have awaited for decades
Trinidad & Tobago Express
It's a testament to this generous biography that the idiosyncratic personality of the great silver-tongued enthusiast comes shining through.
C. L. R. 's life has been chronicled many times in film, memoirs and biographies. This one . . . should rank as definitive.
This is an unrivalled storehouse of information about one of the twentieth century's most important revolutionaries. John Williams' sparkling biography counterpoints understanding of James' ideas with a richly-detailed account of his itinerant life and times
Paul Gilroy
Just finished John Williams's superb biography of CLR James, A Life Beyond the Boundaries. Staggering what CLR fitted into his life.
Lawrence Booth, Wisden
John L. Williams's superbly researched and beautifully judged book surpasses everything so far written about C.L.R. James. I don't think I now need to read any subsequent biography or critical study.
James has long deserved a biographer who could do full justice to the richness of his personal life and the range of his public activities. He has finally found one in John Williams . . . [A] superbly researched and beautifully judged book
Telegraph India
This is a passionate, timely and challenging portrait. CLR James was decades ahead of his time in challenging our thoughts about empire, colonialism, black history and, not least, in writing brilliantly about cricket. He finally has the biography his extraordinary influence deserves
Barney Ronay
A scholarly and vibrant biography . . . John L Williams has written a superb account of Trinidad's greatest intellectual
Irish Times
This carefully researched book reflects on the life of an intellectual equally at home debating Leon Trotsky or discussing Shakespeare with John Arlott
Sunday Times
A fascinating biography
Clive Davis
Three decades after his death, CLR is back in our midst thanks to this passionate, well-researched and necessary portrait
The Hindu
The most comprehensive and intimate portrayal yet of the iconic speaker, author, teacher, theorist, and revolutionary