June 2016 Volume 13

"Neville Hall was our only source in researching the history of the Danish West Indies and we lost him”- Kamau Braithwaite

Yuchen A. Moodie
Text Size
  • -
  • +
  • reset

September 1986 was the last time Dr. Neville A.T. Hall would ever conduct research on the Danish West Indies. He died as a result of injuries he sustained in a motor vehicle accident car accident which occurred between College Common and UWI Mona Regional Headquarters office.

Hall was a K.C. old boy and a senior lecturer in the Department of History, at the University of the West Indies (U.W.I.) Mona campus. Before his untimely death, he also served as Vice Dean from 1979 to 1981, Dean from 1985 to 1986 and University Dean in 1986. He was a lecturer of North American and United States' History at UWI, St. Augustine from 1965 to 1973. He also worked at JBC as a radio personality.

His first research was concerned with the history of the British West Indies (B.W.I.), but in the early 1970s, Hall developed an interest in the slave society of the Danish Caribbean colonies of St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix, which now forms the Virgin Islands of the United States.

As an authentic fortisan, he never gave up, as Hall mastered the difficult Danish language and conquered the complex archives of Copenhagen, Denmark. He began to publish several articles in this field. In March 1976, Hall published an annotated copy of his seminar paper ‘The public opinion and slavery in the Danish Virgin Islands in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.”

In 1980, he also published another seminar paper called ‘an intermediate sort of class: Freedmen in the slave society of the Danish West Indies in the late 18th century’. It was also in 1980, Neville Hall published his Boletin Paper called the ‘Freedman petition in the Danish West Indies: Its background and consequences’.

In addition to this, a close friend of Neville Hall, Barry W. Higman stated that Hall viewed slavery and slaves as central to the entire colonial community, rather than objects easily abstracted from the larger history. Hall’s research project also expanded from one single book to several volumes.

Neville A.T. Hall’s Slave Society in the Danish West Indies: St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. Edited by Barry W. Higman revealed that over twenty-five books and journal articles of Neville Hall’s research on the Danish Caribbean were published between 1970 and 1990.

Hall’s wife, Mysser, who is originally from Denmark, also embodied the K.C. spirit of never giving up. Shortly after Neville Hall’s death, his widow Mysser and his sons Jonathan and Adam asked Barry W. Higman to assist with bringing out Hall’s work to publication. Therefore, by 1990 Higman was able to publish three of Hall’s monographs. These three monographs were The Danish West Indies: Empire without Dominion, 1671-1848; Maritime Maroons: Grand Maroonage from the Danish West Indies, and the Slaves and the Law in the Towns of St. Croix: 1802- 1807 Slavery and Abolition.

The Faculty of Humanities and Education Lecture Theater, at the U.W.I. Mona campus is named in honour of Dr. Neville A.T. Hall.

The Department of History and Archaeology awards the undergraduate student with the most outstanding academic record in the history of the Americas annually with the Neville Hall Prize. Even the prestigious Caribbean historian scholarship of the Americas is named after the K.C. old boy Neville A.T. Hall.


  • The Department of History and Archaeology for the photograph of Dr. Neville A.T. Hall.
  • Kamau Braithwaite’s quotation (paraphrased by the Mr. Moodie) in the book ‘Neville A.T. Hall- Slave Society in the Danish West Indies, edited by Barry W. Higman’.
  • The University of West Indies Main Library for research materials on Dr. Neville A.T. Hall.
  • The University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters’ Obituary Archives.

Top of Page