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Michael Craton

Author of History of the Bahamas

Includes the names: CRATON MICHAEL, Michale Craton

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Short biography
Michael John Craton (20 August 1931-)

Michael Craton, though born in London, England in the 1930's, son of Edgar Charles Craton and Alice Coombe (1866-1939), is of the Devonshire Craton who had a flirting history with seafaring, when his great-grandfather George Craton (1824-1895), before he was 30 went off with his new wife Elizabeth Hall (1835-1916) in the early 1860's to the mysterious remote island of Ascension, which stands midway between Africa and America. Craton were also born on the island including later Michael's great-aunt Emma (1862-1894). Back in Devon Craton families, who have been there at least since the 1760's, were also at the Royal Navy Hospital.

At a time when the Devonshire 1st Battalion Regiment took a leading role in the relief of Ladysmith after a lengthy siege by the Boers (1899-1902) where being deployment to India, Michael's uncle Arthur Edward went with his wife Florence Maud to Dagshai, India (themselves having two children there).

Maybe these small intrigues in his history sparked Michael Craton's enthusiasm for history and he soon got his Bachelor of Art. Leaving behind his two sister Joyce and Margaret and David his younger bother he headed off to teach high school and by September 1956 he was offered a post as an Assistant Master at Nassau Government High School in the Bahamas. There, during his six-year sojourn, Michael completed a definitive "History of the Bahamas".

At a time when few historians had taken an interest in the Caribbean and where ordinary people had been marginalized in history, Michael wanted to be a part of a wave of new historians who wanted to tell other stories "that needed to be written". Deciding to go further, in 1962 he went to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada to study at McMaster University, where he was awarded the institution's first PhD in history (1968) - his dissertation was "The Caribbean Vice Admiralty Courts, 1763-1815: Indispensable. Agents of an Imperial System".

Always acknowledging himself as an outsider but an objective one, at a time when historians tended to generalize about slaves and forget that they had as varied a society as free people, Michael began work on "Searching for the Invisible Man: Some of the Problems of Writing on Slave Society in the British West Indies" Historical Reflections (Sep 1974), which, with help from Garry Greenland was published as "Searching for the Invisible Man: Slaves and Plantation Life in Jamaica".

By April 1991 he was preparing a bibliographic study of the transition throughout the entire Caribbean to be given at the LASA annual meeting in Washington.

After thirty years at University of Walterloo, Canada, having published a further eight books together with more than fifty other scholarly publications, in July 1997, as he was preparing the second volume of his definitive History of the Bahamian People, when he was among 60 people across Canada elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC). His scholarship at the "Department of History, University of Waterloo, has been profound, voluminous and pioneering. Over thirty years he has helped recast Caribbean and slave historiography. Younger scholars now ask different questions - and adopt different approaches - because of his work."… as an "eminent scholar in Caribbean history"… "he is respected internationally for his imaginative lines of enquiry and precise scholarly reconstruction".

After he officially retired from University of Walterloo (1 Sep 1997), Michael immediately embarked on an ambitious five-year project commissioned by the government of the Cayman Islands to create a national history of the islands' people, which became "Founded upon the Seas: A History of the Cayman Islands and Their People".

In January of 1999 Michael was presented status of "Distinguished Professor Emeritus".

Selected Publications

with James Walvin, "A Jamaican plantation: the history of Worthy Park, 1670-1970". London & New York: W. H. Allen, 1970. xi, 344 p

"Sinews of empire: a short history of British slavery". Garden City, N.Y., Anchor Press, 1974.

with James Walvin and David Wright, "Slavery, abolition, and emancipation: Black slaves and the British Empire: a thematic documentary". London: Longman, 1976.

with Garry Greenland, "Searching for the invisible man: slaves and plantation life in Jamaica". Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978. 439 p.

ed. "Roots and branches: current directions in slave studies". Toronto: Pergamon Press, 1979.

"Testing the chains: resistance to slavery in the British West Indies". Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1982. 389 p.

"A history of the Bahamas". Waterloo, Ont., Canada: San Salvador Press, 1986.

With Gail Saunders, "Islanders in the stream: a history of the Bahamian people: vol. one, from aboriginal times to the end of slavery. September 15, 1992, 1v.

"Empire, enslavement, and freedom in the Caribbean". Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 1997.

With Gail Saunders, "Islands in the stream: a history of the Bahamian people: vol. 2, from the ending of slavery to the Twenty-first century". Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, c1998. 562 p. v 2.

"Pindling: the life and times of Lynden Oscar Pindling first Prime Minister of the Bahamas, 1930-2000". Oxford: Macmillan Caribbean, 2002.

with the New History Committee, "Founded upon the seas: a history of the Cayman Islands and their people". Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 2003.
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