Professor Verene A. Shepherd

2010 to 2017




University Director of the Institute for Gender & Development Studies from 2012-2017, Professor Verene A. Shepherd, is a world-renowned historian, and one of the Caribbean’s pre-eminent scholars and advocates for gender justice, racial equality and non-discrimination, and reparation for the impact of European colonisation on Indigenous Peoples, Africans and people of African and Asian Descent; and the continuing harm of colonialism on African Diaspora communities.  She has built her name around years of research and writing on the Caribbean in various areas, specialising in research on migration, human rights and social justice, gender and Jamaican Economic History – guided by the lens of subaltern studies. 

 In the academic and international space, Professor Shepherd has achieved several firsts: the first Jamaican and CARICOM citizen to be elected to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (of which she is now a Vice-Chair) and the first female to chair the board of trustees of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. She was also the second woman to be made a professor in the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, 40 years apart.

Professor Shepherd is the host of the first-ever dedicated history programme on Jamaican radio, 'Talking History' on Nationwide 90 FM. This programme attempts to bridge the gap between academia and the public, helping to keep Jamaica’s history alive and make it engaging and exciting for students as well as the everyday listener. 

 Verene Shepherd’s was awarded the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degrees in History from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus; and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in History from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. She began her academic career as a social historian in 1988 as a member of the Department of History. She previously worked in the History Department while she was a graduate assistant studying for her Master of Philosophy degree. During her time in the History Department, in addition to being a lecturer for several undergraduate and graduate courses, she served in several capacities, particularly in support of the women’s movement and women’s interests. From 1989 to 1991, she was the Faculty Representative for the Women and Development Studies Group. She would later represent the Faculty of Arts on the Board for Gender and Development from 1996-1998. Shepherd also worked alongside Mrs Linnette Vassell to develop one of the first courses on women and gender in the History Department at The UWI, Mona, titled, 'Women and Gender in the History of the English-speaking Caribbean,' as well to organise the first symposium on women, gender and history in the Caribbean 

 Influenced by the work of Lucille Mathurin Mair and other gender history scholars, Professor Shepherd has distinctly identified herself with the movement to re-centre women in historical discourses and to work towards clarifying the roots of fractured gender relations in the Caribbean. In 1994, Professor Shepherd published her first academic work, Transients to Settlers: The Experience of Indians in Jamaica, 1845-1950. In 1995, she published Engendering History: Caribbean Women in Historical Perspectives, (co-edited with Barbara Bailey and Bridget Brereton). In all, she has published eighteen authored/co-authored/edited/co-edited books. Some of her academic works target the high school students who take the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) Secondary School’s examinations, including Liberties Lost: Caribbean Indigenous Societies and Slave Systems (2004) and Freedoms Won: Caribbean Emancipations, Ethnicities and Nationhood (2006). Both books were co-authored with Sir Hilary Beckles, a Barbadian historian and the current Vice-Chancellor of The UWI.  

Her other published works, inter alia, include  Lucille Mathurin Mair: A Biography (2020); The Gibson Relays: History & Impact on Jamaica’s Sports Culture and Social Development (2017): Engendering Caribbean History: Cross-cultural Perspectives (2011): Livestock, Sugar & Slavery: Contested Terrain in Colonial Jamaica (2009); I Want to Disturb My Neighbour: Lectures on Slavery, Emancipation and Postcolonial Jamaica (2007) and Maharani’s Misery: Narratives of a Passage from India to the Caribbean (2002), among numerous other books, edited collections, journal articles and book chapters. Until recently, Shepherd was Professor of Social History at the UWI, Mona, and University Director of the Regional Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Regional Coordinating Unit.   Since 2017 she has been the Director of The UWI’s Centre for Reparation Research.

 She is currently one of the three vice-chairs of the CARICOM Reparations Commission. She also formerly served as chair of the Jamaican National Commission on Reparations (NCR) (2012-2016) and co-chair of the NCR (2016-2019). Shepherd has also been a member (2010-2015) and chair (2012-2014) of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and previously served as the President of the Association of Caribbean Historians (2006-2009).

Professor Shepherd has been the recipient of several awards and honours including Order of Distinction, Commander Class in 2013, from the Government of Jamaica for her work in History and Gender Studies as well as the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Public Service, which was awarded to her in 2016. She was also the Saint Mary Homecoming Awardee for 2012 and was one of the recipients of the Kiwanis Women of Excellence Award in 2011. She was also one of the 70+7 Women honoured at the University of the West Indies’ 70th Anniversary celebrations in 2019. As a past recipient of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholarship, she also carries the title Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Society. In 2019 she was made Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge.