Amazon Book Description1
- In this vital re-examination of a shared history, historian and broadcaster David Olusoga tells the rich and revealing story of the long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and the Caribbean.
- Drawing on new genealogical research, original records, and expert testimony, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination, Elizabethan ‘blackamoors’ and the global slave-trading empire. It shows that the great industrial boom of the nineteenth century was built on American slavery, and that black Britons fought at Trafalgar and in the trenches of both World Wars. Black British history is woven into the cultural and economic histories of the nation. It is not a singular history, but one that belongs to us all.
- Unflinching, confronting taboos and revealing hitherto unknown scandals, Olusoga describes how the lives of black and white Britons have been entwined for centuries.
List of Illustrations – ix
Preface – xv
Introduction: ‘Years of Distant Wandering’ – i
- ‘Sons of Ham’ – 29
- ‘Blackamoors’ – 57
- ‘For Blacks or Dogs’ – 77
- ‘Too Pure an Air for Slaves’ – 113
- ‘Province of Freedom’ – 143
- ‘The Monster is Dead’ – 199
- Moral Mission – 233
- ‘Liberated Africans’ – 283
- ‘Cotton is King’ – 339
- ‘Mercy in a Massacre’ – 367
- ‘Darkest Africa’ – 399
- ‘We are a Coloured Empire’ – 427
- ‘We Prefer their Company’ – 467
- ‘Swamped’ – 489
- Conclusion – 521
Acknowledgements – 527
Bibliography – 531
Notes – 551
Index – 583
- I enjoyed this book, though it is somewhat prolix in the chapters on the abolition of slavery, and somewhat brief in the more recent history.
- I thought that the book gives a fairly balanced account and showed a commendable lack of judgementalism, despite much justified criticism of attitudes and actions. There was much praise of the abolitionists.
- I didn’t agree that the positive contributions of “Black Britons” had been “airbrushed out of history”, at least no more than the contributions of other (at the time) very small ethnic minorities. It’s true that many “Black Britons” were important to British wealth and history by dint of their slave-labour in the sugar plantations – so weren’t a tiny minority in that sense. But they wouldn’t feature in a history of Britain where it focuses on what goes on in the British Isles, any more than would other inhabitants of the Empire, except in relation to factors where they are relevant, when they do feature.
- But it’s a good idea for members of the minorities to write a British history from their perspective. Any history is from a perspective, and no historian can write a history from every perspective (each ethnic minority, each part of Britain, male, female, class, the countries Britain fought against, …).
- Before I forget it, p. 526 provides the reason why the author should feel so engaged in the matter (as being ethnically half Nigerian and half white). Obviously as a result of racial violence while growing up, because of Nigeria’s colonial status from 1800-1960 (Wikipedia: Nigeria), but also the particular fact that many Saro people (Wikipedia: Saro People) – including Olusoga’s paternal forebears – had returned to Nigeria2 via the slave trade and liberation in Sierra Leone, having been liberated from slave ships by the West Africa Squadron (Wikipedia: West Africa Squadron).
- Much more probably ought to be said. This is all new to me and I need to tread warily until I’ve read more widely and better assimilated what I have indeed read.
In-Page Footnotes ("Olusoga (David) - Black and British: A Forgotten History")
- This is effectively the back cover blurb.
- A quick reading of the Wikipedia entry on Saro people doesn’t reference “returning”, but Olusoga – on pp. 325-6 – claims they were members of the Yoruba tribe.
Pan; Main Market edition (24 Aug. 2017)
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)