Book Review: ‘Black Tudors’, by Miranda Kaufmann

Because anyone who assumes that all Africans in British History have been powerless, enslaved victims must be challenged.– Miranda Kaufmann

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iranda Kaufmann’s book ‘Black Tudors’ challenges the modern misconceptions many of us may have about Tudor England and its demographic makeup.

The prevalent but fake story about Elizabeth I having banned all black people from England, has contributed to the creation of an image of Tudor England as a society that was free from black people, and especially those who were not enslaved.

In this seminal work, Kaufmann resurrects the black Tudors from the forgotten corners of the archives and, with a lot of contextual information and from often very sparse records, she fleshes out relatable and lively biographies of the black people that lived in Tudor England.

Because of the often sparse archival material, Kaufmann has added a great amount of context and historical background information to ensure that we understand the times as much as the people themselves. While the context is usually very useful and facilitates the understanding of the social, political and economic standing of the black Tudors of this book, it sometimes becomes a bit tedious, since I would have hoped for more information about John Blanke, Henry VIII’s trumpeter, for example, and a little less contextual information. This is, however, a matter of personal preference and probably has to do with the fact that I have read a fair amount of historical accounts and research about the period already.

Kaufmann manages to find a diverse range of black Tudors, including women, and people from all walks of life. We meet domestic servants, prostitutes, divers, circumnavigators, converts, and many more in this well-researched, yet very accessible historical account.

This book is essential reading, especially in the current climate in Britain and the world at large, where right-wing rhetoric is becoming increasingly prevalent, and where the idea of ‘the good old days’ (that were supposedly free of foreigners), is becoming the driving idea behind racist and exclusionary policies and politics.

 

Related Book(s):

‘Black and British’, by David Olusoga

‘Hitler’s Black Victims’, by Clarence Lusane