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'This book brings history alive' Bernadine Evaristo
With a brand new forward from Zadie Smith
'Black England is a book that will be relevant for ever' Benjamin Zephaniah
The idea that Britain became a mixed-race country after 1945 is a common mistake. Georgian England had a large and distinctive Black community. Whether prosperous citizens or newly freed slaves, they all ran the risk of kidnap and sale to plantations.
Black England tells their dramatic, often moving stories. In the eighteenth century, Black people could be found in clubs and pubs, there were special churches, Black-only balls and organisations for helping Black people who were out of work or in trouble. Many were famous and respected: most notably Francis Barber, Doctor Johnson's beloved manservant; Ignatius Sancho, a correspondent of Laurence Sterne; Francis Williams, a Cambridge scholar, and Olaudah Equiano whose Interesting Narrative went into multiple editions.
But far more were ill-paid and ill-treated servants or beggars, despite having served Britain in war and on the seas. For alongside the free world there was slavery, from which many of these Black Britons had escaped. The triumphs and tortures of Black England, the ambivalent relations between the races, sometimes tragic, sometimes heart-warming, are brought to life in this wonderfully readable history.
Black England explores a fascinating chapter of our shared past, a chapter that has been ignored too long.