Britain's Black Past

BookBritain's Black Past

Britain's Black Past


March 11th, 2020



Other Formats



Expanding upon the 2017 Radio 4 series ‘Britain’s Black Past’, this book presents those stories and analyses through the lens of a recovered past. Even those who may be familiar with some of the materials will find much that they had not previously known, and will be introduced to people, places, and stories brought to light by new research. In a time of international racial unrest and migration, it is important not to lose sight of similar situations that took place in an earlier time. In chapters written by scholars, artists, and independent researchers, readers will learn of an early musician, the sales of slaves in Scotland, the grave—now a shrine—of a black enslaved boy left to die in Morecombe Bay, of a country estate owned by a mixed-race slave owner, and of the two strikingly different people who lived in a Bristol house that is now a museum. Black sailors, political activists, memoirists, appear in these pages, but the book also re-examines living history, in the form of modern plays, television programmes, and genealogical sleuthing. Through them, Britain’s Black Past is not only presented anew, but shown to be very much alive in our own time.

'Drawing on the work and diverse methods of its contributors, who include historians, curators and an actor, it provides in-depth histories of Black people and communities in Britain, challenging how we construct and remember them. [...] These biographies, concerning figures from visiting African princes to the 1,700 Black sailors in the eighteenth-century Royal Navy, are vital to disrupting past narratives that depict Black people as passive, and show the rich diversity of Black British History.'Montaz Marché, Times Literary Supplement

'[Britain's] Black Past includes many original and creative chapters … [Britain’s] Black Past is part of a historiography of Black British scholarship.’
Onyeka Nubia, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 

'This collection situates itself as an ideal starting point for newcomers to the field seeking an overview of the current trends and major recent interventions in Black British history, as well as for those looking to refresh their British and imperial history course reading lists.'
Ryan Hanley, English Historical Review

Author Information

Gretchen H. Gerzina is Paul Murray Kendall Chair in Biography and Dean of Commonwealth Honors College, University of Massachusetts. She was previously Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor in Biography and Professor of English at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.