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Black Tudors: The Untold Story Hardcover – 5 Oct 2017
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‘That rare thing: a book about the 16th century that said something new.’(Evening Standard, Books of the Year)
‘Splendid…that rare thing – a work of history about the Tudors that actually says something fresh and new…a cracking contribution to the field.’(Dan Jones, Sunday Times)
‘Enlightening and constantly surprising… Far too many popular studies of the Tudors return the same faces. To its great credit, Black Tudors presents fresh figures and challenges the way we look at them.’(Jessie Childs, Financial Times)
‘Consistently fascinating, historically invaluable…the narrative is pacy, the research sympathetically thorough.. Anyone reading it will never look at Tudor England in the same light again'.(Daily Mail)
‘[The] audience will find itself in the hands of a historian of excellent investigative skills, who shows attention to detail, uses evidence with appropriate caution, and has the sensibility of a scholar.’(Times Literary Supplement)
‘The industry and skill with which Miranda Kaufmann has hunted for these sources and teased out their meanings are exemplary… Kaufmann’s greatest skill is her ability to fill in the background on every topic that arises, from piracy to silk-weaving to brothels to Anglo-Moroccan diplomacy…In the hands of a lesser writer this would be mere padding with secondary material, but she investigates every subject in the same depth… a fascinating book, which brings a sadly neglected part of our history to life, and grinds no ideological axes in the process’.(Daily Telegraph)
‘Both an eye-opener and a good read.’(Sorted)
‘Miranda Kaufmann writes engagingly as she reveals the untold stories of Africans who lived free, worked for wages, married and died in 16th and 17th century England.’(CHOICE)
‘Meticulous research draws on sources from letters to legal papers…The detail [Kaufmann] unearths brings to life those absent from the pages of history.’(Observer)
About the Author
Miranda Kaufmann is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of London’s Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Her first book, Black Tudors, was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018. She has appeared on Sky News, the BBC and Al Jazeera, and she’s written for The Times, Guardian and BBC History Magazine. She lives in Pontblyddyn in North Wales.
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I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by Onyekaa at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2015 on the Black Tudor presence. And having read his book (Blackamoores: Africans in Tudor England, Their Presence, Status, and Origins) on which his presentation was partly based, this book complements it nicely.
Based on the content, the author has obviously done a significant amount research and I would certainly recommend reading it.
The author, Miranda Kaufmann, has split the book in ten chapters. Each chapter concentrates on an historical figure and gives the known facts about them and the environment in which they lived. Sometimes the known facts are few; sometimes much more is known. Thus, the discussions are often as much about the Tudor world as about the black Tudors themselves.
The book’s genesis is in the author’s research for a doctorate, but it never feels academic. However, it does have an extensive bibliography and notes on the text. There are several colour plates.
The first character is John Blanke, who was a trumpet player in the court of Henry VIII. He is found in the royal accounts for the various payments to him. His image can also be seen in the Westminster Tournament Roll where he is painted with his fellow trumpeters, the only one with a dark skin and wearing a turban. This image is reproduced in the book. Next is Jacques Francis of Southampton, but with Venetian connections. He was a salvage diver employed to recover valuables from the wreck of the recently sunk Mary Rose. The third chapter concerns Diego, a slave of the Spanish in Panama, who escaped and sailed with Sir Francis Drake. On future voyages, Drake brought more Africans to England, including Edward Swarthye, who later became a porter in Gloucestershire and is the subject of chapter 4. Then there was Reasonable Blackman, a silk weaver in London, followed by Mary Fillis from Morocco, who was a seamstress in London. Chapter 7 concerns Dederi Jaquoah, the son of an African king, who lived in London for two years as a guest of a merchant trading with West Africa. John Anthony was a former pirate living in Dover. Anne Cobbie was a prostitute in London. The final chapter discusses Cattelena of Almondsbury who owned a cow, which provided her livelihood.
Piecing together the lives of ten Tudors of African origin she brings us some truly untold lives: including the diver Jacques Francis, who was employed to salvage cargo on the Mary Rose; John Blanke, a trumpeter at Henry VIII’s coronation; the wonderfully named Reasonable Blackman, a silk weaver; Mary Fillis, possibly a basket-weaver; and Anne Cobbie, a prostitute in London; Dederi Jaquoah, the son of an African king, who was a guest of a London merchant for two years; John Anthony, a former pirate living in Dover. Most lived in the city, but a few are found in the countryside: Cattelena lived in Almondsbury in Gloucestershire where she sold milk from her cow, Edward Swarthye was a porter to a nobleman.
The book's genesis was as an academic dissertation but it never reads like one. The style is interesting and accessible. Great colour plates. Recommended.
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