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Black Tudors: The Untold Story

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,242 ratings  ·  254 reviews
A black porter publicly whips a white English gentleman in a Gloucestershire manor house. A heavily pregnant African woman is abandoned on an Indonesian island by Sir Francis Drake. A Mauritanian diver is despatched to salvage lost treasures from the Mary Rose... Miranda Kaufmann reveals the absorbing stories of some of the Africans who lived free in Tudor England. From lo ...more
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by ONEWORLD Publications
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Petra in Cancun being tortured by a dentist
DNF. I'd just finished The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women: A Social History and was all fired up to read more about those usually invisible to (overwhelming male) historians, not just women but people of other races. It might even be a good book, from some aspects, but it wasn't an enjoyable one, it was boring to the extreme. Dry, dry, dry. You know when you are reading and you can't remember what you just read and that happens repeatedly? That's when it's time to admit defeat from turgid prose and ...more
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tudor
This is scholarly and well researched: a continuation of Kaufmann’s PhD thesis: in other words a proper history book. There is a myth that there were very few people of colour in England in the Tudor period and that Elizabeth 1 made an effort to get rid of those that were. Strictly Kaufmann extends her range to the mid-1620s. Here ten particular men and women are identified and their stories told. Kaufmann does have a tendency to wander off the point and give background detail, probably because ...more
K.J. Charles
What an extraordinary, revelatory book. The author has gone through the minutiae of parish registers and legal records to reconstruct the stories of Africans living in Tudor England, on the way revealing just how many there were. It's a staggering demonstration of how much history has been whitewashed. The author puts each of the stories she's dug out into a wider context of the time (skilled artisans, pirates, prostitutes, musicians at the royal court, divers; city people and country people; se ...more
Roman Clodia
Firstly, I'm pleased that this has been published as a cross-over book for a general audience as, like The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici, it challenges the continued popular idea that the Renaissance was essentially White. Kaufmann offers mini essays on ten Black Africans living in England during the 16th and early 17th centuries who were not slaves and who had at least some agency in their lives. She also tries to assert, with some ...more
Heidi The Reader
Apr 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Scholar and historian Miranda Kaufmann has written vignettes of half a dozen or so Africans who lived and worked in England during the Tudor Era.

The trouble with this collection is that so little information exists, Kaufmann has to parcel it out among other more well-known history. I still found it interesting, but for readers looking for Black History only, it feels rather disappointing.

The answers are complex, but the questions that most commonly spring to mind about the Black Tudors are simpl
One doesn’t generally associate Tudor-era England with individuals of African-descent. Surprisingly, Tudor England had a sufficient amount of Black residents/workers and there were not ‘slaves’ as usually envisioned. Miranda Kaufmann explores this riveting, fresh angle of English history in, “Black Tudors: The Untold Story”.

A large amount of credit is due to Miranda Kaufmann for being exceptionally ambitious and striving to reveal an aspect of Tudor history that even the most staunch English his
Leanda Lisle
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I will hold back, for now, on the Scottish trumpeteer who worked in international espionage, and the ecstatic user of a Tudor dildo, who ‘With Oh, and Oh.. itching moves her hips/And to and fro full lightly starts and skips ’. Suffice it to say that any fears that Kauffamn’s that Black Tudors may prove worthy, but dull, are unfounded.

There is an assumption, Kaufmann believes, that all Africans in British history have been enslaved victims and that the Caribbean slave trade was ‘almost inevitabl
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: overdrive, audio, dnf
The author obviously did a lot of research, but most of what she included in this book has absolutely nothing to do with the purported subject of the book. It's as interesting as reading an inventory. I do not care how much a tournament cost. ...more
Nathen Amin
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Black Tudors by Dr Miranda Kaufmann is an ambitious book loaded with little-known Tudor trivia that has long been overdue in the study of 16th century England, and fortunately for the future of this little-explored topic, the result is a fascinating production of the utmost quality that takes a close look at ten individuals who could, quite accurately, be considered Black Tudors.

There is a common-held belief that these British Isles were inhabited by a native, white population before the rise of
J.A. Ironside
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
ARC provided by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

I once heard a radio interview about a Dickens novel adapted for stage where the lead role was played by a black man. The interviewer suggested that this was an interesting choice considering the time period in which it was said. To which said black actor replied, with humour, that actually there was no reason why the character couldn't actually have been black considering how diverse 19th C London really was - 'we (poc) weren't just inve
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-reviews, history
This is a revelation. Tudor England was actually a place where Africans came to be free. Tudor England was so different because they had no economic motive for slavery. There were no plantations which at that time required slave labor. Colonies with plantation economies eventually brought about institutionalized slavery and racism in those colonies, but by the end of the Tudor period the British Empire was barely in its infancy.

So what's our takeaway for our current world? If racism is economica
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: april-2020, borrowed
I came across Miranda Kaufmann's Black Tudors: The Untold History whilst browsing my library's online catalogue, and duly reserved it.  Whilst I studied the Tudor period in some detail at school, I have largely focused on more modern historical periods since.  However, I am always eager to learn, and was keen to read about a largely unknown-to-me element of a fascinating era.

Black Tudors is called variously, in the numerous reviews sprinkled over its cover, 'alive with human details and warmth',
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

I said this in a reading update, and I’m gonna say it again. I really hope more white readers (especially those who romanticize this time period) read this book.

The Tudor period is so romanticized and dramatized by so many, and so many people walk away with incorrect assumptions about people of color (namely, Africans) and their lives during this time period. Whether it be a book, tv show, or movie the time period excuse is always used when these mediums choose to show Africans as nothi
Irene Headley
Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I am somewhat conflicted about this book. It was absolutely fascinating. The information was great, and I enjoyed a lot of the little details, especially the ones about the court records.


Firstly, once you get into the 1620s, I am not really sure you can call them 'Black Tudors'. Admittedly, 'Black Tudors and Early Stuarts' does not work as well.

Secondly, some of her connections got a bit tenuous. My eyebrows raised a bit when she constructed a past for Cattelina of Almondsbury entirely o
Jul 23, 2017 added it
This book discusses the lives of black people in Tudor England, contradicting the assumption that they were not a part of English history at this time. The author attempts to tell the story of several individuals, and in so doing shed light on the variety of occupations and roles held by black people at the time, again contradicting an assumption that black people in England must have been slaves or servants. I liked that the author frankly discussed what is and what is not known from the histor ...more
Janet Wertman
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tudors-medieval
I liked it. Incredibly well-researched. It lost stars for me because so much of the information was focused on the Stuart era and not the Tudors, also because so many of the details included did not quite relate to the stories.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I have read several outstanding books about everyday Tudor lives recently, and I'm delighted to add this one to my bookshelf. Solid and exhaustive research that makes excellent arguments not only for the presence of Africans in the everyday Tudor landscape but also their status as free persons who were ordinary members of the community. I also particularly love that each chapter is devoted to a person of a different social standing, so in addition to presenting the breadth of diversity in circum ...more
The Irregular Reader
It is said that history is written by the winners. While that is certainly true, the more insidious fact is that history is written by those who hold the pen. What this means in a practical sense is that those with little power, and little influence–whether or not they “won”–are often either diminished in the historical record or left out entirely. One of the great (or terrible) things about the emergence of the internet is that it has given voice to populations who, even fifty years ago, would ...more
For most people, Black British history beings with the Windrush. Miranda Kaufmann's book shows that it extends much further back into history—not just into the earlier twentieth century, or even into the nineteenth, but into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There was a small but detectable population of people of African descent in Britain: west African royalty travelling to England for education, trumpeters at Scottish courts, divers and seamstresses and servants and sailors. They weren ...more
Sarah Wagner
*I received this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.*

I had never really given much thought to Africans living in Tudor England, but I'm glad this book introduced me to a few of their incredibly varied lives. In addition to highlighting less prominent historical figures, this book teases out plenty of details which histories focused on politics often miss. I particularly liked the chapter on the divers who salvaged items from the sunken Mary Rose. I had no idea this had been done in the 16
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-history
A fascinating look at African's in Tudor England.

There were more of them than you think. From Henry VII's trumpter, to a Westminster whore, the book is chock full of interesting tales about fairly ordinary people living ordinary lives... they just happened to be African in a time and place we don't normally associate with Africans.

It was heartening to learn that the English weren't racist. The fact that these people were Christians was more important to them than the colour of their skin. Leadin
Dec 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book looking at black history of tudors and early stuart period and should be read by everyone
Simon Haisell
A different black history...

"We thought we knew Tudor England, but this book reveals a different country, where an African could earn a living, marry and have a family, testify in a court of law, or even whip an Englishman with impunity."

In 1619, the White Lion sailed into the English colony of Virginia. Aboard were 20 Africans captured from a Portuguese slave ship. The colonists bought them, making them the first slaves to be sold in the British Atlantic slave trade.

This is usually where we sta
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, history, race
This is an important book, showcasing crucial research, and it just so badly written that it obscures, rather than reveals what it has to say. There is a short and excellent epilogue at the end of the book, which includes a summary of Kaufmann's research. I would recommend reading it first, as I suspect a lot of readers will give up in frustration well before they get that far.
Books from PhDs can often be dry, however, focus is a much bigger issue for Kaufmann. Each chapter discusses one of the
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Black Tudors: The Untold Story" by Miranda Kaufmann does an excellent job of highlighting the African presence in Britain during Tudor times. With a few exceptions, we know little about their lives since just their names and ethnicity is all that has been recorded about them. But the fact that they were present in numbers large enough to be noticed, means that British history needs to be viewed in a different light.

I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by Onyekaa at the National Portrait
May 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Great history lesson, but definitely not an untold story. Maybe a more accepted story now, but I know of at least 3 women who have been writing on this subject for years. Shout out to Francesca Royster, Joyce Green MacDonald, and Margo Hendricks. I would love for Netflix to work with these women and give us a miniseries!
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Useful, important, boring.
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The presence of Africans in Tudor England was common knowledge at the time, and it needs to become common knowledge again.”

I’ve spent over 20 years reading about the Tudors and this is the first time I’ve encountered a book specifically dedicated to telling the stories of Black men and women during that era. The title is slightly misleading because it also tells the story of Black Stuarts, but I suppose that’s not as easy for marketing.

Kaufmann follows the stories of 10 men and women, showing t
Joy B
Mar 31, 2022 rated it really liked it
This book is perfect for someone like me who finds studying History boring, but is also wildly nosy and has to 'know stuff'. The complexity of Black Tudor lives are revealed through a staggering amount of research and presented in entertaining way, allowing for facets of the people themselves to be revealed. At times it can be easy to let the stream of facts slip past you, but when you catch yourself and focus on the text you find many new perspectives to interpret history through. I particularl ...more
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Miranda Kaufmann clearly set herself a bloody hard task in writing this book, which takes 10 different black lives from Tudor and Stuart England and uses them to explore how the English viewed black people at the time and what professions and opportunities were open to them. It's obvious fairly early on that it must have taken an awe-inspiring amount of research to dig out these tidbits from the historical record and bring to light new information. The result of all that hard work is an interest ...more
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Tudor History Lovers: November 2017 - Black Tudors, by Miranda Kaufmann 7 99 Nov 19, 2021 02:44PM  

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Dr. Miranda Kaufmann is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, part of the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She read History at Christ Church, Oxford, where she completed her doctoral thesis on 'Africans in Britain, 1500-1640' in 2011. As a freelance historian and journalist, she has worked for The Sunday Times, the BBC, the National Trust, English Herita ...more

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