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Black and British: A Forgotten History

4.62  ·  Rating details ·  2,381 ratings  ·  344 reviews
Drawing on new genetic and genealogical research, original records, expert testimony and contemporary interviews, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination and Shakespeare's Othello. It reveals that behind the South Sea Bubble was Britain's global slave-trading empire and that much of the great industrial boom of the 19th century was built o ...more
Paperback, 602 pages
Published January 1st 2018 by Pan Books (first published November 3rd 2016)
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Anthony Lipmann I have also seen some of the BBC TV series. The book is different, serious and academic. Olusoga's ability to tell the story of Britain's interaction …moreI have also seen some of the BBC TV series. The book is different, serious and academic. Olusoga's ability to tell the story of Britain's interaction with black cultures over centuries puts the slave trade and slavery (two different things) into its historic context from its origins going back to the charters issued under Charles I and Cromwell. It paints the picture of a less racist period within some parts of London in 18th Century when someone like Samuel Johnson shared his lodgings with Francis Barber whom he made his heir, and when black people in Britain were not purely seen through the prism of slavery. But at the heart of the book are horrifying contemporary descriptions of the conditions on slave ships as well as lynch mobs in the post WWI period when poverty in the English population put them in competition with black Britons. In the late 18th and early 19th C the views of anti-abolitionist merchants are extensively discussed and how they campaigned to undo by their actions the steadfast earlier work of abolitionists such as Granville Sharp. Later, we also see the myth making of how Britain conceals continued racist attitudes while claiming to be the first nation to abolish. (less)

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Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Growing up in Britain in the 1970s, I was subjected to the same type of racism as this book's author, David Olusoga. The refrain David heard was the same that I heard: "Go back to where you came from." "Black and British" is a detailed rebuttal of the racist lie that black people do not belong in Britain.

The book accompanies a superb BBC Two documentary, which is much more crowd-pleasing in tone. In the book, Olusoga pulls no punches. The thesis running throughout the book is that black Britons
A forgotten history indeed.

Having a keen interest in Black and Indian regiments and men who have fought for Britain in the Second World War - those Black regiments include The King's African Rifles (who Barack Obama's Grandfather served with in Burma), The Nigeria Regiment, The Gambia Regiment, The Gold Coast Regiment and The Caribbean Regiment - and knowing the story of The Scramble for Africa and Rhodes' & South Africa, SS Empire Windrush, Slavery and Abolishment, including US aspects a
This book is so detailed and interesting. Much of the history is harrowing, heartbreaking and difficult to read. Still, I learned so much about the UK and the British Empire.
'Black' Britons have existed since Roman times. Longer than the descendants of Danes who are not questioned as belonging in Britain.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly researched and far ranging, David Olusoga's book is topical and necessary, providing an overview of a neglected element of British history, as well as being essential reading for the contemporary debate about the role (or even existence) of black people in Britain throughout the ages.

It might seem strange to begin a review for one historian with a story about another, but bear with me... For those that are not clued to all the best history themed Twitter fights, eminent Classicist Ma
Roman Clodia
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truly superb history that traces the 'global story of Britain's interaction with Africans on three continents' from Afro-Romans through to our present. This is detailed and attentive to the complexities of race through history, evidenced thoroughly (the narrative ends at p.564 so there are almost 200 pages of notes, references, sources and bibliography), but never dry and with an eye for story.

The concept of 'forgotten' or 'hidden' history is an overused one by publishers but, for once, it's
Katie Lumsden
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic history book. Illuminating, fascinating and engaging. Highly, highly recommend!
Just as a heads up - I've decided not to rate books I'm reading as part of my own educational development in racial history and social policy etc.

This was an incredibly well thought out and researched book into an area of British history that has been largely overlooked, forgotten or erased. It follows to lives of Black British individuals chronologically through time from the Roman era, to the Georgian and Victorian, World War and beyond. I found it fascinating to see how the intricacies of sl
K.J. Charles
Outstanding. Utterly fascinating, bringing together so much research, and quite extraordinarily enlightening. Really well written, too, a history that reads like a novel. It's a whacking great overview of centuries of history and I glommed it in three days.

One really amazing thing is how the author brings out the voices that go so often unheard or ignored. My entire education on abolition was basically "William Wilberforce". The section here covers the absolute hero Granville Sharp, who ought t
Jul 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blm
This book is one of the ones I picked up recently to educate myself more on the history of slavery and black people in the UK, my home. I have to say, it's a real shame none of this was taught in school, as this was both horrific and fascinating to read about, and as it's the real history of the country it should be told to children so the mistakes of the past aren't then repeated again.

The author of the book does a fantastic job of moving through history and recounting the important events, mo
Black British History that uncovers the lost connections and unwritten chapters!

What we often think of as Black British History, should not just be seen from just the perspective of events that began in the middle of the twentieth century with the arrival to these shores of communities of people from the Caribbean. But as part of a much wider narrative, linking Africa, Britain, and the Americas, that has been ongoing for centuries and continues right into the present.

"Black and British: A Forgot
Mindfully Evie
Finally finished this beautifully read 21 hour audiobook and loved it (in the way that you can “love” reading a heartbreaking book like this). It felt like a mirror of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, but of course, examining the British Black history instead of the American one. Just like stamped from the beginning, it felt like a huge “this is what really happened”. No glossing over facts, no covering up events or letters, just the pure, raw facts ...more
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading. It is quite impossible to overstate the importance of this work, and the skill with which it marshals a huge amount of detail. In an ideal world it would be read by every British citizen.

At the very least go check out the accompanying BBC documentary series which is on iPlayer.

May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a thick brick of a book, but it reads like a page-turning novel. Studying American racism from both its parallels to and its contrasts with British racism is soberingly instructive. Olusoga charts the historical evolution of each. Whereas New World racism emerged as a means of creating and upholding laws that categorized people of African descent as property on American soil, British racism evolved largely to justify the fortunes this triangular trade brought into Britain through a pract ...more
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebooks, nonfiction
Essential reading if you're British (or even if you're not). The fact that I barely learned about any of the events in this book is, in a word, scandalous. Britain has downplayed its role in the slave trade (in history books etc) to the extent that the vast majority of people here have no idea that Britain was once the biggest slave-trading nation in the world. And despite its length, this book was well-written and clearly presented, and while I usually find books that are tie-ins with documenta ...more
Darrel Bailey
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This took me a long time to get through. Being born in this country, the title denotes my nationality so I know instinctively what I was in for picking this up.
Man, was I wrong.
As a young lad, certain family members would earnestly impress upon me the need to research my history and "arm myself" with knowledge. Over the years, I have done... in certain areas, but as I progressed through the book, I found myself emotionally charged and impassioned at some of the shocking things I learnt. From the
I was somewhat disappointed in this book, I know David Olusoga is a talented historian and writes very well, so I was looking forward to a detailed history of black British people that hadn't been told before. Instead, this book barely tells the story of any black individuals at all, but is instead focused on relations between Britain and black populations as communities with a major focus on slavery. The individuals who get mentioned most are mainly white e.g. Granville Sharp (35), Thomas Clark ...more
Jenn Morgans
In some ways, this is a difficult book to read. For one thing, even discounting the bibliography and notes, it’s 526 pages of quite small print. I made a project of reading a chapter a day, more or less - the heatwave threw me off a little - and even broken down like that, it’s a lot of information to take in.

What really makes this a difficult book, though, is the subject matter. Olusoga is a sympathetic, meticulous and accessible writer - no part of this tome was too dull or too densely worded
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book will challenge your perception of British history, and is utterly brilliant how it reintroduces Black britons into their own past. It also shows how the British leaders and people idea of Black people has greatly changed many time throughout history. Cementing the idea that white supremacy and othering was essentially to further colonial and consumerist causes.

This is a book that you will experience not just read - but it is also a perfect springboard to allow us to question what stor
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book for Black History Month, which is held in October in the UK and Netherlands (and not at all in other European former colonial and / or slave-trading nations). It is a very good, well written history book and I hope a lot more people read it.
There is not a lot in it that I did not already know about, but I had not looked at history from this point-of-view before. The author's emphasis is different, so anything not particularly relevant to Britons of African or Afro-Caribbean desc
Mark  Gelder
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Insightful and eminently readable throughout the text and full of essential and interesting parts of our (British) history. However, it's the middle chapters on and around slavery that make you realise just how tightly woven Britain's fortune and history is to Africa. Again and again Olusoga reminds the reader of this plain facts and you see the tendrils leading to and away from this moment to lend a clarity which, in my school days, were sadly lacking.

Can't recommend enough!
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This history novel took me ages to read, I am not sure why, maybe I needed much more time to process some of the information. I did find it informative, fascinating and I am sure I learnt a lot !
Farah Mendlesohn
Mildly embarrassed at how long it's taken me to read this book, but it is very thick. But I'm on sick leave and it was a good solid read when I needed it.

I am *very* impressed. I'm reasonably well read in Black British History but there were so many things here I either didn't know about or only knew the surface of. I was aware for example of the very different racial attitudes in Britain in 1820 compared to 1870 (I've had to explain this more than once) but I was not really very clear on why: O
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a comprehensive and thoroughly researched look at the history of African and African-Caribbean people in Britain, operating as a corrective to the assertion that immigration only began with the Windrush in 1948.

Going back as far as Roman times, Olusoga interrogates a myriad of texts and testimonies to outline a multi-faceted history, pointing out that significant numbers of non-white people have been in Britain for several centuries, whether as servants, entertainers, public officials (i
Nicholas Binge
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book took me a long time to read. It is impressively comprehensive, detailed and astoundingly well researched. Olusoga writes with an impressive narrative flair, but the sheer weight and complexity of what he's trying to tell (the history of black people in Britain) is huge.

Delving all the way back to accounts of black people serving in Roman garrisons in Britain, through the middles ages, into Shakespearean times and through Victorian industrial movements, all the way to the modern age, Ol
Sami Eerola
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely beautiful and informative book about the history of black people in Great Britain. This is not just a collection of anecdotes on Black British people, but a long and analytical history of different waves of black immigration to the island nation from Ancient Roman empire to today and the construction of a black British identity.

The most interesting thing is the book is at the same time deeply critical of Great Britain's racism and patriotic. The writer clearly loves his country and qu
Feb 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
A big comprehensive look at black lives in Britain, and more significantly, the impact of capitalism in Britain on black people over the last few centuries. The title is misleading in this way - in many ways it is a history of the battle for and against the practice of enslaving people from Africa, how they were exploited for profit, and eventually freed, in Britain and the USA. It follows with the various waves of migration of people from the lands to which the enslaved people were transported ...more
ella 🥀
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In his thoroughly researched book, Olusoga goes far beyond British education about black history, which is mostly just the American civil rights movement (and even then only MLK and Rosa Parks) and the abolition of the slave trade, centred around William Wilberforce.
He provides an insightful and detailed account of Black British history, spanning from Ancient Rome to the Georgians to World War II to Windrush to today, and everything in between. He documents key events and gives a wider perspect
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's often seemed to me that the UK just doesn't really have serious conversations about racism or its history. In Bristol in the 1960s, near where I grew up, Black and Asian people were barred from being bus drivers (among other things like housing discrimination) and this was only overturned after a 4 month boycott of the bus company. There's a lovely big mural in the central bus station now, but I didn't know about any of this history until I was an adult. Part of that is just the circles I w ...more
Steve Bennett
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to educate themselves on parts of history that the school curriculum still fails to capture to this day. There are so many parts of British history which are ever so subtly swept aside, not just by the government but also by mass media, which is highlighted throughout the book, and the narrator is also great to listen to, allowing for the easy listening and taking in of all this information.

I still think that it's a disappointment that schools
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The opening - about his childhood is chiling - and shocking.
He then goes back through the history of slavery: Bunce Island, in Sierra Leone - horrendous and then starts the narrative history with the Roman legions, through black servants and courtiers as a symbol of wealth, the abolition of the slave trade, the pseudo-scientific concepts of racial eugenics, WWI- should black troops should be deployed in Europe? The murder of Charles Wooton - 1919, drowned in Queens Dock by a mob of white Liverpu
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Reading the 20th ...: Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga 37 23 Nov 07, 2020 01:47PM  

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