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Black Tudors: The Untold Story

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  453 ratings  ·  120 reviews
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2018

A Book of the Year for the Evening Standard and the Observer

A black porter publicly whips a white Englishman in the hall of a Gloucestershire manor house. A Moroccan woman is baptised in a London church. Henry VIII dispatches a Mauritanian diver to salvage lost treasures from the Mary Rose. From long-forgotten records emerge the remarkable sthe
Paperback, 376 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by Oneworld Publications (first published November 14th 2017)
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There are 13 other reviews of this book, which isn't published yet, so all of us read freebies or arcs. Everyone else 4 or 5 starred it. 5 reviewers 'forgot' to mention it was a freebie which are provided in exchange for a review usually. I used to write to GR about this as it is a legal requirement in the US but generally GR didn't do anything at all and the reviewers continued blithely on not letting anyone know they got loads of books for free and reviewed them all 4 or 5 stars. That might be ...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
Heidi The Reader
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 Bla/>The
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
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Leanda Lisle
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
J.A. Ironside
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nathen Amin
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, my-reviews
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
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
Irene Headley
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
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
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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't slaves ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 colo
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. The topic sounds very interesting. However, the book was not as interesting.

I used to teach high school English, and my students had to write a research paper every year. Often the students would pick a topic they were interested in and dive into the research. Many would find great sources. Some would be able to piece the sources together and write a cohesive paper. Some would write what read like a list of facts, sometimes not even related to the t
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 t
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 do
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Useful, important, boring.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
What little info I'm able to cross check is valid.
Perspective is white British but content is fascinating.
Dee Eisel
One of my pet peeves (and if it irritates me, I cannot imagine how people of color must feel!) is the whitewashing of Renaissance Europe. It’s very obvious that the people of Europe in the ancient times were familiar with the PoC around the Mediterranean. Even in the medieval period, Africans were known in at least the southern and western part of the European continent. Yet if you asked people who have gone through even a comparatively decent history education in primary school, they still woul ...more
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Why? Because anyone who assumes that all Africans in British History have been powerless, enslaved victims must be challenged. The Black Tudors actively pursued their own interests and were free to do so.”

Interesting history of Africans during the Tudor era, centered on ten people with varied professions and timelines, living in England or occasionally on English vessels, but fleshed out with a wider look at what was going on around them and how they might have ended up where we can
"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
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History buffs should enjoy this book. I never really gave much thought to blacks being in Europe before the 19th century. Not sure why exactly...I guess because they traveled with masters from the US and I remember some sued for freedom in some countries. Well, it was interesting to read about their lives in earlier centuries. It's leading me to look into the subject further.
I received an advance Kindle copy from Edelweiss, but the opinion is my own.
May 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to Edelweiss and Ingram for allowing me to read the advanced reader copy.

This is an interesting look at the lives of Africans in Tudor England. One normally doesn't think of non-whites being present. The author meanders at times, but generally, it's an interesting look at a Lillie known group of people.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race, non-fiction, history
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 o
This was very much an academic book, but it was well written, and fascinating.

Kaufmann's thesis is that Africans were a not-uncommon part of English life during the Tudor and early Stuart eras. Not as slaves (her period is prior to the assumption by England of the Atlantic slave trade), but as servants, craftspeople, musicians, visiting dignitaries, and prostitutes, among other occupations.

Each chapter opens with a short fictional blurb from the point of view of the individual whose informatio
G. Lawrence
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really fascinating study of the lives of ten men and women living in Tudor England. Challenges pre-conceptions that Tudor England was just a sea of white faces, or that any black person in England at the time were slaves, or were entirely powerless. This book demonstrates that Africans owned property, were paid wages, and that Tudor England was a great deal more diverse than is generally represented in film and TV. It does not skirt over the abuses inflicted on Africans, nor the confusion betw ...more
Someone was telling me today that he likes history books, which I thought was a pretty silly statement- I like *interesting* history books, but there are certainly dull ones.

I liked this book - engaging enough for me, on a topic I knew nothing about. (Not hard with history!) Author has pulled references from historical sources and reconstructed the lives of some selected folks in Tudor England, but with enough context that I could follow along without having to look things up every other senten
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Tudor History Lovers: November 2017 - Black Tudors, by Miranda Kaufmann 6 76 Feb 02, 2018 09:22AM  

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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 Heritage, th ...more