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Black and British: A Forgotten History
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Buddy Reads > Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
An impromptu buddy read of the award-winning book Black and British: A Forgotten History by author and broadcaster David Olusoga. Black and British A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

RC's comments on this award-winning book has tempted a couple of others to read it too.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
I have only read the introduction so far, which is fascinating and disturbing, to hear what the author went through as a teenager.

I've remembered there was also a TV series accompanying the book - I'd like to watch this alongside it, so will see if it is available.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
The series is on iPlayer, Judy - I haven't seen it though have it bookmarked. It doesn't have, apparently, the level of detail that the book does but should make a good companion.

I'll also mention that the Audible is fantastic with Kobna Holdbrook-Smith jumping straight into my list of favourite narrators. At times, he can't hold back his sheer incredulity at the matter he's narrating.

And yes, that introduction is terrifying, isn't it?


message 4: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 9679 comments Mod
Whilst I source my copy of the book I will endeavour to sample the BBC TV series.


Thanks as always.

You're both an inspiration.


message 5: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (bibliohound) | 516 comments I saw the TV series - it was interesting but (as often the case with TV history) there were quite a few dramatic generalisations without stating the evidence to back it up. Hopefully the book would be more academically sound. I don’t think I’ll have time to read it but will be interested to read your thoughts.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
Yes, that's exactly what I've heard from friends, Pamela - and it's hard to make good popular TV out of detailed evidence. But yes, the book is properly supported (references in end-notes) and immensely detailed without ever becoming dry - I honestly think it's one of the best histories that I've read. But not one to race through.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
I'm on another excellent chapter on how Manchester's prosperity based on the cotton weaving industry (which immediately made me think of North and South) links the UK industrial revolution to the US slave plantations who provided the raw material. Marx, as ever, wrote about these two modes of slavery on each side of the Atlantic - yet that connection hadn't been clear to me before.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
I've now read the second introduction and am into the first chapter proper, about the evidence of Afro-Romans living in Britain - fascinating. I do wish there were some illustrations in the Kindle book, but I'm looking up relevant images online as I read, and will hopefully watch part of the TV series soon.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
And as soon as he says it, I couldn't help thinking that *of course* there would be Afro-Romans in Britain - as North Africa as well as Egypt had long been part of the Roman Empire.

One of the reasons, perhaps, why we don't know this more generally is that Roman textual sources don't mention the colour of people's skin as that wasn't a cultural category that they used to think about people: they used language and religion and other markers (e.g. in the days of the Republic, the major divide was Romans vs. other Italians!)

There are mosaics and frescoes I know of which show Black Romans routinely - will try to post some when I'm on my computer.


message 10: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
That will be interesting to see, RC, thank you!


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
This is from Pompeii - there's also a wonderful fresco of three black men in a swimming pool from Pompeii but I couldn't find an image.



There were also wall paintings of e.g. the Ethiopian princess Andromeda being rescued by Perseus as retold in Ovid's Metamorphoses and who was so beautiful that he fell in love instantly. Sadly, by the time the scene is painted by various artists in the Renaissance, she has become white.


message 12: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
That's a wonderful image, RC, thank you.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
It's really interesting to see how the American Civil War became intertwined with UK politics - I certainly didn't know that Liverpool was such an ally of the Confederate South that there was something amounting to a embassy based there.


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Jan C (woeisme) | 1217 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "It's really interesting to see how the American Civil War became intertwined with UK politics - I certainly didn't know that Liverpool was such an ally of the Confederate South that there was somet..."

There was a bestseller a few years ago by Amanda Foreman, A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War. Bought but not yet read. Confederacy was very anxious for recognition and trade, especially as they were severely lacking in industry. Cotton was king! Hard to fight the industrial Union on that basis. They needed arms, ammunition and ships, among other goods.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
Thanks, Jan - yes, I remember now seeing that book everywhere a few years back but haven't read it.

With the UK's cotton weaving industry disrupted during the war, there was compensation in providing war goods to both the north and south. Liverpool also built and illegally sold war ships and blocade runners to the south. After the war, the US government sued the UK for this!

This book is so fascinating! (Have I already said that?!)


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
The nineteenth century 'scramble for Africa' results in black people being 'live exhibits' at imperial exhibitions in London and in travelling shows. Love the anecdote of the Somalians who pretend to be Zulu warriors to exploit the gawping public!

WW1 is about to break out - officers so far have to be 'pure bred' Europeans, though it's fascinating to see black doctors working in Britain so far in advance of the NHS.


message 17: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
I'm not that far in yet, RC, but I do vaguely remember reading an article by Dickens about one of these exhibitions.


message 18: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
I'm on a chapter about Tudors and was excited by the mention of Black Tudors: The Untold Story in the footnotes, but I've just read your excellent review, RC, and I see it sounds as if it is less informative than I would have hoped! I would still like to read it though.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "I'm not that far in yet, RC, but I do vaguely remember reading an article by Dickens about one of these exhibitions."

I'm afraid you might have to look away from some of the ways Dickens is quoted here as describing and speaking about black people :(

One of the things I found upsetting about The Interest: How the British Establishment Resisted the Abolition of Slavery is the extent to which writers I like resisted abolition: Trollope and Elizabeth Barrett Browning spring to mind.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "I'm on a chapter about Tudors and was excited by the mention of Black Tudors: The Untold Story in the footnotes, but I've just read your excellent review, RC, and I see it sounds as..."

It's definitely worth a read, Judy, just bear in mind the caveats and set your expectations appropriately.


message 21: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "Judy wrote: "I'm not that far in yet, RC, but I do vaguely remember reading an article by Dickens about one of these exhibitions."

I'm afraid you might have to look away from some of the ways Dick..."


Thanks, I had remembered the Dickens article included some highly unpleasant views, and will read that section with trepidation. I'm surprised to hear that about Elizabeth Barrett Browning, though, as I had remembered that both she and Robert Browning were opposed to their families' involvement in slavery - but I will add the book you mention to my TBR to find out more.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
I was unpleasantly surprised too about Elizabeth BB: this is one of the quotations I marked: 'The young Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose family owned the Cinnamon Hill plantation in Jamaica, whined that "the West Indies are irreparably ruined if the bill [abolishing slavery] passes".

Later in the century, there was a cultural shift and British moral superiority for abolition became part of the mythology of British identity - it's a complicated topic and the book is excellent. I've genuinely learned so much this month.


message 23: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
Thanks RC - I will hope to read it in the future, but probably not for a while.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
Finished! Such a great book - horribly revealing about the treatment and rhetoric about Black British soldiers during WW1. Also a fascinating section about Black American GIs in Britain during WW2. Full five stars.


message 25: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1217 comments You've persuaded me! I have added to my TBR. So will probably purchase soon. Would have today but I already bought two books today.


message 26: by Roman Clodia (last edited Oct 25, 2020 01:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
Jan, I think this is genuinely one of the best history books I've ever read and is so illuminating as it recasts so much that we think we know - I can't rave enough about it!

Wonderful audiobook too read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith who I could listen to forever.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
Just to add, the actual narrative is about 560 pages, the last 200 or so pages are references, notes, sources and bibliography so it has all the scholarly paraphernalia to support the history, it's just neatly out of the way of the story.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
So busy raving, I forgot to post the link to my review for anyone interested: www.goodreads.com/review/show/3533450886


message 29: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
I've read 30% now and am also finding it compelling - the section about poor black people in London being persuaded/forced to emigrate to Sierra Leone in the 18th century was something I didn't know about before.


message 30: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1217 comments Sounds much like President Lincoln trying to persuade free blacks to emigrate to Liberia.

An aunt and uncle were at one time missionaries to Sierra Leone - until she caught TB. One of her children was the river pilot for the president of Liberia and he subsequently married the president's daughter. I met her and my cousins once and she told me about having to escape the revolution with whatever she could fit in a shoebox! I think they fled in a VW.


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
That's a great story, Jan!

Judy, keep your eye on Sierra Leone and it has quite a part to play in this history.


message 32: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
I've just read the fascinating section about the popularity of Uncle Tom's Cabin in the UK during the 19th century - I had not realised that it was such a huge sensation here - and have just also been reading about tours by African-American musicians.

I found a recording on YouTube of one of the groups mentioned, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, recorded in 1909. It sounds as if they wouldn't have had any of the same members then as in the 1870s and 80s, but in any case it gives a feeling of the power of their performance.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUvBG...


Roman Clodia | 5093 comments Mod
Yes, isn't it amazing that Uncle Tom's Cabin had such a huge cultural effect? I've never read it and had the impression of something schmaltzy - but just last night, we were discussing The Underground Railroad in my real life book group and someone mentioned being reminded of a character from Uncle Tom who had made him bawl his eyes out!

Well done on finding that YouTube recording - Mr RC said there's been a discussion this year about whether the song should continue to be a rugby song. Some black players see it as an opportunity to educate fans on exactly this 'hidden' history.


message 34: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1217 comments I ordered the book yesterday through Alibris.


message 35: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
RC, yes, I've seen some of the coverage about the history of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and the controversy over it being sung at rugby matches.

Jan, I hope you enjoy the book - I'm finding it fascinating.


message 36: by Val (new)

Val | 13 comments I read and reviewed David Olusoga's book back in 2017:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 37: by Judy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4589 comments Mod
I'm starting to watch the accompanying TV series on BBC iplayer and finding it very interesting so far.


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