A powerful history of the forgotten lives of black Georgian Britain
'This book brings history alive' BERNADINE EVARISTO
WITH A BRAND NEW FOREWORD FROM ZADIE SMITH
'Black England is a book that will be relevant for ever' BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH
The idea that Britain became a mixed-race country after 1945 is a common mistake. Georgian England had a large and distinctive Black community. Whether prosperous citizens or newly freed slaves, they all ran the risk of kidnap and sale to plantations. Black England tells their dramatic, often moving stories.
In the eighteenth century, Black people could be found in clubs and pubs, there were special churches, Black-only balls and organisations for helping Black people who were out of work or in trouble. Many were famous and respected: most notably Francis Barber, Doctor Johnson's beloved manservant; Ignatius Sancho, a correspondent of Laurence Sterne; Francis Williams, a Cambridge scholar, and Olaudah Equiano whose Interesting Narrative went into multiple editions. But far more were ill-paid and ill-treated servants or beggars, despite having served Britain in war and on the seas. For alongside the free world there was slavery, from which many of these Black Britons had escaped.
The triumphs and tortures of Black England, the Ambivalent relations between the races, sometimes tragic, sometimes heart-warming, are brought to life in this wonderfully readable history. Black England explores a fascinating chapter of our shared past, a chapter that has been ignored too long.
In the 1990s, an assistant in a London bookshop informed the African American historian Gretchen Gerzina that there "were no black people in England before 1945". Gerzina effectively disproved that assertion by going on write the classic book on black people in Georgian London, Black England - Guardian
Wonderfully vivid, multifaceted and engrossing . . . this book brings history alive
Black England taught me more history than I ever learned at school. This book helped me to understand the history that my generation are making now. To say that it is groundbreaking is stating the obvious. Black England is part of our canon. With books like this to guide us, we are unstoppable. Gretchen Gerzina tells it as it was, so we know how it is. Black England is a book that will be relevant for ever
A classic that deserves to be read . . . indeed, needs to be read, Black England is deeply researched, lucidly written and utterly fascinating. If you ever thought Black British history began with Windrush, read this book - this is a story we should all know
Gerzina brings the world of the Black Georgians to intriguing life, introducing us to the era's most fascinating individuals while placing them in the wider story of the struggle against enslavement. It is a treat to have a pioneer of the field bring together all the latest scholarship to tell this important part of British history for a wide audience
The admirable clarity of Black England should win it many admirers. Gerzina's book should take its rightful place alongside the work of her predecessors