Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann
In 1596 the future Governor of Newfoundland was publicly whipped by the African servant of an English gentleman. This scene, which took place in the hall of Sir Edward Wynter's Gloucestershire manor, is a striking contradiction to everything we thought we knew about the position of Africans in the Renaissance world. Not only was Edward Swarthye (alias 'nigro') the one wielding the whip, he gave evidence in the ensuing court case, which demonstrates that the state recognised him as a free man. Swarthye was just one of hundreds of Africans living in England during the long Tudor century. Black Tudors tells their story for the first time.
They came to this island from Africa, from Europe and from the Spanish Caribbean. They came with privateers, pirates, merchants, aristocrats, even kings and queens and were accepted into Tudor society. They were baptised, married and buried by the Church of England and paid wages like other ordinary Tudors. However, their experience was extraordinary because, unlike the majority of Africans across the rest of the Atlantic world, in England they were free. They lived in a world where skin colour was less important than religion or class: before the English became heavily involved in the slave trade, and before they founded their first surviving colony in the Americas. Their story challenges the traditional narrative that racial slavery was inevitable, imported to colonial Virginia from Tudor England, and forces us to re-examine the 17th century to find out what caused perceptions to change so radically.
Black Tudors tells the story of some key characters and uses their lives to explore questions such as how they got here, what they did and how they were treated. Based on pioneering research that has uncovered previously unknown documentary evidence of over 360 Africans living in Britain between 1500 and 1640, Black Tudors brings these records to life in an accessible and hugely engaging way.