Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann

Many of us have watched costume dramas about the Tudor period. My favourite image is of Charles Laughton scoffing a whole chicken carcass in the 1933 film The Private Life of Henry VIII ( ( More recently there has been the TV drama series ‘The Tudors’ (2007-2010) ( These, combined with school history reading, have fixed certain ideas about the Tudor period in our minds. The idea of people of African descent being around in England at that time is less familiar.

In this readable and well researched book, Miranda Kaufmann (, senior research fellow at the University of London’s Institute of Commonwealth Studies, explains that there were black skinned people residing in England centuries before the SS Empire Windrush arrived in the Thames in 1948. (

By examining in detail the lives of 10 previously obscure men and women, Kaufmann depicts the great diversity of their experiences in 16th and early 17th century England. John Blanke, a trumpeter to Henry VII, lived at the Tudor court and earned twice the annual wage of a white agricultural labourer, while mariner John Anthony’s travels took him to Virginia just as the first enslaved Africans arrived in the colony. The exotically named Cattelena of Almondsbury was an unmarried African woman who managed to make a life for herself in rural Gloucestershire. Kaufman also persuasively argues that the enslavement of Africans emerged as a response to the socioeconomic conditions of England’s Caribbean and North American colonies, rather than as an inevitable result of a supposedly inherent racism within early modern English culture. Kaufmann’s crucial contention, in conjunction with her lively prose and fascinating micro-histories, will entertain and inform.

Check if this informative new history book is in stock at your local library.

384 pages in Oneworld Publications

First published 2017

ISBN  978-1786071842

Dr. Miranda Kaufmann

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