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Black and British ��� A Short Essential History

Black and British: A short, essential history

Published: 1 Oct 2020

Paperback / softback, 176 pages

Recommended for age 11+

By David Olusoga

Published by Pan Macmillan

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From Roman times to the present day this is the story of Black British history.

An essential introduction to Black British history for readers of 12+ by award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga. When did Africans first come to Britain? Who are the well-dressed black children in Georgian paintings? Why did the American Civil War disrupt the Industrial Revolution? These and many other questions are answered in this essential introduction to 1800 years of the Black British history: from the Roman Africans who guarded Hadrian's Wall right up to the present day. This children's version of the bestseller Black and British: A Forgotten History is illustrated with maps, photos and portraits.

Tagged Black History and British history

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Reviewed by Laura Ovenden

Black and British – A Short Essential History is an accessible short history of Black Britons, complete with maps, photos, portraits and a glossary. It is a new much shorter edition of the best-selling tome Black and British – A Forgotten History by David Olusoga and suitable for upper primary and secondary pupils.

It distils key moments from Roman Britain to 2020, giving the reader a clear sense of the presence of Black people in Britain through the centuries. It makes explicit the gaping hole in the history curriculum. When primary schools teach the Victorians, how many refer to the conditions under which the cotton for the Lancashire cotton mills is produced?

Be ready to learn lots. Did you know that for Romans ‘skin colour didn’t determine your place in society’ while most Black Tudors were not slaves but servants earning a wage? During chapters on the Tudors, Stuarts and Georgians, the reader gains a clear overview of the economics driving slavery from the Tudor pirates, attempting to steal African gold from the Portuguese to the Stuarts who built up the slave powered colonies in Virginia and Barbados.

Interestingly it was only during the reign of James I that the English started using the term ‘white’ to talk about themselves. Later we learn of the Abolitionists, boycotts of sugar, the Zong slave ship and insurance payments, resistance in Haiti and Jamaica and finally compensation paid to slave owners.

Slavery had been abolished by the time Queen Victoria came to the throne, but Victorians were still investing in slave powered businesses, and Thomas Carlyle promoted racist theories. The reader learns that the Industrial Revolution relied heavily on slavery and the Scramble for Africa in the 1880s was about taking control of the continent, and this was clearly seen in the actions of Cecil Rhodes.

This excellent and readable history continues with chapters on both world wars and key events of the twentieth century, such as Windrush. It will help readers join up the dots and see how Western economic success was built on the slave trade and slave powered business. This is an essential history text for both primary and secondary teachers to read. It is also a welcome addition to every school library.

I have taught English for over 20 years in tertiary, secondary and now primary settings. I am an English Lead and works in two primary schools in West Yorkshire. I also run an Open University Reading for Pleasure Teachers group in Halifax. I am an Elklan tutor and an Evidence Lead in Education with Aspirer Research School.

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