Black and British: A Forgotten History (2016)

Book review by Marina Davis

Olusoga unmasks the ignorance behind the narrative that England was homogeneously white until the mid 1900s when many immigrants from its former territories immigrated to England for the economic prospects created by post-war reconstruction. Many people believe that is when the story of Black British people started, but this is incredibly naive. Foe centuries, the history of the British empire has been intertwined with the history of the African continent and its diaspora. The book focuses largely on England on its own though the rest of the U.K. or just Britain may be discussed, it would be a good idea to brush up on what these terms truly mean geographically before delving into this book.

Olusoga goes throughout the history of the empire, uncovering the unexplored lives of its Black citizens, through the descriptions of their lives and analysis of the times they lived in. Some topics covered include Black slaves in the Georgian period of English history and the meteoric rise of the English abolitionist movement in part due to the work of people like Olaudah Equiano. Olaudah’s book “Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano” was a sensation across Europe and helped to turn the tide of English society’s opinion of slavery. This book also shares the battles fought in Africa during both world wars, the Black citizens of British territories who fought patriotically for the crown, and the role of race in English society over time.

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