This book explains Tudor history through the lives of black people in Tudor England. Through surviving documentation of the ten people in the book, the text focuses on placing them within the broader history and context of Tudor culture. ‘Black Tudors’ refers to any black person in Tudor England, which is a period of English history that lasted from 1485 to 1683. The book specifically highlights the lives of free black people.
The book is organized chronologically based on approximate birth years or by first documentation, from the first financial records of John Blanke in 1507 to Cattelena of Almondsbury’s death inventory in 1625. All the information is pieced together through often scant documentation of life events like births, baptisms, and deaths. Each ‘Black Tudor’ gets their own chapter to explain who they may have been, how they came to be in England, and the context in which they lived their lives. Stories of people, like John Blanke, one of the royal trumpeters of Henry VIII or Reasonable Blackman, a silk weaver likely married to an English woman who lived through the London plague, allows us to see European history from a new and oft-forgotten perspective.
Documentation of African people living or working in Western Europe, Rome, Spain, etc. goes back as far as the 12th century, but it is a lesser-known part of the history and influence of the African diaspora in Europe. The book goes deep into the time period’s history to give an idea of the challenges of life during that period.
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