Black Tudors

Written by Miranda Kaufmann
Review by Chiara Prezzavento

Were there Africans in Tudor and Jacobean England? How did they fare? What kind of lives did they lead? How were they regarded and treated? By examining the lives of ten very different black Tudors, this book shows that there is more to these questions than what Shakespeare’s Othello seems to suggest. Each chapter delves into archival evidence and provides —and often unexpected—glimpses of Tudor everyday life. Ms. Kaufmann paints a colourful picture of a society that had no juridical concept of slavery, and accepted “Blackamores” easily enough, as long as they converted. I confess I wondered at one or two of the inferences drawn by the author—but isn’t a book’s job to raise questions, after all? Black Tudors is an absorbing, very well-written, thought-provoking and thoroughly compelling look at a little explored aspect of Tudor society, as well as an interesting discussion of historical method. Recommended.