This book had been referenced by so many black British authors, so I immediately added it to my list, not knowing how extensive it was! The authors mentioned that if you truly want to know about the history of black people in Britain, this is a must-read.
This book was released with some controversy as its depiction of black British history was well-documented by a white author. However, with highly respected authors such as David Olusoga, Akala and myself 😉 I would recommend this book.
This book helps you understand how racism in Britain started. We read how racist messages were spread throughout the country, and how these messages were affirmed by the British Royal Family. Unfortunately, this is a rhetoric that is still prevalent today.
It is packed full of facts, so take your time with it as there is a lot to take in. We start by understanding when the first African man was recorded in Britain. This was back in the third century. He was a soldier in the Roman imperial army.
The book evidences the origins of white supremacy and how the British Empire viewed black people. Whenever it mentions black people’s occupation throughout history in Britain, it is typically a job of servitude, such as a servant, musician, actor. As we progress further through history, we broke barriers to become shopkeepers, nurses, and soldiers to name a few.
We are then taken on a journey through history understating that more black people were brought to Britain to assist with trading. White ‘noblemen’ began to keep these black people on as house servants, beginning (or continuing) Britain’s xenophobic attitude toward people of colour hailing from different countries.
The xenophobic attitude was approved once queen Elizabeth sent mailers across to noblemen requesting that all black people are banished from her realm as they were taking food out of the mouth of everyone else.
In the same communication, she included that everything black was considered as ‘filthy, ugly and evil’, while everything white considered ‘beauty, pure and of virtue’. As many people in England already thought this way, this was the final indication needed to round the black people up.
Unfortunately for black people living in the UK, the rhetoric from the monarchy hasn’t changed even after all this time. Their lack of support for the black community is so loud it is deafening. Couple that with the horrible things said to Meghan Markle which were revealed to the public in a well-documented interview.
Transatlantic Slave Trade
The book goes into detail regarding colonialism, the transatlantic slave trade and how Britain funded it but also how profitable this trade was for Britain.
“Our trade with Africa is very profitable to the nation as it carries no money out.”
Britain made enormous profit from the slave trade, as their spending was minimal. The slave traders were capturing free African people and then selling them or trading them for sugar and rum.
We also begin to learn how the money made from the slave trade was invested back into the country. We learn about how this money was used to fund some of the biggest businesses in the UK. Arthur and Benjamin Haywood were two slavers and when they passed away, their fortunes were absorbed by Barclays Bank.
Due to the slavers bringing in so much money back into the UK, some were awarded knighthoods.
The racist attitudes toward people of colour stemmed from the Brits who travelled to Africa, India and the Caribbean. Once they returned to the UK, many of them wrote books degrading people of colour.
Edward Long, (named the father of racism by Peter Fryer) wrote an infamous book titled the History of Jamaica. As there were many slavers and missionaries who continued these racist rhetorics, the British public ate up every word, and it was believable to them as these were noblemen who had travelled to these far-away places and experienced it first hand.