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 Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods

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shivfan
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PostSubject: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 09:21

I'm doing a dissertation for my Masters on this topic....

Of course, I'm in the process of refining it, and narrowing it down to a scope that's more manageable. I'm looking at the period 1750-1850, and I will be doing London, as opposed to Bristol or Liverpool, simply because I live in London, and it's easier and cheaper for me to research London.

I'm in process of doing background research, and I've acquired a few secondary sources. Next week, I'll start looking at some primary sources.

Any advice you guys can give me would be greatly appreciated....
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 09:30

Register for a reader's pass at the British Library if you haven't done so already. You can do a lot of material location online beforehand but it can be daunting. However the staff there are excellent - and I mean really excellent - at assisting you in locating the source material you require.

BL Reader's Pass
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 09:36

Did that on Monday!
Cool
Yes, I was down at the British Library during my first two years, and it has some amazing books. I took a break for financial reasons, and I'm now looking to complete my final year this year....

Next Monday, I'm going down there to check out some of their book in the "Rare Books" room.
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 10:39

You may well already have been in touch with the Black Cultural Archives study . Also very worth keeping an eye on are Institute for Historical Research seminars, such as that on Metropolitan History, where everyone's welcome, but especially postgrads.

http://www.history.ac.uk/events/seminars

http://www.bcaheritage.org.uk/
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 13:34

Shivfan, in your research so far, have you come across any information regarding what actually happened to James Somersett after the famous 1772 judgment? Walklin, Marlowe and Cade also seem to drop out of view afterwards. Did they follow on from having rescued Somersett by then looking after his welfare afterwards, or was James just a handy device for them to force a court to rule on slavery, only to be then discarded once they got what they desired? His status afterwards would have been even less than that of a slave in the London of the day since, I imagine, he would have been deemed completely unemployable. Nor could he go "home" since to return to America would have simply returned him to slavery, and possibly even execution for having run away in the first place. The way I see it the poor man had absolutely no alternatives at all to a short life of destitution and starvation.

And nor could he turn to his black peers for assistance, I think. He also might well have incurred their enmity, possibly even to a higher degree than that which he incurred from whites, in that Mansfield's judgment made null and void many of their indentured contracts and, since they were now to be potentially paid for the same services they had provided for free as property, many of these too were unceremoniously thrown onto the streets as a result.

Of course maybe he did indeed have a happier fate than this, but I've never seen mention of what it might have been.
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Thu 08 Mar 2012, 21:46

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dadabhai_Naoroji

Seems to show that in Victorian times it was possible (just) for a non-white to get into parliament. Took a lot longer, of course, for the first African-heritage MP to make an appearance.
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 13:32

@Catigern wrote:
You may well already have been in touch with the Black Cultural Archives study . Also very worth keeping an eye on are Institute for Historical Research seminars, such as that on Metropolitan History, where everyone's welcome, but especially postgrads.

http://www.history.ac.uk/events/seminars

[url=http://www.bcaheritage.org.uk/
http://www.bcaheritage.org.uk/[/quote[/url]]

Of course, the Black Cultural Archives...they're in Brixton, aren't they?
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 14:18

@nordmann wrote:
Shivfan, in your research so far, have you come across any information regarding what actually happened to James Somersett after the famous 1772 judgment? Walklin, Marlowe and Cade also seem to drop out of view afterwards. Did they follow on from having rescued Somersett by then looking after his welfare afterwards, or was James just a handy device for them to force a court to rule on slavery, only to be then discarded once they got what they desired? His status afterwards would have been even less than that of a slave in the London of the day since, I imagine, he would have been deemed completely unemployable. Nor could he go "home" since to return to America would have simply returned him to slavery, and possibly even execution for having run away in the first place. The way I see it the poor man had absolutely no alternatives at all to a short life of destitution and starvation.

And nor could he turn to his black peers for assistance, I think. He also might well have incurred their enmity, possibly even to a higher degree than that which he incurred from whites, in that Mansfield's judgment made null and void many of their indentured contracts and, since they were now to be potentially paid for the same services they had provided for free as property, many of these too were unceremoniously thrown onto the streets as a result.

Of course maybe he did indeed have a happier fate than this, but I've never seen mention of what it might have been.

It's still early days in my research, but the secondary sources I've read so far, including Simon Schama's "Rough Crossings", James Walvin's "The Black Presence", and Norma Myers "Reconstructing the Black Past" all don't say anything about Somerset after the 1772 Mansfield Ruling. I can only hope that he settled in with the free blacks of East London, and was never troubled again....

Actually, his free black peers were ecstatic at the Mansfield ruling. Dr Samuel Johnson's freed manservant, the black Francis Barber, held a party, attended by mostly free black Britons, to celebrate the ruling. Maybe he was there too, where he would have been feted.

"The liberation of James Somerset had done something startling to the society of the free and the enslaved that stretched across the Atlantic. It had made the idea of British freedom a germ of hope. On the evening of the 22nd of June 1772, blacks in London had no doubt at all that there was reason to celebrate, and they did so at a party at Dr Johnson's house organised by his servant Francis Barber, as well as at a 'frolick' for some two hundred people at a London tavern." Schama, 'Rough Crossings', p63

In reality, the 1772 Mansfield ruling didn't really change anything. It only prevented black slaves from being transported against their will, strange though that sounded. But it did not make slavery itself illegal in Britain, although Sharp and the anti-slavery lobby felt it did, and the pro-slavery lobby also thought it did. Slaves continued to be bought and sold, and runaways continued to be hunted down. There was no wholesale freeing of slaves and indentured servants....
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Wed 21 Mar 2012, 13:00

Hi Shivfan,

Yes, the BCA study is based in Brixton, so presents a true test of your devotion, ie, do you love history enough to go 'sahf-of-tha-rivvah'...? Wink

Another place that might well be worth checking out study is the National Army Museum in Chelsea (http://www.nam.ac.uk/; see also http://www.nam.ac.uk/microsites/baba/). Besides 'all black' units and a smattering of individual black soldiers in 'white' units, some British Army regiments made a point of recruiting black musicians - drummers for infantry and trumpeters for cavalry - and I think I remember seeing a painting of a black cavalry trumpeter on an older version of the NAM website.
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Thu 22 Mar 2012, 10:38

@Catigern wrote:
Hi Shivfan,

Yes, the BCA study is based in Brixton, so presents a true test of your devotion, ie, do you love history enough to go 'sahf-of-tha-rivvah'...? Wink

Another place that might well be worth checking out study is the National Army Museum in Chelsea (http://www.nam.ac.uk/; see also http://www.nam.ac.uk/microsites/baba/). Besides 'all black' units and a smattering of individual black soldiers in 'white' units, some British Army regiments made a point of recruiting black musicians - drummers for infantry and trumpeters for cavalry - and I think I remember seeing a painting of a black cavalry trumpeter on an older version of the NAM website.
Laughing
Actually, Brixton wouldn't be a problem....

My old and infirm mother has a bank account with a Jamaican building society, and the nearest branch is in Brixton, so I've occasionally gone down there to do bank business for her. And I've used the opportunity to stock up on hard dough bread, green bananas, saltfish, and other Caribbean foodstuffs!

I thought I saw a sign saying that the BCA was near the station, so I could always combine two jobs into one trip....

Thanks for the other sites.

I went to the British Library on Monday to read some primary sources in the 'Rare Books' section. Of course, there was Mary Seacole's autobiography, but most revealing were these two books written by a Jamaican and a Barbadian planter in the aftermath of the 1772 Mansfield ruling. Naturally, they were members of the pro-slavery lobby who had bought rotten borough seats, but still some of the writings of Edward Long in particular were very revealing....

How about this?

"The lower class of women in England, are remarkably fond of the blacks, for reasons too brutal to mention; they would connect themselves with horses and asses, if the laws permitted them." Long, 'Candid Reflections...', pp48-49
Shocked
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Thu 22 Mar 2012, 14:35

A pity you could not get to the Liverpool University free lectures inToxteth re the long history of its black people. .... the last lecture is on Wednesday 28th.

I imagine though that the organisers may be helpful in leads to primary sources of the kind of info you need. And if you do manage to get there by booking ahead on line one can get reasonable train tickets. I use this method to get about UK and surprised by some of the offers. Not very helpful really, just thoughts that might help a bit.

We can only cringe with dismay and sorrow at the sort of thing you come across. Facing harsh reality is a good reason why the study of history is so vtal for everyone if we are to properly round out our lives. Good luck with your MA. Regards, P.
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Thu 29 Mar 2012, 17:03

@nordmann wrote:
Shivfan, in your research so far, have you come across any information regarding what actually happened to James Somersett after the famous 1772 judgment? Walklin, Marlowe and Cade also seem to drop out of view afterwards. Did they follow on from having rescued Somersett by then looking after his welfare afterwards, or was James just a handy device for them to force a court to rule on slavery, only to be then discarded once they got what they desired? His status afterwards would have been even less than that of a slave in the London of the day since, I imagine, he would have been deemed completely unemployable. Nor could he go "home" since to return to America would have simply returned him to slavery, and possibly even execution for having run away in the first place. The way I see it the poor man had absolutely no alternatives at all to a short life of destitution and starvation.

And nor could he turn to his black peers for assistance, I think. He also might well have incurred their enmity, possibly even to a higher degree than that which he incurred from whites, in that Mansfield's judgment made null and void many of their indentured contracts and, since they were now to be potentially paid for the same services they had provided for free as property, many of these too were unceremoniously thrown onto the streets as a result.

Of course maybe he did indeed have a happier fate than this, but I've never seen mention of what it might have been.
I've just seen reference to such a suggestion from a planter at the time, and this point was apparently espoused by subsequent historians....

However, this claim has been countered, not only by primary sources from the time, but also by subsequent research.

1) The blacks celebrated the victory of Somerset in the hundreds. I've referred to that above.

2) The Black Poor did not really materialise as a group after the 1772 ruling, but after the American War of Independence, when hundreds of black Loyalist soldiers 'returned' to England, and found themselves destitute and unable to get a job. Those numbers were swelled by the significant numbers of black Britons in the navy, who were also let go when the War ended in 1783.

3) Among those petitioning for aid were a group of Lascar (Indian) soldiers and sailors, who were in no way affected by the Mansfield ruling.

It does seem that the British government was less sympathetic to the plight of black soldiers and sailors, in comparison to white soldiers and sailors....
'Black People in Britain', Folarin Shyllon, pp115-125
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Thu 29 Mar 2012, 17:08

@Priscilla wrote:
A pity you could not get to the Liverpool University free lectures inToxteth re the long history of its black people. .... the last lecture is on Wednesday 28th.

I imagine though that the organisers may be helpful in leads to primary sources of the kind of info you need. And if you do manage to get there by booking ahead on line one can get reasonable train tickets. I use this method to get about UK and surprised by some of the offers. Not very helpful really, just thoughts that might help a bit.

We can only cringe with dismay and sorrow at the sort of thing you come across. Facing harsh reality is a good reason why the study of history is so vtal for everyone if we are to properly round out our lives. Good luck with your MA. Regards, P.
Thanks for that....

Unfortunately, it missed me, but I did go to the Anti-Slavery Museum in Liverpool shortly after it opened a few years ago, and got quite a bit of source material, which I have used for this start. It also seems from preliminary discussions that I need to narrow my research down to a particular city. I had a choice of London, Liverpool and Bristol, and because the capital is the nearest, I decided to stick to it. Having done the early research, it seems that my decision might be for the best, because in the 18th century the black community in East London seems to have been significantly larger than comparable communities in Bristol and London. There also seems to be about twice as many primary sources about the East London black community than Bristol and Liverpool combined.
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Thu 29 Mar 2012, 18:37

Please do keep us posted on your progress Shiv, unfortunately the black communities in England is an aspect of history that we hear too little about in traditional write ups.
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Mon 02 Apr 2012, 18:01

@Islanddawn wrote:
Please do keep us posted on your progress Shiv, unfortunately the black communities in England is an aspect of history that we hear too little about in traditional write ups.

Yeah, that's why I thought I'd focus on that subject....

I went down to the British Library today, and I was going thru a number of Black and Asian Studies Association newsletters down the years, and came across an interesting one which went into detail about why black people in Georgian times went into the army and the navy for employment. An Act was passed in 1731 which forbade blacks from being taken on as apprentices. I guess it was the old 'those immigrants are taking all our jobs' line....

So, there were not many options open for the black poor, and as a result, they went for careers as domestics, or fighting for the country.

Comparisons between blacks and whites employed in named occupations, 1785-1830, Newgate stats.

Number of white males appearing at Newgate who were seamen - 3.6%

Corresponding stat for Seamen/black males - 26%

Servant/white males 0.2%

Servant /black males 14.3%

Newgate calendars....

'Reconstructing the Black Past', Norma Myers, p68
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Mon 02 Apr 2012, 18:05

I reckon a statistical comparison between those figures and those of Catholic Irish within Britain from the same period would be very interesting indeed!
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Mon 23 Apr 2012, 13:59

@nordmann wrote:
I reckon a statistical comparison between those figures and those of Catholic Irish within Britain from the same period would be very interesting indeed!
Yeah, there was a lot of prejudice against Irish Catholics at the time too, wasn't there?

Funny, but while Granville Sharp was a great champion of black slaves, he hated the Catholics....

I've just got from the local library Olaudah Equiano's autobiography....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olaudah_Equiano

He was a freed slave who was a contemporary of Sharp, and he educated himself and became an abolitionist in his own right. Equiano was the campaigner who brought the case of the 'Zong' to Sharp's attention, and that was the case which turned public opinion against the pro-slavery lobby:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zong_Massacre
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Tue 24 Apr 2012, 13:36

@nordmann wrote:
Shivfan, in your research so far, have you come across any information regarding what actually happened to James Somersett after the famous 1772 judgment? Walklin, Marlowe and Cade also seem to drop out of view afterwards. Did they follow on from having rescued Somersett by then looking after his welfare afterwards, or was James just a handy device for them to force a court to rule on slavery, only to be then discarded once they got what they desired? His status afterwards would have been even less than that of a slave in the London of the day since, I imagine, he would have been deemed completely unemployable. Nor could he go "home" since to return to America would have simply returned him to slavery, and possibly even execution for having run away in the first place. The way I see it the poor man had absolutely no alternatives at all to a short life of destitution and starvation.

And nor could he turn to his black peers for assistance, I think. He also might well have incurred their enmity, possibly even to a higher degree than that which he incurred from whites, in that Mansfield's judgment made null and void many of their indentured contracts and, since they were now to be potentially paid for the same services they had provided for free as property, many of these too were unceremoniously thrown onto the streets as a result.

Of course maybe he did indeed have a happier fate than this, but I've never seen mention of what it might have been.
Just to go back to this again....

I've since discovered that the reverse occurred. I've just finished reading James Walvin's "Black and White; the Negro in English Society 1555-1945", and he points out that the Mansfield ruling was significant not so much in what it actually said, but in what the two opposing sides THOUGHT it said. The abolitionists thought erroneously that it heralded the end of slavery in Britain itself, while the pro-slavery lobby initially feared the same. However, they soon cottoned on to what Mansfield really said, which basically was that black slaves could not be forcibly made to leave England, having arrived in England, to go back to a colony to be a slave on a plantation against his or her will. Except if the slave signed a contract prior to arriving in England, making him or her into an 'indentured' servant without pay.

Funny that, because isn't that what a slave is?
Rolling Eyes
So, Mary Prince and others were made to sign these contracts for indenture before arriving in Britain, and they were legal slaves in Britain. The answer is that the Somerset case led to an increase in these 'indentures', not a decline....
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Fri 08 Jun 2012, 11:09

Not sure if this kind of thing would interest you but there is this:

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London's Central Criminal Court from 1674 to 1913

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/Black.jsp

And, there is this site at the National Archive:

'Black Presence: Asian and Black
History in Britain'

Committee for the Relief of Poor Blacks and their emigration to Sierra Leone

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/blackhistory/index.htm

as well as this:

http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=Relief_of_Poor_Blacks_and_their_emigration_to_Sierra_Leone


Last edited by The Man From Devana on Sun 10 Jun 2012, 15:33; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Added information)
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Fri 15 Jun 2012, 17:42

Thanks Devana, this is very useful....
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Fri 20 Jul 2012, 13:02

Not quite the right period, shivfan, but a good article by Michael Wood that I came across today in the BBC News Site Magazine today:

Black Britons - Elizabethan England
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Mon 23 Jul 2012, 07:35

http://argumentativeoldgit.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/was-heathcliff-black/

Shivfan, have you seen the latest film of "Wuthering Heights" - Heathcliff as a *black* outsider? There is certainly textual evidence for such an interpretation of the character. Bronte's novel was published in 1847, but Heathcliff was "found" in Liverpool, not London, so perhaps this article is of no use to you. Hope it's of interest though.
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PostSubject: Re: Black Britons in the Georgian and Victorian periods   Fri 27 Jul 2012, 08:35

I saw both articles, guys, so thanks for that....

Yes, the Elizabethan period does take up a few sentences, since they do form the background in the introduction, etc. I've quoted Elizabeth's famous proclamation of 1596, when she called on all those 'blackamoors' to be removed from the capital.

The Wuthering Heights thing was less useful, but they do reflect a presence that existed...Liverpool, etc. Very often these novels have some basis on existing living conditions, and if black and mulatto youngsters are seen wandering the streets of Liverpool, it does seem perfectly natural to have a story about one of them....
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