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‘Black Tudors:

The Untold Story’

Miranda Kaufmann


Before the English embraced the slave trade, Africans in Tudor England lived free. They were baptised, married and buried by the Church of England, and paid wages like any other Tudors. Focusing on ten figures, but delving into the stories of many others, ‘Black Tudors’ uncovers the experiences of men and women long forgotten by history.

Serving the court, trumpeter John Blanke performed at Henry VII’s funeral and Henry VIII’s coronation, while Jacques Francis was a salvage diver employed to recover munitions from the Mary Rose. In London, Mary Fillis became one of the many Africans in England to be baptised, Reasonable Blackman plied his trade as a silkweaver in the plague years, Anne Cobbie was a prized prostitute and Dederi Jaquoah, Prince of the River Cestos, spent two years the guest of a city merchant. Edward Swarthye was a porter in a Gloucestershire manor house and Cattelena of Almondsbury lived independently in the English countryside. On the seas, Diego circumnavigated the globe with Sir Francis Drake and John Anthony was employed as a sailor.

Together their stories challenge the idea that racial slavery was inevitable and force us to re-examine the seventeenth century to understand why perceptions changed so radically.


  • A remarkable and important first book which uncovers and explores a previously neglected area of British history. Kaufmann imaginatively uses material from a range of sources to bring to life the overlooked stories of Africans in Tudor Britain.

Wolfson History Prize judges