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School of History

Gretchen Gerzina’s Black England: A Research Conversation

When: Wednesday, October 26, 2022, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Where: Graduate Centre, QMUL , Mile End Campus

First published in 1995, Gretchen Gerzina's Black England: A Forgotten History quickly became essential reading, shedding new light on the lives of Black Britons in the 18th and 19th century. This event is an opportunity to find out more about this topic and hear researchers reflect on the significance of this book, which is republished this year with a new foreword by Zadie Smith.



In conversation: Rachael Gilmour (QMUL), Amanda Sciampacone (Open University), Rob Waters(QMUL), Valentina Aparicio (QMUL).
'Wonderfully vivid, multifaceted and engrossing . . . this book brings history alive' BERNARDINE EVARISTO (Honorary Doctorate QMUL 2022)
'To say that it is groundbreaking is stating the obvious. Black England is part of our canon. With books like this to guide us, we are unstoppable. Gretchen Gerzina tells it as it was, so we know how it is. Black England is a book that will be relevant for ever.' BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH 
Georgian England had a large and distinctive Black community. Whether prosperous citizens or newly freed slaves, their dramatic, often moving story is told in this book through the lives of several Black Britons.
The idea that Britain became a mixed-race country after 1945 is a common mistake. By the eighteenth century, Black people could be found in clubs and pubs, there were churches for Black people and organisations for helping Black people who were out of work or in trouble. 
Many were famous and respected: most notably Francis Barber, Doctor Johnson's esteemed manservant and legatee; George Bridgetower, a concert violinist; and Ignatius Sancho, a correspondent of Laurence Sterne. But many more were ill-paid, ill-treated servants, some resorting to prostitution or theft. And alongside the free world there was slavery, from which many of these Black Britons escaped. 
The triumphs and tortures of Black England, the ambivalent relations between the races, sometimes tragic, sometimes heart-warming, are brought to life in this well-researched and wonderfully readable account.
This in-conversation event is organised by the QMUL Centre for the Study of the Nineteenth Century and its Legacies, in collaboration with the Queen Mary Postcolonial Seminar.
While this is conceived as an in-person event, it is possible for us to facilitate online attendance. Please contact nineteenth-century [at] if you would like to join us via Zoom.
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