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November 11, 2021


#NonficNov 2021 David Olusago

by N@ncy


Quick scan:

  1. The historian English-Nigerian David Olusoga has written
  2. that slavery is often misremembered in the U.K.
  3. …as a uniquely American atrocity.
  4. He points out that British-owned slaves mostly lived and worked in the Caribbean.
  5. The goal of this book is to ensure that the British involvement with
  6. slavery NOT be largely airbrushed out of  the
  7. “standard, Dickensian image of Britain in the Victorian age…” (pg 234).
  8. It’s time to have a look at what the Brits….were up to!
  9. The book charts black British history from the first meeting
  10. between the people of Britain and the people of Africa
  11. during the Roman period, to the racism
  12. …Olusoga encountered during his own childhood.
  13. It is a story that some of Olusoga’s critics would prefer was forgotten.


Strong point:

  1. The book is filled with new discoveries
  2. about the British involvement in the slaver trade.
  3. Olusago supports these findings with the science behind it.
  4. “…skeletons excavated decades ago are suddenly able to tell their stories.” (pg 40)
  5. This process transforming history
  6. is radioisotope analysis. (article from Nat. Geographic)
  7. Where you grew up…what you ate…your bones record your life.


Some thoughts….

Ch 4: 

  1. Ch 4 is  about legal cases 1770s to ensure
  2. slavery does not become acceptable in England
  3. ...or the right of Brits to hold slaves in the American colonies.
  4. Yes, this is an important part of British/Black history
  5. …but it was not the MOST engaging section of the book.
  6. #PersonalPreference

Ch 5:

  1. Chapter 5 was more interesting….linking my thoughts to a book I
  2. had just read Bedlam in Botany Bay (James Dunk).
  3. It reveals the resettlement schemes of London’s black poor in
  4. 1780s to Sierra Leone and Botany Bay Australia.
  5. (pg 148) “There were those is London, on the committee,
  6. …who just wanted them (blacks) gone and
  7. …cared little about their long-term prospects.
  8. This is the history the British
  9. …would like to see airbrushed away!

Ch 6: 

  1. 22 May 1787 –> the birth of the Abolitionist Movement
  2. is very interesting.
  3. Trivia: Did you know that  trendy Canary Wharf London was built by
  4. slave trade  mogul  George Hibbert  1757-1837 (who?) as West Indies Docks’.
  5. This dock was used to import the sugar from West Indies plantations!


Ch 7:

  1. Frederic Douglass on his second speaking tour in late 1850s felt
  2. a decline in anti-slavery sentiment and the rise in racism.
  3. The turnig point
  4. American racism had started to seep into Britain.

Ch 14:

  1. Wow…just wow!
  2. This book may exhaust you but keep on reading
  3. …because Olusago really “lets loose” in ch 14-15!!
  4. I never knew the extent of racism in Britain….shocking!




  1. David Olusago, in the last chapter, bookends his
  2. history with the “Windrush Myth”.
  3. The post-war wave of migration from the Caribbean.
  4. In the book’s introduction we read about
  5. Enoch Powell’s 1961 speech “Rivers of Blood”.
  6. Powell’s persistent themes of national sovereignty,
  7. purity of citizenship and a
  8. determination to keep out undesirable immigrants still  echoes
  9. in the European politics of far-right politicians.


  1. Historian Olusago has shown me that
  2. this idea of “purity of citizenship” is also a myth.
  3. I’ve read about 
  4. the presence of African peoples in Roman Britain
  5. and Black Tudors, Stuarts, Edwardians, Victorians and Georgians.
  6. If history was properly discussed as Olusago shows us
  7. the British could  awaken us from their colonial dreamtimes when…


  1. ” Rule Britannia! rules the waves!
  2. “Britons never will be slaves.”
  3. …but they will eagerly take part in the slave
  4. trade from  1560 Queen Elizabeth I –> Charles II
  5. –> the abolition of slave trade 1833 King William IV.


  1. People hold on to the belief that the UK was a “white country”.
  2. David Olusago challenges this concept in this book.
  3. Olusoga was confident about having two identities.
  4. despite the prejudice he had encountered.
  5. He was proud of being a black Nigerian of Yoruba heritage and
  6. being part of his mother’s white working-class geordie tradition.
  7. But he has always had a third identity:
  8. I’m also black British – and that had no history, no recognition
  9. Best quote:  D. Olusago
    1. “My job is to be a historian.
    2. It’s not to make people feel good”.


Last Thoughts:

  1. There is a lot of “new history” for me  in this book!
  2. Weak point: Sometimes Olusago can go into numbing details (ch 4, ch 7)
  3. but other times he left me scratching my head with the
  4. thought: “Why have I never heard about this?”
  5. That could be due to not having read enough history in depth.
  6. Thank goodness David Olussago is helping me.
  7. Loved to read the royal connections…
  8. by Queen Elizabeth I and Charles II…I never knew!
  9. They understood the profitability of the English slave trade.
  10. Be prepared for some long reading days…(639 pg)…but of
  11. course with books like these some skimming is unavoidable!
  12. This reader was very tired  after 13 chapters…still 2 ch  to go
  13. …but oh, they were well worth reading!
  14. This is an excellent, readable book
  15. …but very long
  16. #HistoryBuffs don’t miss this one!
4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nov 11 2021

    You hadn’t read about this because he’s been the first person to put all this together into one, reasonably accessible (I know what you mean about the detail) book that has then got the publicity behind it to spread the word and get it read and available widely. His TV series was also revolutionary, and I also recommend getting hold of it if you can – it took a different approach, with one programme on each period, and he found descendants of the old and forgotten Black people in the UK (lots of people think we only got non-White populations here in the 1950s – no!), who often have got so diluted through relationships with the White population that they think they’re completely White.

    If you haven’t read Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other yet, I recommend that for its stories of Black people here before the war, too.


    • Nov 11 2021

      Thanks for you comments….I’m looking for the TV series as we speak…#MustSee!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nov 13 2021

    Sounds fabulous, hard to read this history of injustice and oppression but it has to come out now. I have thought about how we tend to see the Victorians as not involved in slavery (vs. the Americans of the Civil War period) but they definitely were.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nov 13 2021

      This book is so worth the reading time. No info dump.…but it is written by a passionate historian who is determined to reveal the “Black and British” identity….his own identity.

      Liked by 2 people


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