How will these resources help you?

Many history teachers are keen to update our curricula to include Black histories. Individual schools and departments have done much work on this, but many have had to start from scratch. Despite the massive increase in attention that Black history is beginning to receive, resources are disparate and it can be difficult to piece together a cohesive topic. A further issue is the presence of controversial language contained in some of the crucial original sources about the Black Tudors. The resources given here look at the roles played in society by Black Tudors, thereby challenging assumptions about the nature of Tudor society and re-illustrating the picture we hold of the Tudor age.

An overview of the Black Tudors

Black Tudors: The Untold Story

by Miranda Kaufmann, published by Oneworld Publications, (2017), 9781786071859

This book is full of relevant and exciting detail, which is presented in a reader-friendly way. It tracks the story of ten Black Tudors from a variety of classes and locations, including a royal trumpeter, a porter, a silk weaver and an independent, single woman. Kaufmann is passionate about overturning long-held misconceptions about immigration and the place of Black Tudors in English society. Her argument is convincing, her enthusiasm infectious and her style accessible and never dull. Kaufmann shows that, by Tudor times, Black people were present at the royal courts of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James I. The book also uses stories to explain that Black Tudors lived and worked at many levels of society. For example, you’ll read about Diego, a sailor who was enslaved by the Spanish in Panama. Diego came to Plymouth and died in Moluccas, having circumnavigated half the globe with Sir Francis Drake.

Primary sources: Black settlers in Tudor times

Black Settlers in Tudors Times

published by National Archives

The National Archives give access to original documents (and transcripts) that offer a powerful glimpse into the experiences of Black Tudors in England. These resources could be placed at the heart of an inquiry. Available materials include papers relating to claims and counterclaims before the High Court of Admiralty for the deposition of Anthony de Nicholao Rimero (a Venetian sailor and occasional ‘drinking pal’ of Pietro Paulo Corso), featuring statements from Corso’s Black diver, Jacques Francis, and other named servants of Corso’s. These fantastic resources also include an entry on the Freemen’s Roll of the City of York, which shows that John Moore, a wealthy member of York, became a freeman of the city. A council minute book from York shows Moore paying £4 to the mayor to enjoy all the privileges of freedom of the city. (Another page on the site shows resources relating to the trumpeter John Blanke: see next resource.)

Video clip: John Blanke

Black and British: A Forgotten History, First Encounters: John Blanke

published by BBC, presented by David Olusoga

This five-minute video clip details the importance of John Blanke as a historical figure – made clear by the fact that there is a record not only of his name and picture, but of his successful wage increase negotiations with Henry VIII. It traces back the evidence of his role in Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII’s ill-fated New Year’s Day celebrations of the birth of their son. This clip would be suitable to all students, but students with weaker literacy levels might need an accompanying vocabulary sheet. You can access this clip by signing up to ERA using your institution details.

Video: Black migrants in England in Tudor Times

History KS3/GCSE: The story of Black migrants in England in Tudor times

published by BBC, presented by David Olusoga

Using new evidence presented by the discovery of Tudor skeletons during work on a new London train line, experts David Olusoga and Miranda Kaufmann delve into key sources at the National Archives to discuss the answers to the key questions surrounding the Black Tudors: Why did these mass movements of people take place? What was the experience of the migrants? And how did their comings and goings affect this country and its people? Significantly, Dr Kaufmann concludes that some Black people in England were accorded greater privileges than many white English people at the time.

Audiovisual clip

Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer - Tapestries in Court

published by BBC, (2009)

This clip explores the role and value of representative art at the Tudor court, to expand on the context of the Westminster Tournament roll depicting John Blanke.

Further Materials

Black and White: The Negro and English Society, 1555–1945 by James Walvin, published by Allen Lane, (1973), 9780713904581 Find this book
KS3 Learning Activities: The History of John Blanke, published by The Black Curriculum Access this resource
Talks on Africans in Early Modern Britain, Black British History & more by Dr Miranda Kaufmann Access this resource
Sarah Wilde has 25 years’ experience of teaching history in Trafford and Stockport, where she was Head of History for 16 years. She is now a BBC Bitesize history consultant. 

Text © Sarah Wilde, 2021.