Tudor Africans: What's in a Name?

Onyeka explores the changing meanings of words for Africans in Tudor England.

Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby d'Eresby (1555-1601) in an anonymous oil painting. His African servant is following from the right carrying a skull, suggesting this was a posthumous portrait. Grimsthorpe & Drummond Castle Trust/Ray BiggsIn her 1995 book Things of Darkness the historian Kim Hall says the African in Early Modern England is ‘too accidental and solitary to be given a historical statistic’. But in Tudor England Africans are described in parish records. For example, the burial of ‘Christopher Cappervert a blackemoore’ at St Botolph without Aldgate in London is listed on October 22nd, 1586; while ‘Mary Fillis, a black more, being about xx years old and dwelling with Millicent Porter, a seamester’ was baptised on June 3rd, 1597.

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