Presenting the History of Africans in Britain: Norfolk as a Case Study

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This article addresses the important topic of how we discuss the history of the African population in Britain in our public historical spaces. In recent decades historians have established that the African presence in Britain is long-standing and we have also accepted the importance of discussing the impact of the system of Atlantic slavery in our national history. In consequence, information about British involvement in the transatlantic slaving economy has entered school curricula, public historical spaces and public debate. This article suggests that we might want to revisit the presentation of this history as we gain more information about the African presence away from London and the major ports. It suggests that the story of Africans in the provinces is, perhaps, not best explained using the histories of large metropolitan centres and ports deeply entangled with slavery. It argues that the information from Norfolk indicates that we should explore an idea that different regions might have responded to the arrival of Africans in different ways and we might be best served by assuming that there was no such thing as a ‘model’ of British responses to this process. It suggests that we consider a presentation of the history of Norfolk's African population that emphasizes integration, personal agency and the lack of antipathy towards Africans, and does not start from a default assumption of enslavement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819-838
Number of pages20
Issue number338
Early online date16 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2014


  • Black history
  • Norfolk
  • slavery

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