Sunday 21 October 2012

Spoke at the British Library

I spoke last Friday Oct 19th at the British Library as part of their Readers Research program  the evening’s topic was chosen to coincide with Black History Month – Blacks in Renaissance Britain.

Miranda Kaufmann Presenting
I shared the platform with Dr Miranda Kaufmann ;  the session  was chaired by Dr Caroline Bressey from the UCL Equiano Centre.

I was surprised and delighted  to find the evening was a complete sell out – people had paid good money to hear me talk quite a novel experience; perhaps  testament to the growing interest in Blacks in this period.

The format of the evening was simple;  Miranda and I each gave a 20 minute talk followed by a question session from Caroline then it was thrown open to questions from the audience.

I spoke about my experience of writing my Open University Independent Essay in the summer of 2008 followed by an overview of the  essay - essentially the history of this blog. You can read a transcript here and download my presentation.

Miranda‘s talk was intriguingly entitled:

135 Africans  in a Bristol barn for week in 1590, or what I’ve Learned at the British Library...

It was both  entertaining and  interesting, as she revealed some of her findings from the British Library’s Archives. She presented  these 135  ‘Neagros’  with some matter of fact detail of their stay in Bristol she'd teased from the archives . For example the budget for their ‘victualls and diett’ was 4d – four old pence about 1.67 new pence –per man per day. I discovered later that’s  around £33 in today’s money . She also pointed out that this compared to 6d per day per man for the 32 ‘Portingales and Spaniardes’ taken into custody from the same ship at the same time.

The Q&A session raised a couple of issues I plan to consider further:
1 Questions  around black history what is it and what it means
2 Why African Ambassadors were sent to Europe's courts during the period, no Kings or Queens followed on?
Both will be the subject of forthcoming posts.

For more information about Miranda’s research see her web site. She has done some original and ground breaking work in discovering 350 Africans in Britain 1500 to 1640. Tantalizingly, I’ve had the privilege of access to parts of her doctoral  thesis on those 350 Africans so, I very much looking forward to the book when  it’s published.

One last point I discovered from Miranda’s presentation that she and I were doing our research at the British Library at the same time – Summer 2008 – yet didn’t actually meet till 2011. It would be quite useful  if the British Library could find some way of bringing  Readers on the same subject  together – if they , the Readers, want to that is(!) – a cross between a Dating Agency and Friends Reunited site based on Readers Research subjects, maybe?

All in all a great honour and privilege  to share my  thoughts and ideas on Blacks in Renaissance Europe with an interested  and engaging  fellow presenter , chair and audience at  the home of ‘the World’s Knowledge’.

1 comment:

JD said...

It was indeed a memorable evening. Having witnessed several of your previous presentations and talks, I feel you have evolved into a confident engaging speaker, prepared to elaborate and engage with us as an audience in Question and Answer: preferring to come away with questions for further research...rather than attempt to get into arguments that at the time hold no purpose in being drawn into. We are all on a learning curve here, how we witness, and have our journey's witnessed, is a respect worthy endevour, I see research as part of that journey, and engaging with those who are asking their own questions an amazing thing to do. Brilliant....more please :-) Looking forward to your next installment.