The Isle of Wight’s Missing Chapter by James Rayner is a fascinating book with brief sketches of the many men and women of diverse ethnicities who have visited or stayed on the Island since the 18th century. It challenges that version of the Island’s history, which to date has been pretty much exclusively white and British. Rayner, through his targeted research of; local history books, newspapers, biographies and official records, is able to fill in what he calls ‘this missing chapter from the Island’s past’.
From my own personal black British history interests, I was intrigued to find the black Tudor Jaques Francis lived on the island, as did Fanny Eaton the muse to Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who Rossetti painted her in ‘Beloved’ and also that the abolitionist Oldudah Equiano spent six months there.
I found the book very readable. Essentially this is a listing, but Rayner creates a very readable narrative, his writing style connects the diverse lives in a very clear, orderly manner, making the book very accessible.
I recommend this thought-provoking book particularly as it is a model for anyone in Britain’s other 182 islands that make up these British Islands to create their Missing Chapter in doing so show that history is never a closed book.