An Untold History
A dazzling history of African Europeans, revealing old and diverse links between the two continents.
October 2020 • £20.00
9781787381919 • 288pp
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As early as the third century, St Maurice—an Egyptian—became leader of the legendary Roman Theban Legion. Ever since, there have been richly varied encounters between those defined as ‘Africans’ and those called ‘Europeans’. Yet Africans and African Europeans are still widely believed to be only a recent presence in Europe.
Olivette Otele traces a long African European heritage through the lives of individuals both ordinary and extraordinary. She uncovers a forgotten past, from Emperor Septimius Severus, to enslaved Africans living in Europe during the Renaissance, and all the way to present-day migrants moving to Europe’s cities. By exploring a history that has been long overlooked, she sheds light on questions very much alive today—on racism, identity, citizenship, power and resilience.
African Europeans is a landmark account of a crucial thread in Europe’s complex history.
Olivette Otele is Professor of the History of Slavery at the University of Bristol and Vice-President of the Royal Historical Society. She is an expert on the history of people of African descent and the links between memory, geopolitics and legacies of French and British colonialism.
‘The scope of Otele’s research is awesome, as is her unflinching analysis of the shifting prisms through which African Europeans—particularly women—have had to contest their identities. Full of powerful stories with deep roots and livid scars, African Europeans is scholarly, revelatory and important.’ — Jessie Childs, author of God’s Traitors and Henry VIII’s Last Victim
‘Fascinating. Otele reconnects us with the men and women who came from Africa to shape European history: rulers, diplomats, slaves and soldiers—above all, our ancestors.’ — Dan Snow, historian and broadcaster
‘Yoking together the “African” and the “European”, too often treated as entirely separate categories, Otele skilfully invites her reader to navigate the multiple intersecting worlds inhabited by her characters. This is fundamentally reparative writing that undoes the cultivated ignorance around race and blackness in Europe and shows us what is irrefutably true—that black history is European history, indeed, world history.’ — Priyamvada Gopal, author of Insurgent Empire
‘Olivette Otele is a scholar with a vivid intellect and a deep sense of right and wrong. African Europeans forces us to reassess the past so that we can imagine a different future.’ — Fiammetta Rocco, chief culture writer, The Economist
‘A magisterial book—brilliant, humane and gripping, and a call to arms for an end to violence and subjugation. Otele explores the individual lives of African Europeans against great shifts of history, and the result is a masterpiece.’ — Kate Williams, author of Young Elizabeth and Becoming Queen
‘The first survey this century of the fascinating 2,000-year-long history of Africans in Europe. Otele’s masterful narrative weaves together the lives of prominent figures—St Maurice, Jacobus Capitein, Manga Bell, Paulette and Jane Nardal—with those of everyday people.’ — Hakim Adi, author of Pan-Africanism: A History
‘Important, exciting and illuminating. Otele takes us through centuries of history we think we know, but shifts the lens onto those who have been deliberately excluded from traditional historical narratives. This book will change how you look at the past and introduce you to wonderful characters with rich and revealing lives.’ — Janina Ramirez, historian and TV presenter