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Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain

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Staying Power is recognised as the definitive history of black people in Britain, an epic story that begins with the Roman conquest and continues to this day. In a comprehensive account, Peter Fryer reveals how Africans, Asians and their descendants, previously hidden from history, have profoundly influenced and shaped events in Britain over the course of the last two thou Staying Power is recognised as the definitive history of black people in Britain, an epic story that begins with the Roman conquest and continues to this day. In a comprehensive account, Peter Fryer reveals how Africans, Asians and their descendants, previously hidden from history, have profoundly influenced and shaped events in Britain over the course of the last two thousand years.


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Staying Power is recognised as the definitive history of black people in Britain, an epic story that begins with the Roman conquest and continues to this day. In a comprehensive account, Peter Fryer reveals how Africans, Asians and their descendants, previously hidden from history, have profoundly influenced and shaped events in Britain over the course of the last two thou Staying Power is recognised as the definitive history of black people in Britain, an epic story that begins with the Roman conquest and continues to this day. In a comprehensive account, Peter Fryer reveals how Africans, Asians and their descendants, previously hidden from history, have profoundly influenced and shaped events in Britain over the course of the last two thousand years.

30 review for Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Johnston

    A white colleague asked me what I was reading and I said it was a history of black people in Britain. 'When does it start,' she said, 'the 1950s?' More like the 150s AD. Which just goes to show why people like us need to learn about these histories. The book is compendious rather than profound, is by now some decades out of date, and is written by a white guy who therefore probably shows his whiteness in ways I wouldn't necessarily pick up on. But for me it's been a pretty good starting-point and A white colleague asked me what I was reading and I said it was a history of black people in Britain. 'When does it start,' she said, 'the 1950s?' More like the 150s AD. Which just goes to show why people like us need to learn about these histories. The book is compendious rather than profound, is by now some decades out of date, and is written by a white guy who therefore probably shows his whiteness in ways I wouldn't necessarily pick up on. But for me it's been a pretty good starting-point and strikes a balance between exposing the shameful history of white supremacy and chronicling the active lives and achievements of black people (both individual big personalities and collective movements). The book also reveals, although the author doesn't actually express this, how closely allied white supremacy and misogyny have been in British history: I was pretty astounded by how frequently and consistently the trouble seems to come down to white men attacking black men because white women chose to socialize with and sleep with the latter. The other side of that is that this book doesn't have that much to say about women of colour, with the inevitable (but worthy) exception of Mary Seacole. Anyway, it's a book I'm glad to have read and glad to have on my shelf for reference and as a starting-point for further reading.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sophie Turner

    This one is tough to rate. It's a work that was extremely necessary and I would argue is a must-read for anyone interested in British history. However, it also really needed more editing, as it has far too many periods where it reads like a series of micro-biographies while losing track of telling the story of the bigger picture. This one is tough to rate. It's a work that was extremely necessary and I would argue is a must-read for anyone interested in British history. However, it also really needed more editing, as it has far too many periods where it reads like a series of micro-biographies while losing track of telling the story of the bigger picture.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm

    Some 'salvage' history is shaming in the depth and richness of a recent past that it uncovers: Peter Fryer has done us a great service by taking into (intentionally) forgotten aspects of British history, showing the Black presence in the country during the Roman period, and almost continually since the late 16th century. Accessible, politically savvy, clearly written. Some 'salvage' history is shaming in the depth and richness of a recent past that it uncovers: Peter Fryer has done us a great service by taking into (intentionally) forgotten aspects of British history, showing the Black presence in the country during the Roman period, and almost continually since the late 16th century. Accessible, politically savvy, clearly written.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jasper

    Hadrian marched a legion of North African soldiers to Hadrian's Wall to repel the Caledonian Wildmen. That was around AD60. Since then there have been black people on these islands, they didn't arrive in the British Isles in the 1950s, they were here before the Vikings, Saxons and the Normans. The history extends from Roman times to the present day. Peter Fryer's book is an eye opener but sadly it never appears in Bestseller lists, nor is it packaged up in sexy binding by Publishing houses - if i Hadrian marched a legion of North African soldiers to Hadrian's Wall to repel the Caledonian Wildmen. That was around AD60. Since then there have been black people on these islands, they didn't arrive in the British Isles in the 1950s, they were here before the Vikings, Saxons and the Normans. The history extends from Roman times to the present day. Peter Fryer's book is an eye opener but sadly it never appears in Bestseller lists, nor is it packaged up in sexy binding by Publishing houses - if it was, it would be an instant hit. You are more likely to find this book in Social Anthropology or Black History sections of University libraries.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Wilson

    Still relevant There have been a number of books since this book's release by black people about this subject but this is still an important read. Still relevant There have been a number of books since this book's release by black people about this subject but this is still an important read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    this seems broadly informed by ep thompson-style chronicling of active historical agents, with an added hint of contemporaneous 80s cccs discourse on race and identity (paul gilroy: "races are political colectivities, not ahistorical essences. 'race' is after all not the property of powerful, prejudiced individuals but an effect of complex relationships between dominant and subordinate social groups." [union jack, 196]) in the preface, fryer says there are two keys for understanding his organiza this seems broadly informed by ep thompson-style chronicling of active historical agents, with an added hint of contemporaneous 80s cccs discourse on race and identity (paul gilroy: "races are political colectivities, not ahistorical essences. 'race' is after all not the property of powerful, prejudiced individuals but an effect of complex relationships between dominant and subordinate social groups." [union jack, 196]) in the preface, fryer says there are two keys for understanding his organization of the vast amount of research assembled: "one is the contribution made by black slavery to the rise of british capitalism, and in particular, to the accumulation of wealth that fuelled the industrial revolution. that's why there is a chapter on britain's slave ports. the other key is the effect english racism has had on the lives of black people living in this country. that's why there is a chapter on the rise of english racism. these two chapters are not 'background'. they go to the heart of the matter." it is this strong implicit framework that allows for the terrific wing-spreading and wealth of social/biographical detail, and makes the book so engaging; clr james in his blurb says fryer "never loses his grip in time and place." i loved the potted biographies of people i was largely or totally unaware of, like robert wedderburn and celestine edwards, as well as those of more familar names like equiano and seacole.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Roisin

    I finished the main text of the book a while ago, but sadly had a death in the family, so my mind has been elsewhere. Only finished the appendices recently. A brilliant book that at least every Briton should read. Totally unforgettable! Peter Fryer looks at the Black presence in Britain, and is more than "a modest contribution to setting the record straight". It is the history of Black people in Britain, their lives and experiences from ancient times to the 1970s. What is really good about this i I finished the main text of the book a while ago, but sadly had a death in the family, so my mind has been elsewhere. Only finished the appendices recently. A brilliant book that at least every Briton should read. Totally unforgettable! Peter Fryer looks at the Black presence in Britain, and is more than "a modest contribution to setting the record straight". It is the history of Black people in Britain, their lives and experiences from ancient times to the 1970s. What is really good about this is that Black people's voices shine through. It includes information about Black Americans that came and those that came to live in the UK, their achievements, hopes, and fears despite British slavery, colonialism and entrenched racism. Besides the documents written about these people, are quotes and writings from Black people themselves, a history not always heard. One will learn a lot. At the end of the main text are some appendices which feature, writings, for example, a letter from Olaudah Equiano to Thomas Hardy in 1792, and one from William Davidson in 1820, accused as part of the Cato Conspiracy, a letter to his wife before is execution, among other gems. Some of the people featured in this book, their writings and stories are powerful and heartbreaking. A must for anyone interested in the history of Britain and some of Black people's contributions to it. Great stuff!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I haven't read other books on black history, but I can honestly say that Fryer's book is probably one of the best. Enormously well researched, fluidly written, easy to understand - indeed, this book is a well of absolute brilliance. I learnt so much about black history and black presence in the UK. In reading this book, not only did I learn about the early presence of black people in Britain but I also learnt about their significance in British history. Additionally, I was interested in the origin I haven't read other books on black history, but I can honestly say that Fryer's book is probably one of the best. Enormously well researched, fluidly written, easy to understand - indeed, this book is a well of absolute brilliance. I learnt so much about black history and black presence in the UK. In reading this book, not only did I learn about the early presence of black people in Britain but I also learnt about their significance in British history. Additionally, I was interested in the origins of racism and how fascinated about the fact that it a top-down process, promoted by the elite in science and the arts, and how racist ideology often stemmed from the need to defend slavery and colonialism - hence, its roots were economic. Even moreso, the shift that occurred, where the working-classes were first allies to black people and then economic rivals who perpetuated the racist ideology that was invented by the elite a century or two before. Because of the depth of research Fryer engaged in to write this book, it can definitely be used as a starting point into research on black history. Glad this was recommended to me and I will definitely be recommending this to many others.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    There were Africans in Britain before the English came here... So begins this history of people of African (and Asian) descent in the British Isles. Peter Fryer has gathered a wealth of history commencing from the Roman times, which one would be hard put to find in most books on British history. As well as providing a general description of the lives of Black people over the period, this book details the many individuals and personalities who distinguished themselves over the course of time. I was There were Africans in Britain before the English came here... So begins this history of people of African (and Asian) descent in the British Isles. Peter Fryer has gathered a wealth of history commencing from the Roman times, which one would be hard put to find in most books on British history. As well as providing a general description of the lives of Black people over the period, this book details the many individuals and personalities who distinguished themselves over the course of time. I was pleased to come across many new things in this work but would have liked to have seen something more about the role of Black women. Despite being first published in the 1980's, "Staying Power" is still an excellent reference. With over two hundred pages of appendices, notes and suggested reading, it's a goldmine for anyone wanting to do further research on the subject. Definitely recommended reading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dean Simons

    3.5 stars. 7/10. Read as eBook. A really good starting point to get a general idea of things from Roman times to the 1970s. The best parts and the greater focus is given to the history before the 20th century. It was rather frustrating that the 20th century didn't warrant as much detail as the 15th to 19th. Maybe it was too recent for Fryer to wish to cover. The more interesting parts of the book tend to have a narrative or biographical approach but frequently Fryer resorts to lists of facts, date 3.5 stars. 7/10. Read as eBook. A really good starting point to get a general idea of things from Roman times to the 1970s. The best parts and the greater focus is given to the history before the 20th century. It was rather frustrating that the 20th century didn't warrant as much detail as the 15th to 19th. Maybe it was too recent for Fryer to wish to cover. The more interesting parts of the book tend to have a narrative or biographical approach but frequently Fryer resorts to lists of facts, dates and names that make it hard to keep focused. Occasionally Fryer leans a little too much on the Marxist historian approach to studying the subject which at times feel a bit dubious. The book will remain rather useful as there is considerable appendices to take advantage of and events mentioned that I hope to research in greater detail at a later date. If anyone has recommendations for further reading (or a better resource) fire away.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Adlington

    Absorbing, detailed and long overdue. Fryer's work is an excellent starting point for those researching people of colour in the UK. Of course, there's always more research to be done Absorbing, detailed and long overdue. Fryer's work is an excellent starting point for those researching people of colour in the UK. Of course, there's always more research to be done

  12. 4 out of 5

    Helen Meads

    In this book, Peter Fryer lays out an excoriating attack on institutional and longstanding racism in Britain. Although first published in 1984, little has really changed. Particularly interesting is the catalogue of racist legislation introduced and supported by both Tory and Labour governments (chapters 11 and 12), not to mention the racism perpetrated by British trade unions. British behaviour on race issues is utterly shaming. This book is far more hard-hitting and critical than David Olusoga’ In this book, Peter Fryer lays out an excoriating attack on institutional and longstanding racism in Britain. Although first published in 1984, little has really changed. Particularly interesting is the catalogue of racist legislation introduced and supported by both Tory and Labour governments (chapters 11 and 12), not to mention the racism perpetrated by British trade unions. British behaviour on race issues is utterly shaming. This book is far more hard-hitting and critical than David Olusoga’s more recent ‘Black & British’ and I have to say it has opened my eyes. There are long sections of detailed historical evidence and long and detailed appendices which make this book something of a reference work. Essential reading.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rindge Leaphart

    Torn between 3 and 4 stars. I can only imagine the amount of research that fryer put into this tome. I had been looking for this book for quite some time and stumbled across it at Eso Won in Los Angeles. It has taken me forever to finish this tome. After finishing the book, I realized I was probably more interested in the period from the 1940s until current period versus the complete history that fryer presented. There were quite a few interesting stories and people that I learned about while re Torn between 3 and 4 stars. I can only imagine the amount of research that fryer put into this tome. I had been looking for this book for quite some time and stumbled across it at Eso Won in Los Angeles. It has taken me forever to finish this tome. After finishing the book, I realized I was probably more interested in the period from the 1940s until current period versus the complete history that fryer presented. There were quite a few interesting stories and people that I learned about while reading the book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    An insightful, albeit over-academic at times, look at the history of Black people in England. It is also written by a white man, so there's possibly some nuance that's been missed, and potentially mistakes that I missed due to my own ignorance. CW: this book deals with heavy topics, and the n-word is used uncensored for quotes. An insightful, albeit over-academic at times, look at the history of Black people in England. It is also written by a white man, so there's possibly some nuance that's been missed, and potentially mistakes that I missed due to my own ignorance. CW: this book deals with heavy topics, and the n-word is used uncensored for quotes.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Josie Jaffrey

    A fascinating and comprehensive history of black people in Britain, filled with a wealth of information I’ve never seen before. For those wanting to learn more about the side of British history that isn’t taught in schools (or at least was certainly not taught to me in the 80s and 90s), then this is a great place to start.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Detail-rich, which is what we NEED. Black lives are in every fibre and grain: meticulously researched and voiced with scholarly precision here. Compelling, not polemical.

  17. 5 out of 5

    DORIS

    YES BLACK PEOPLES WE ARE EVERY WHERE WE NOT ANY WHERE.😎

  18. 4 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    LETS SAY KEEP THE POWER 3 TIMES KEEP THE POWER. LETS KEEP THE POWER.👌

  19. 4 out of 5

    Miranda Kaufmann

    My review from the BASA Newsletter: ‘Peter Fryer, Staying Power’, Review, Black and Asian Studies Association Newsletter, 59 (March 2011), pp. 36-7. Fryer’s masterly synthesis is still an impressive read 26 years after it was originally published. It has become a classic, a standard reference text. Although much research has been made recently into the areas he covers, no one has as yet made the labour of love necessary to bring it all together again in one narrative sweep. Fryer takes us through My review from the BASA Newsletter: ‘Peter Fryer, Staying Power’, Review, Black and Asian Studies Association Newsletter, 59 (March 2011), pp. 36-7. Fryer’s masterly synthesis is still an impressive read 26 years after it was originally published. It has become a classic, a standard reference text. Although much research has been made recently into the areas he covers, no one has as yet made the labour of love necessary to bring it all together again in one narrative sweep. Fryer takes us through the history of the black presence in Britain from the Romans to the Brixton riots. His journalistic background shines through in his easy narrative style, and masterful handling of a myriad of facts. However, the narrative imperative does obscure much analysis, or argument more complicated that ‘we woz ‘ere’. That said, some facts speak for themselves, such as the account of the colonial planter who muzzled his cook to prevent her from eating his food as she prepared it or Learie Constantine, the famous Trinidadian cricketer being barred from a London hotel in 1943. There is an overly broad definition of the term ‘black’. Fryer unquestioningly takes on the perspective of the racialists- that all non-whites are ‘black’, and so tries to bring together the very different stories of Asian and African immigration, whilst devoting far more space to the African. It was in fact his role as a journalist that first piqued his interest in the subject, when he was sent to cover the arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948. His book ably demonstrates the ignorance of those who believed this was the first arrival of blacks in Britain, and who called for them to go back to where they came from. In fact he shows that there were black people in Britain before the Anglo-Saxons arrived! The book also reveals the casual racism of some of Britain’s most fêted historical figures. Both Winston Churchill and Florence Nightingale are shown to have said and done things that are abominable by modern standards. Ultimately, this is an excellent book that has not been surpassed in breadth or detail since it’s first publication in 1984. It is only sad that Fryer is no longer here to bring out an updated edition, and perhaps to question the publisher’s choice of cover design!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nyauchi

  21. 4 out of 5

    Johnice

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sean

  23. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rajesh

  25. 4 out of 5

    David Grundy

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Moore

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ama-louise

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nana

  30. 4 out of 5

    Patrice Miller

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