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Date created: 10/22/2020

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is pleased to announce the publication of a new project dataset, Switching the Lens - Rediscovering Londoners of African, Caribbean, Asian and Indigenous Heritage, 1561 to 1840.

Switching the Lens refocuses our attention on Londoners of African, Caribbean, Asian and Indigenous heritage. The dataset highlights records of over 2600 individuals drawn from Anglican parish registers at London Metropolitan Archives and is the result of  research carried out by staff and volunteers, which began as the British Library funded Black and Asian Londoners project carried out in 2000 to 2002, and continues today at LMA.

London has long been home to a very diverse population, a fact often obscured by mainstream British history which traditionally excludes the histories of people of colour, centres ‘whiteness’ and upholds narratives constructed by colonialism. The project name reflects the variety and breadth of the contribution made by Londoners from many diverse communities. ‘Rediscovering’ embraces the fact that this history has always been present; ‘Switching the Lens’, that we are taking a proactive approach to highlight it more widely.

Entry in the register of baptisms for St Katherine by the Tower for Katherine Auker on 29 February 1688
Entry in the register of baptisms for St Katherine by the Tower for Katherine Auker on 29 February 1688

The histories revealed are a testimony to the diversity of London life. We encounter:

  • Mary Fillis, a Moroccan who was baptised in 1597
  • Charles, a boy brought by Sir Walter Raleigh from Guyana and baptised in 1597
  • Walter Anberey, born in the kingdom of Dungala (Sudan) and baptised in Tottenham in 1610
  • Anne Vause, wife of Anthonie, a royal trumpeter employed at the Tower of London and buried in 1616
  • Phillip, an Indian born in Zarat (Surat), Gujarat and baptised in 1623
  • George Adomo, from Jacquin and servant to the Emperor of Dahomey (Benin), who was baptised in 1732
  • Jonathan Strong, an enslaved man brought to London from Barbados who challenges the status of slavery in the City courts in 1767
  • Beuraws Panfield, a sailor from HMS Voluntaire, who, having fought in Napoleonic wars, was baptised in Bethnal Green in 1813

Switching the Lens offers an exciting and intriguing insight into the lived experiences of people arriving in London from 16th to 19th centuries. It helps to reframe perceptions of immigration and presents materials to develop a deeper understanding of the complex historical relationships between London, the UK and the world.

The new dataset will be available to search within the LMA Collections Catalogue from 29 October. To find out more and to search the Switching the Lens dataset, visit LMA Collections Catalogue.

Search the 'Switching the Lens' dataset