• African Europeans

  • An Untold History
  • By: Olivette Otele
  • Narrated by: Olivette Otele
  • Length: 8 hrs and 37 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (42 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A dazzling history of Africans in Europe, revealing their unacknowledged role in shaping the continent

One of the Best History Books of 2021 — Smithsonian

Conventional wisdom holds that Africans are only a recent presence in Europe. But in African Europeans, renowned historian Olivette Otele debunks this and uncovers a long history of Europeans of African descent. From the third century, when the Egyptian Saint Maurice became the leader of a Roman legion, all the way up to the present, Otele explores encounters between those defined as "Africans" and those called "Europeans." She gives equal attention to the most prominent figures — like Alessandro de Medici, the first duke of Florence thought to have been born to a free African woman in a Roman village — and the untold stories — like the lives of dual-heritage families in Europe's coastal trading towns. African Europeans is a landmark celebration of this integral, vibrantly complex slice of European history, and will redefine the field for years to come.

©2021 Olivette Otele (P)2021 Basic Books
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

“Ms. Otele, a black scholar at Britain’s University of Bristol, takes a broad view of her subject. Sometimes, the African Europeans of the title are, as one might expect, people living in Europe, but on many other occasions, they are blacks or people of mixed-race who have lived elsewhere, in other far-flung quarters of the Atlantic world. Her book is equally sprawling in terms of time, moving back and forth across the centuries, from antiquity to the present.... Some of Ms. Otele’s most interesting material is future-looking, asking questions about the ambivalence experienced by blacks in contemporary Europe.” (Wall Street Journal

"This brisk, nuanced synthesis reminds us that there have been Africans in Europe for millenia." (Stephen Carter, Bloomberg Opinion, The 15 Best Nonfiction Books of 2021) 

“Magisterial.... A story of violence and exclusion but also extraordinary destinies and achievements. Particularly admirable is Otele’s command of the subtleties of identity formation and change over time, as well as her marvellous cast of women characters, such as Jeanne Duval, Baudelaire’s muse and lover.” (Sudhir Hazareesingh, The Guardian, The Best Books of 2020)  

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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

A fascinating overview of overlooked history

The history of Africans and their descendents encountering and adapting to Europeans colonizing from the north and emigrating/being taken to far off lands which eventually became their homes over the centuries largely focuses on biographies of specific dual heritage people interacting with various white Europeans societies & governments. At times, as the author points out, the first hand information is scant or outright missing -- making clear the challenges of gathering a thorough history of a topic assumed by some to be nonexistent.

It has been unusual to hear an audiobook read by the author unless the writer is also a performer. That proved to be awkward at times in this case. Professor Otele has an interesting accent where the French roots are clear and many words are quite English, but sometimes the pronunciations are odd and the phrasing uncomfortable. It sounded like the recording was a chore -- with some sections clearly being recorded at a different time in a different place.

While I was ultimately glad to hear an accomplished academic presenting the fruit of her labor, at times I wondered what a more polished performance of the text by Idris Elba or Letitia Wright (both mentioned towards the end) would have added.

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Granada 1st black professor

great experience illustrating you don't know what you don't know! We are really human race and have always been so!

3 people found this helpful

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A good book

A good listen and good history. Author struggles a bit due to her French accent.