Reflecting on Black Lives in the English Archives: A call for participants

  • October – December 2022: Online Reading Sessions
  • February 2023: In-person Workshop at King’s College London
  • April – May 2023: Symposium blog posts published on the many-headed monster

The many-headed monster team are happy to bring you advance notice of our forthcoming Online Symposium, which will grow out of a series of events convened by doctoral students Rebecca Adusei and Jamie Gemmell. We invite current or recent postgraduate students to join us in this collaborative reflection on Imtiaz Habib’s Black Lives in the English Archives – read on for the call for participants and details of how to get involved, or visit the Online Symposium website for more.


Imtiaz Habib’s Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500-1677: Imprints of the Invisible (Routledge, 2008) is a touchstone for studying race and racialisation in early modern England. Through a careful analysis of “black citations”, Habib traces an “arc of invisibility” that begins with the unrecognition of Black lives in the sixteenth century and concludes in the seventeenth century with the “politicized racial subject”, a figure ensnared within English colonialism and racial slavery (p. 18). He upends this invisibility with an accompanying “Chronological Index” that rigorously details references to Black lives in parish records, state papers, newspapers, treatises, and diaries. For early modernists working on Black life, race, and the problem of archives, Habib’s work has been foundational.

We invite current or recent postgraduate research students from across Early Modern Studies to participate in an Online Symposium that will reflect on Habib’s Black Lives in the English Archives. Between October 2022 and February 2023, we will work collectively to produce a blog series, published by the many-headed monster blog. To aid in this series of collaborative reflections, we will host online and in person gatherings that will allow contributors to grapple with Habib’s work and develop their blog posts.


Rebecca Adusei is a PhD student at King’s College, London. Her project locates and analyses depictions and characterisations of Sub-Saharan Africans in Early Modern literature and drama. Trained in Literary Studies, Rebecca’s research has become increasingly interdisciplinary. Drawing together Literary Studies and History, she looks at Black individuals in the Early modern archives and scrutinises their characterisations in literature.

Rebecca runs a blog on books in early modern history. She has previously conducted tours for KCL’s Visible Skin Project. She has spoken at the London Shakespeare Centre and the Shakespeare’s Globe’s Home and Early Modernity Conference. In 2021/2022, she was awarded the SRS Scholars of Colour Bursary for her work in Early Modern Studies.

Jamie Gemmell is a historian of race and power in the early modern Anglo-Atlantic World. He is a LAHP PhD student at King’s College, London. His project traces how London life changed in the wake of England’s development of racialised systems of enslaved labour across the Americas in the late seventeenth century. His project is titled “Reckoning with Race in Early Modern London, 1655-1712” and supervised by Prof. Laura Gowing and Prof. Miles Ogborn.

You can find more details on the Symposium Website, including contact details if you have questions, and you can sign up to take part via Eventbrite.

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