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Migration 22: ‘A captive girl’… How typical were the experiences of Sarah Forbes Bonetta?

This enquiry centres upon three engaging and important case studies:

  • those of Sarah Forbes Bonetta (the child from West Africa who was transported to Britain to become Queen Victoria’s ‘pet’);
  • Mary Seacole (the famed Crimean War-era nurse);
  • Ignatius Sancho (widely known as the first Black person given the right to vote in a general election in Britain).

These three case studies have a great deal to tell us about the experiences of Black ‘migrants’ in Britain in the 19th century.

Students first identify evidence of how the three individuals in question were treated, before summing up their ideas in the form of a pie-chart.

Then, they do some sophisticated thinking about why these responses came about: for instance, can we explain the disrespect directed towards Seacole and others with reference to prevailing attitudes about the moral ‘retardation’ of Black men and women? Does the increasing trend for putting ‘curiosities’ on the stage account for the curious reactions that greeted Bonetta on her arrival in Britain?

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  • Lesson presentation: PowerPoint
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  • Worksheet 1-4: PDF

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