The case of a black servant whipping a white one forms part of a growing body of evidence that Africans were treated equally in Tudor England.
Edward Swarthye’s dealings with the Elizabethan court is one of 350 examples of black people whose stories have been compiled in the book, Black Tudors.
The book is the first detailed study of early black immigrants and explores Swarthye’s coming to England on a ship under the command of Sir Francis Drake.
According to Miranda Kaufmann, senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, Swarthye had a higher rank than that of fellow servant, John Guy, who would go onto become mayor of Bristol and a colonial governor of Newfoundland.
‘The whipping is a shock today because when we think of whipping we usually think of a white man whipping a black man,’ Dr Kaufmann told the Oxford Literary Festival.
‘It utterly inverts everything we thought we knew about the Tudors.’