Thinking black: Peter Fryer's staying power and the politics of writing black British history in the 1980s

Rob Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Now entering its fourth decade, Peter Fryer's Staying Power: the History of Black People in Britain remains a centrally important text for British historians studying the metropolitan dimensions of race and empire. However, as a milestone in British, black British and radical historiography it is frequently acknowledged but far less often critically engaged. While other foundational texts and figures in radical and left historiography have received growing attention in recent years, and while the epistemologies of their practices have been constantly debated, Fryer's contributions are largely undiscussed and his assumptions about what constitutes black British history unexplored. Narrating the genesis of Fryer's text within a wider black radical formation, this article emphasizes the alternative routes for radical historiography in Britain which constituted black British history as a radical field, and asks where, when and why this field emerged. Through this, the article also proposes that paying attention to how Fryer framed his understanding of black history is important for how we understand the field today. By looking closer at Fryer's text we can see both how different is the field of black British and postcolonial history today, and which questions remain, often unresolved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104–120
Number of pages17
JournalHistory Workshop Journal
Issue number1
Early online date31 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


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