On Wednesday March 23rd we held the first in-person event of 2022 – a workshop for students at our London campus showcasing the work of our new project on Ignatius Sancho’s London. Sancho was one of the eighteenth century’s most important Black Britons – an entrepreneur, writer, composer and abolitionist whose letters written from his shop in the heart of Westminster offer a unique view of Black history during a transformative moment.
In this workshop – led by Professors Nicole Aljoe and Olly Ayers, and Research Assistants Libby Collard, Odile Jordan and Ellen Valente – we introduced our project to eleven undergraduates studying at Devon House in St Katharine Docks. We explored how and why digital mapping offers a way of visualizing Sancho’s world, as well as the challenges of dealing with the uncertainties of identifying people and places from his lively, wide-ranging but occasionally cryptic correspondence.
Students got hands-on experience of extracting spatial data from the letters, as well as learning how to plot this on digital mapping software. One commented afterwards: ‘I didn’t actually know how far back black people had lived in London. It was really interesting to see the analytical approach to the letters, but I also found the style of the letters quite remarkable for the elegance of the writing’. Another said ‘I liked everything about it! It was interactive which was really refreshing’.
We’ll be hosting further events in the coming weeks, including a launch event in May that will present the work to the public.