What evidence is there of a black presence in Britain and north west England?

Four Prints of an Election, Plate 4: Chairing the Member

William Hogarth (1697-1764), 1758
Engraving on paper

Object number P.8393
Bequeathed by William Sharp Ogden, 1926

See this object at The Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester This object may not always be on display. Please check with the venue before visiting.

Four Prints of an Election, Plate 4: Chairing the Member

William Hogarth often used black characters in his work to satirise and comment on the morals of British society in the mid-1700s. He reversed contemporary conventional roles, using black characters to mock the behaviour of the upper classes. Hogarth's use of black figures reflects a growing black population during his lifetime, especially in London, and as servants to the aristocracy. By the end of the 1700s there were around 20,000 black people in Britain.

His series of four election scenes was based, at least in part, on the notorious Oxfordshire election of 1754, in which unprecedented levels of corruption and bribery made a mockery of the democratic process. In this scene, depicting the victory procession of the new member of parliament, Hogarth attacks what he sees as bogus democracy, using pivotally placed black characters to underline his satire. The black woman looks down on the scene, wide-eyed with astonishment. Close to her, two black boys roguishly survey the goings-on. One places a pair of eyeglasses on a skull and crossbones to emphasise the ludicrous nature of this sham democracy, obvious to anyone with the eyes to see it.

This information was provided by curators from The Whitworth Art Gallery.