Teachers' notes, activities and linked resources

Curriculum links   

KS3 Citizenship - Liberties enjoyed by UK citizens; role played by voluntary groups and campaigners

KS3 History - Britain's Transatlantic slave trade; significant historical figures; local history study


Aim of resource:

To interpret archival documents from Nottinghamshire Archives to learn more about the life of George Africanus, a former slave who became a successful businessman in Nottingham.

Learning objectives: 

Knowledge of the life of George Africanus and themes in early 19th Century society

Understanding of life in the late 18th and early 19th Century through the story of an individual 

Skills to use archives for historical enquiry and to aid historical interpretation


Discussion ideas:

  • Considering what we know about George Africanus, do you think he sympathised with the Luddites or the business owners
  • Who in British society do you think would have been allowed to vote in 1826? 
  • How this might differ from today?
  • Do you think not having a private vote might have affected the result of elections?
  • As a landowner, what do you think George's life might have been like?
  • Are there any limitations to the use of archive material for researching a person's life? If so, what are they?
  • Think of five more things you would like to know about George Africanus that the archive materials cannot tell us.
  • George Africanus is remembered by a plaque in Nottingham as the 'Nottingham's first black entrepreneur'. Why do we commemorate people in this way? 
  • Why do you think it is important to know where someone lived or worked?
  • How do we define who is 'important', and can have a plaque dedicated to them?
  • Are there any blue plaques in your area?
  • Who would you dedicate a blue plaque to, and where would you locate the plaque?

Activity ideas:

  • Examine a historical document:
    On the right hand side of this page are the three pages of the Last Will and Testament of George Africanus. Click on the pictures to enlarge the images, and see if you can read the Will.

    - Write down in bullet points what George is saying in the Will. You could use the transcript of the Will to help you understand it. If there are any words you don't understand, look up the meaning of these to help you decode the will.

     - On the first page of the will, highlight the sections that relate to Africanus' wife, daughter and son-in-law. Guess what may have led Africanus to include lines 3-19 in his will?

    - Scan the will for important facts about Africanus. What does it tell you about his life? Create a mind map with George Africanus in the middle, and note down everything you know about him from the will.

  • Debate: As a class, split into groups of 'beneficiaries' of George Africanus' will: Esther, his wife; Hannah, his daughter; and Samuel Cropper, his son-in-law. How do you think each person felt about the provisions of the will: Is it fair? Who should get what? What would you do differently?

  • Local history study: Students could undertake research on the effect of the slave trade in the area in which they live. They could try to identify any key individuals involved in campaigning or even freed slaves, who may have ended up in a similar position as George Africanus. 

  • The life of George Africanus: Using all the archive items and information contained within this resource, write an obituary for George Africanus. When you are writing, consider:
    - Who are you writing for, who is the audience?
    - What are the main stages in Africanus' life?
    - What characters from Africanus' life would you interview, and what questions would you ask?
    - What other information might you need to tell the full story, and how might you find this information?
    - What is your personal opinion of Africanus, and what evidence do you have to support your opinion?

  • Create a historical argument:
    Many important questions about George's life remain unanswered: 

    - What did George think of Nottingham? 
    - Did George suffer racism and prejudice from his neighbours? 
    - Was George a member of an early African-Caribbean community in Nottingham? 
    - Was he active in the anti-slavery campaigns of the day?

    Can you use any of the evidence within this resource to argue your views on any of these points?

View other relevant My Learning resources or scroll down for a list of links and resources on this topic.