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Trade card advertising 'Sancho's Best Trinidado'

Ignatius Sancho: African Man of Letters

Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780) was said to have been born a slave on a ship crossing the Atlantic from Africa to the West Indies. Although this is now thought to be unlikely, his origins were African while his earliest memories were of Greenwich, near London, where he was forced to work as a child slave. He persuaded the powerful Montagu family to employ him as their butler, before retiring to run a grocery shop in Westminster. He composed music, appeared on the stage, and entertained many famous figures of literary and artistic London. The first African we know of to vote in a British election, he wrote a large number of letters which were collected and published in 1782, two years after his death. He was thought of in his age as "the extraordinary Negro", and to eighteenth-century opponents of the slave trade he became a symbol of the humanity of Africans. In recent years there has been a great deal of interest in the life and works of Ignatius Sancho. This website aims to reflect the work being done by Sancho scholars around the world. To find out more, follow the links opposite the detail of Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of Sancho, painted in Bath in 1768.

  Selections from The Letters of Ignatius Sancho:
Sancho's Correspondence with Laurence Sterne | Sancho's Eye-Witness Account of the 1780 Gordon Riots
Two playful letters about a pig and about a friend's artwork | Sancho's views on empire and slavery
Two letters Sancho wrote to the newspapers in 1778

The Life of Ignatius Sancho The full text of Joseph Jekyll's biography of Sancho

An annotated bibliography of Sancho studies

Sancho's friends Short biographies with links.

The Sancho Portrait Gainborough's portrait displayed and discussed

Sancho's Music Scores of three of Sancho's compositions

Article: '"The extraordinary Negro": Ignatius Sancho, Joseph Jekyll, and the Problem of Biography' (PDF, 1.3mb)

The life of Joseph Jekyll, A biography of Sancho's biographer

Sancho's London , Maps and images of mid eighteenth-century London. (350KB)

Buy The Letters of Ignatius Sancho now from Amazon

  Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of Ignatius Sancho

Trade card advertising Sancho's business at No 19 Charles Street, Westminster The illustrations on this page are all the visual records we have left of Ignatius Sancho. At the top of the page is a detail from his trade card. A native American sits under a hogshead smoking a pipe while an African, almost certainly a slave, gathers sugar cane. In the middle of the page is a detail of Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of Sancho, painted in Bath in 1768. Opposite is a detail of the reverse of the trade card showing a native American doing business with a French trader (treading on the royal Fleur de Lys) and bearing Sancho's address of No. 19 Charles Street, Westminster. Some have remarked on the irony of Sancho making a living from selling rum, sugar, and tobacco: all goods produced by slaves.
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This page is written and maintained by Brycchan Carey. Please feel free to contact me, but do read the Frequently Asked Questions first. To find out more about my interests, visit my homepage. To find out more about my career, read my CV. To see a full index of this website, click here. To get updates and news about this website and my other projects, follow me on Twitter. Whatever you choose to do, thank you for visiting this website and come back soon as it is regularly updated. By the way, the title for this page is unashamedly borrowed from the title of an exhibition dedicated to Sancho which was held at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 1997. It was a great exhibition!

* The Ignatius Sancho Website was created in August 1999 *
* This page last updated on 18 March 2012 * © Brycchan Carey 1999-2012 *
* This page is: http://www.brycchancarey.com/sancho/index.htm *