The linked blog points out where ‘The Shakespeare Code’ was right while so many other period pieces are wrong: Black people existed in Elizabethan England. The episode includes this exchange:
MARTHA: Oh, but hold on. Am I all right? I’m not going to get carted off as a slave, am I?
DOCTOR: Why would they do that?
MARTHA: Not exactly white, in case you haven’t noticed.
DOCTOR: I’m not even human. Just walk about like you own the place. Works for me. Besides, you’d be surprised. Elizabethan England, not so different from your time.
When I first thought about this ep, his comment struck me as an expression of privilege: a white man can walk about like he owns the place just fine, while others maybe not so much. However, the blog claims he has a point.
“Africans can be found in the parish registers, tax returns, court records and letters of Elizabethan London. There was no law of slavery in England. Furthermore, Africans were paid wages, baptised, married, allowed to testify in court: all indicators of freedom. In 1587, Portuguese physician Hector Nunes admitted to the Court of Requests that he had: ‘no remedie…by the course of the Common Law of this realme… to compell’ an ‘Ethiopian’ who ‘utterly refuseth to tarry and serve’ him ‘to serve him duringe his life.'”
And there you have it. Doctor Who gets it right after all.