Black carbon (BC) and total organic carbon (TOC) contents of UK and Norwegian background soils were determined and their relationships with persistent organic pollutants (HCB, PAHs, PCBs, co-planar PCBs, PBDEs and PCDD/Fs) investigated by correlation and regression analyses, to assess their roles in influencing compound partitioning/retention in soils. The 52 soils used were high in TOC (range 54–460 mg/g (mean 256)), while BC only constituted 0.24–1.8% (0.88%) of the TOC. TOC was strongly correlated (p < 0.001) with HCB, PCBs, co-PCBs and PBDEs, but less so with PCDD/Fs (p < 0.05) and PAHs. TOC explained variability in soil content, as follows: HCB, 80%; PCBs, 44%; co-PCBs, 40%; PBDEs, 27%. BC also gave statistically significant correlations with PBDEs (p < 0.001), co-PCBs (p < 0.01) and PCBs, HCB, PCDD/F (p < 0.05); TOC and BC were correlated with each other (p < 0.01). Inferences are made about possible combustion-derived sources, atmospheric transport and air–surface exchange processes for these compounds. Total organic carbon and black carbon fractions can play an important role in the storage and cycling of persistent organic pollutants in background soils.