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Sugar in the Blood: A Family's Story of Slavery and Empire

Sugar in the Blood: A Family's Story of Slavery and Empire

Written by Andrea Stuart

Narrated by Lisa Renee Pitts


Sugar in the Blood: A Family's Story of Slavery and Empire

Written by Andrea Stuart

Narrated by Lisa Renee Pitts

ratings:
4/5 (5 ratings)
Length:
14 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 25, 2013
ISBN:
9781452682662
Format:
Audiobook

Description

In the late 1630s, lured by the promise of the New World, Andrea Stuart's earliest known maternal ancestor, George Ashby, set sail from England to settle in Barbados. He fell into the life of a sugar plantation owner by mere chance, but by the time he harvested his first crop, a revolution was fully under way: the farming of sugar cane, and the swiftly increasing demands for sugar worldwide, would not only lift George Ashby from abject poverty and shape the lives of his descendants, but it would also bind together ambitious white entrepreneurs and enslaved black workers in a strangling embrace. Stuart uses her own family story-from the seventeenth century to the present-as the pivot for this epic tale of migration, settlement, survival, slavery, and the making of the Americas.

As it grew, the sugar trade enriched Europe as never before, financing the Industrial Revolution and fuelling the Enlightenment. It also became the basis of many economies in South America, played an important part in the evolution of the United States as a world power, and transformed the Caribbean into an archipelago of riches. But this sweet and hugely profitable trade-"white gold," as it was known-had profoundly less palatable consequences in its precipitation of the enslavement of Africans to work the fields on the islands and, ultimately, throughout the American continents. Interspersing the tectonic shifts of colonial history with her family's experience, Stuart explores the interconnected themes of settlement, sugar, and slavery with extraordinary subtlety and sensitivity. In examining how these forces shaped her own family-its genealogy, intimate relationships, circumstances of birth, varying hues of skin-she illuminates how her family, among millions of others like it, in turn transformed the society in which they lived and how that interchange continues to this day. Shifting between personal and global history, Stuart gives us a deepened understanding of the connections between continents, between black and white, between men and women, between the free and the enslaved. It is a story brought to life with riveting and unparalleled immediacy, a story of fundamental importance to the making of our world.
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 25, 2013
ISBN:
9781452682662
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Andrea Stuart was brought up in the Caribbean and the US. She has lived in Paris and now lives in London. She is the author of two acclaimed biographies, Showgirls, about Josephine Baker, published by Jonathan Cape in 1996 and Josephine: The Rose of Martinique, a biography of the Empress Josephine, published by Macmillan in 2003. She is co-editor of the Black Film Bulletin and Fiction Editor of Critical Quarterly.


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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Stuart uses her own family's history to tell the story of race, slavery and sugar in Barbados from the 17th century to the WW II period. The focus on one family does make one feel as if a lot of the historical background is being skimmed. But, the central purpose of the book is to illustrate aspects of the system through one family's history and she does that well.
  • (4/5)
    Like a good piece of cake you can't put down. Reads without efforts. Andrea Stuart takes us thru 3 periods of her family's History; The Pioneer, The Plantocrat and The legacy. With her writing we can live her ancestors' day to day lives. Since she is a descendant from a mix of a master with his slaves, we can feel the compassion and the understanding tone of that era without forgetting the weight on future generation of the whites' action and beliefs' of that time. Well balanced between social explanations and her ancestors' lives. Deeply enjoyed it
  • (4/5)
    Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart tells the story of her family’s history, and in doing so, the history of the island of Barbados. As a colony of England it’s main purpose was agriculture and many different crops were tried, but when sugar was planted, it created a rich planters’ society. Known as white gold, the demand for this product made a source of labour and manpower imperative and what they turned to was cheap slave labour. At first bringing in slaves from Africa and then finding that it was cheaper to breed rather than buy, a large slave population grew on the island.Andrea Stuart is the result of the mixing of these white planters with a nubile slave girl and she can trace her great-great- great-great grandparents back to Robert Cooper Ashby, a fifth generation, well -to-do planter and an unnamed slave girl. A child from this relationship, born in 1803, was given a proper Christen name instead of a slave name and she can trace her family in great detail from there. The author is very clear on what this shackled existence meant to generations of her family.The story of both the Ashbys and Barbados is a complex one, and this book gives the reader some disturbing views of class, race, gender, property and greed. Well researched and full of details, I still found Sugar In The Blood a rather dry look at how entwined the sugar market and the slave trade were. I actually found the second half of the book more interesting as the author wrote about emancipation and the political and social issues of the day.
  • (3/5)
    I'd expected more of a memoir - found this interesting, but a little dry. At least I know a lot more about the history of Barbados now, and I appreciate the horrific conditions that made the rich white men rich.
  • (4/5)
    Andrea Stuart manages to fit a history of her family, the colonization of the Caribbean and the growth of sugar cultivation and slavery in a beautifully-written 300 pages. I began this book a week or so after finishing Adam Hochschild's "Bury the Chains", a history of the British abolitionist movement, and would recommend others do the same: Hochschild describes the small group of men and women who ended the slave trade and slavery, and Stuart describes the slaveholders and the slaves, not to mention the descendants of both.