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

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  372 ratings  ·  87 reviews
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 f ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published January 22nd 2013 by Vintage (first published May 3rd 2012)
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My thoughts:
• The author effectively blends the history of Barbados with the history of her ancestors on the island – so it is both a history of Barbados and a history of her family – so the book is both universal and intimate
• The reading experience was uneven for me – I thought the second half was a better flow and read more easily and was more relatable.
• As this is the history of Barbados, sugar and empire in the Caribbean – the story is organized around her first identifiable ancestor to co
Jim Dooley
"Sugar in the blood" is a term often used to describe a certain type of illness. The title is particularly appropriate for this book in that it not only describes a sociological illness, but the product that runs as an influence over a culture, an island, and a family. A person can develop an addiction to sweetness and, in this case, create "acceptable" excuses for the slavery that helps it to prosper.

I was initially confounded by the book because the author's agenda appeared to be all over the
I am always on the lookout for books that will fill in my knowledge of history yet not seem as though they were written by a professor. This one fills the bill. Ms Stuart traces the bloody history of Barbados and the sugar industry along with a parallel memoir of her family's role in that plantation culture. The descriptions of slavery, which begin in Africa, then describe the middle passage and life on the sugar plantations, are so graphic that they will give you nightmares. Slavery was an unsp ...more
Aron Wagner
This book was a conglameration of "heard-it-a-dozen-times-before" and "really?-that's-so-interesting!" The first category gave good context for the latter. I also rather enjoyed the author's personal great-great-great grandparent details because they gave a human face to the story of Barbados, about which I knew almost nothing specifically, and I learned a lot about the slave rebellions of the Carribean and the differences between types of slavery on the tropical sugar plantations and that of th ...more
Dave Steinbrunn
First 2/3 of the book were great, gives real insight on both the lives of the planters and the slaves. Recommended reading if you want to see just really how bad slavery was. Last part of the book seemed a bit rushed.
Bill P.
I saw a very positive mention of this title somewhere and was intriqued immediately, my primary motive being the fact that it was about the history of Barbados, an island I had vacationed on a few years back. At the time I was struck by the fields of sugar cane and the people we saw in the fields working the cane and was left wondering about their lives.

Andrea Stuart does a marvelous job of recreating the history of this island nation thru the device of tracing her own family's roots back to the
Sarbpreet Singh
I just finished reading Andrea Stuart's Sugar In The Blood, an extremely well written work of non-fiction that attempts to tell the story of her family, interwoven with the harsh realities of colonialism and slavery in Barbados. This book is evocative of the truly magnificent work, The Warmth of Other Suns, which documents the great migration of African Americans from the South in the last century. While Stuart doesn't quite match Isabel Wilkerson's brilliance, the book is nevertheless extremely ...more
This is the best book that I've read so far in 2013. I originally was reluctant to read the book because it is presented as a "family history," and I tend not to enjoy those types of books, but I am so glad I put those reservations aside. Written by a noted author whose family is from Barbados, "Sugar in the Blood" uses the history of one branch of the family to explore how "sugar, slavery, and settlement made and shaped the life experiences of our ancestors, and our world today." A very distant ...more
The author, Andrea Stuart, follows her family from her first known maternal ancestor who migrated from England to Barbados in the 1630's, to the present. Along the way there are race issues, especially black slave, although at first in the early 1600's there were white slaves also. A while after this first ancestor arrived in Barbados, he was able to buy land and eventually plant a sugar cane crop. This meant needing slaves for the manual labor. In the 1500's Portugal had been using black slaves ...more
Marion Husband
Very interesting and well written, I learnt stuff I didn't know which is always good...pretty sure she had Queen Victoria on the throne a few years before she actually was, which threw me a bit, it's an easy enough date to check, after all. But maybe I read it wrong, that's entirely possible, but the book wasn't as interesting as all that for me to bother re-reading the questionable bit....
Sugar in the Blood is a very well researched and engaging book that tells the story of the author's ancestors on Barbados, in the context of both British colonialism and the role of the sugar industry in the institutionalization of slavery in the Americas. In the process she also provides an excellent overview of the history of Barbados, which has been the most successful of Britain's former Caribbean colonies, post-independence. This is a valuable contribution to the study of seventeenth and ei ...more
Kamalendu Nath
In the 1630s, George Ashby, a blacksmith, leaves England for Barbados, an English colony and finds foothold in what is to become one of the imposing sugar estates by his fourth descendant, Robert Cooper Ashby during the 18th century. Another fourth descendant through black slave side is the author, Andrea Stuart, who narrates a fascinating tale of brutal times and tumultuous aspirations through historical documents and surviving accounts of those times.
The narration is vivid and makes up for the
Christie Swentko
I thought this book was very well written, very informative and not only opened your eyes to the early start of slavery in Barbados but also made you feel as though you were there experiencing it with her family to the bitter end. I learned a great deal about the Trans-Atlantic Slavery through this book and after it gave me a thirst to learn more that I wasn't aware of.
If your looking for a great, honest, well written book from the perspective of a person who's Family went through Slavery and w
This fascinating book recounts the slave history of Barbados and the West Indian islands. Andrea Stuart begins with her 8th-greatgrandfather's immigration to Barbados from England in the early 1600s and traces how the island evolved from a society of primarily white to primarily black people. We learn that the very concepts of racial identity arose with the slave trade as white planters had to find a way to insulate themselves from the barbarities they inflicted upon African slaves. The West Ind ...more
Kathleen Riley-Daniels
I found this book while doing family research. I enjoyed the combination of genealogical research, sources and imaginative speculation.

This book is filled with wonderful characters and I found some information about people like my ancestor that went from Lord of the Manor to imprisoned political dissenter to being shipped from prison to work on the sugar plantations of Barbados. I loved learning where my family fit into the islands with the pirates, buccaneers, reprobates, criminals and the dis
Nadine Wiseman
As with the Holocaust, I don't think we can be reminded too many times of the brutal savagery inflicted on black Africans in the pursuit of profit by white men. Also as with the Holocaust, no matter how many books I read on this subject, I still cannot wholly encompass or comprehend the vicious, almost casual cruelty of the slave trade. What makes this book different is its intensely personal research into the author's forebears and her attempt to lift her slave ancestors out of obscurity. For m ...more
Susan Wright
I love Barbados and its people and continue to return to this place of present day beauty and graciousness. After completing this book my visits will take on a whole new hue and depth of understanding for this remarkable island. I will hear the night time rustle of the cane and whisper of the ocean in a very different albeit richer and complete sense.
Kristy Johnson
Applying sociohistorical studies to genealogical research, Andrea Stuart contextualizes the emergence of racial identity and inequality through the new world’s adoption of African slavery. Focusing on her mixed-race matrilineage, Stuart addresses the personal and the political as she relates her ancestors' intergenerational transition from plantation slaves to plantation owners. Born from a white Creole male’s extramarital relations with a mixed female house slave, Stuart’s family benefited and ...more
I initially gave this book 2 stars because I was expecting a biography, and I thought it was a very poorly-written one. It's not a biography: it's the history of sugar cane cultivation and how it has shaped our world. As a history, it's fabulous! It's been a while since I've learned so much from a book.
This long hard read is well worth it for the multigenerational story of slavery it tells. A black woman traces her family tree back to her white great (16x) grandfather - a slave holder. Meticulously researched.
Andrea Stuart’s book, “Sugar in the Blood,” was my favorite read this year and one that went under-appreciated in the lists of 2013 “best books.”

She tells the story of England’s sugar industry through the lives of her Barbados ancestors. Stuart was born on Barbados in the early 1960s. She uses her family’s history – a mix of slaves and colonists – as a microcosm of life in the wheels of sugar mercantilism.

What unlocked wealth for many Britons in the 18th century? What fueled England’s prosperity
Carol Read
I enjoyed this book. As in all family histories, there are some assumptions so it took me awhile to get into this book but by page 94 I was hooked. **SPOILER ALERT** The book ends with sociological analysis tying together immigration of her white ancestors to the kidnapping and forced emigration of her black ancestors to her current life and the country's place in the world. The line where the author states how in England she is tarred by race while in the Caribbean she is just another professio ...more
Shannon Wyss
Overall, a fascinating and wonderful family epic of migration, sugar, slavery, and the legacies thereof. Stuart did a laudable job of uncovering her family's history and of attempting to recreate her ancestors' lives. As someone from the US who is white, has no familial connection to slavery (at least of which ze knows), and who was educated by US schools, i truly had not appreciated the incredible amount of work that went into settling the Caribbean, nor the horrific brutality of slavery there. ...more
Most people are aware of the fact that the history they were taught in school is woefully inadequate. It falls short of depicting what actually happened, and ends up almost being anesthetized in a way that is less offensive to the fewest number of people.

Often too, at least in the U.S., history is segmented and we tend to gravitate towards the stories that are familiar to our own heritage. Rarely are we given a book that explores how different histories emerged concurrently. Andrea Stuart's boo
Kathleen McRae
Andrea Stuart's Sugar in the blood details life in the Barbados from 1620 when her ancestor arrived there from England .She gives a very detailed account of the growth of the colonized island to the use of slave labor to build the wealth of the plantation owners.It was a bizarre society in order to support inhuman practices.There was conflicting messages in this book as Ms Stuart made defensive explanations for things that were not defensible. For example she talked about slave owner relationshi ...more
Andrea Stuart, the award-winning author of “The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon’s Josephine,” takes us on a meticulously-researched historical tour of sugar-- “white gold”-- against the backdrop of her family’s interracial history in Barbados.

Her fascinating family tale starts eight generations back, with John Ashby—a poor Welsh planter-- progresses through generations of racial and class intermarriage, and closes off with the author’s uneasy status as an immigrant living in the United K
Laurie Bryce
I chose this book before a trip to one of our favorite places in the world, St. John in the USVI, wanting to learn more about the history of the islands. This book is nonfiction, tracing the ancestors of the author (both white and black) in Barbados, while describing the rise of the sugar plantations and slavery in the Caribbean.

I loved the historical context and perspective but I struggled with the non-fiction approach. There's not much information on the author's great-great-great-great-great
Oct 18, 2013 Yaaresse rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who don't need to be spoonfed, who can chew on some complex history.
Recommended to Yaaresse by: Fresh Air
Shelves: non-fiction
Barbados is a place most of us know little about except what we glean from cruise ship brochures and VISA advertisements: white beaches, rum drinks with wee umbrellas, lovely accents, smiling faces. The history of the Caribbean barely gets a mention in textbooks, and we never hear about it on the news unless there's a hurricane. We certainly don't think of its bloody, violent, complicated history while spooning pristine sugar crystals into our morning coffee.

I first heard of Sugar in the Blood
Many of the most informative and instructive books I've read over the years were titles I happened upon by chance, usually on a library or bookstore shelf. Andrea Stuart's Sugar in the Blood is one such work. So much more than a family genealogy, the author, by following the progress of her earliest-known, white ancestor, who emigrated from England to Barbados a year before King Charles was beheaded, and moving down the generations, has reconstructed a remarkable work of economic, political and ...more
I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

I was very excited to get a copy of Sugar in the Blood:A Family's Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart. I really wanted to like this book. I have a huge amount of respect for the massive expanse of research that the author must have undertaken in the writing of this book. It is evident, in every single page, that she very thoroughly researched the time period and e
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Andrea Stuart was born in Barbados in 1962. She spent many of her early years in Jamaica,where her father, Kenneth, was Dean of the medical school at the University College of the West Indies - the first university in the Caribbean.

In 1976, when she was a teenager, she moved with her family to England. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and French at the Sorbonne. Her book The Ro
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