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The Sugar Barons

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  548 ratings  ·  96 reviews
The contemporary image of the West Indies as paradise islands conceals a turbulent, dramatic and shocking history. For 200 years after 1650, the West Indies witnessed one of the greatest power struggles of the age, as Europeans made and lost immense fortunes growing and trading in sugar - a commodity so lucrative that it was known as white gold. This compelling book tells ...more
Hardcover, 446 pages
Published April 1st 2011 by Hutchinson Radius
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Petra-X Off having adventures
I am not pleased to think that in the House of Lords, sitting making laws that affect the British people are the descendants of these sugar barons, slavers all. They made their money through the exploitation and total control over the lives and deaths of others. They purchased estates in Britain and fancy clothes and with their money married well. Some were rewarded by being elevated into the aristocracy, others bought their peerages by laying out funds to those who could propose them. And now, ...more
Joshua Rigsby
Jun 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, research
Every wound the human race has inflicted upon itself: colonialism, slavery, rape, murder, torture, venereal disease, theft, war, sedition, genocide, binge drinking, binge eating, exorbitant wealth, violent poverty, forced self-cannibalism, piracy, sloth, deception, treason, and abuse of every conceivable color are found with suffocating thickness throughout the history of the West Indies.

After reading Parker's account, it's hard to believe that there was any place on earth worse than the Caribb
Apr 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-history
I could never have thought I would find myself so engrossed in a history of sugar production in the British West Indies, ie. Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua etc. I could hardly put this book down. In the wrong hands this could have been an immensely dull and dry scholarly work, but Parker writes with real flair, populating his narrative with colourful figures, both sympathetic and abhorrent. Pirates, slaves, merchants, traders, plantation owners, politicians, rebels, soldiers and sailors, they're all ...more
Aug 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In south dorset past stonehenge i have often driven past a landed estate with a wall which seems to go on four miles and miles and the estate seems to belong to the Drax family . It has a suitable iron gate with lions or some such animal perched on the pillars . in Oxford there is a library set up by the will of Christopher Codrington at All Soul's College which contains a collection only secondary to the Bodleian . Fonthill Abbey was built by William Beckford in the 18th century after his fathe ...more
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
An adequate history of the West Indies’ sugar plantations, their rise and fall, and their importance in gaining wealth for the overall British Empire as the central focus of the rum-sugar-slave trade. My only real problem with the book was that it was a very well-researched but strictly factual transmission of information. I do appreciate a historian’s voice occasionally making a wry interpretation. (We’re so spoiled with the plethora of great historians at the moment – it’s no longer good enoug ...more
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a great book that I would recommend to any fan of history. Parker like all great history writers is able to basically tell a story along with providing the hard facts and dates. I was really amazed to see how involved Boston MA and Newport RI were in the slave trade at the time, slave money practically built Newport it seems! It was also interesting to see the role that sugar played in the American Revolution. Basically ultra rich planters from the Indies started sending all their men to ...more
Matthew Parker’s The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, and War in the West Indies is a fine narrative on the nature of British imperialism in the Caribbean and North America. This historical epoch, despite our mythology, had much less to do with religious tolerance and political liberty than it did with greed and exploitation. Some things never change.
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best pieces of historical writing I’ve ever read. WiIl have more to say at a later date. What stands out to me in particular is the monumental death toll of indigenous peoples, African slaves, civilian colonists of all nationalities, soldiers and sailors of all nationalities, slaves, that occurred in the West Indies between the early 1600’s and mid 19th century brought on by the seemingly perpetual armed conflict, disease, human brutality, and periodic catastrophic hurricanes - togeth ...more
George Roper
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
In relation to the book, Sugar Barons, you can find an excellent synopsis at this link, which is a video of a presentation the author made at a literary festival - Write Idea - in 2011 :

The book Sugar Barons by Matthew Parker deals with the rise and fall of the pioneers of the British colonial slave plantation system which sought to capitalize on the home country's appetite for refined sugar, used in the 17th and 18th centuries to sweeten teas and the cul
Sep 11, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did not finish this book. The whole book was an incredibly detailed look at the history of the Caribean Islands. In minute detail we learn about the settling, planting, and cultivating of the major islands owned by the British. It covers personal lives, political jocking, and military maneuvers of all the major sugar planters.
I was starting to get very interested in the trade conflicts that were starting to emerge between the Northern Colonies, the islands, and England. It was also interest
Ted Dettweiler
Essential reading on the history of the Caribbean focusing mostly on Barbados and Jamaica. Not a pleasant read - it opened my eyes to much sordid history involving British colonization (this book only covers British sugar barons) and the exploitation and abuse of slaves and indentured labour that began starting in 1605 (Barbados). Gave me a good understanding to the ties between these islands and the American colonies and the various wars affecting the Caribbean and the Americas which involved t ...more
Helen Hanschell Pollock
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
Bridget Brereton Deputy Principal of the University of the West Indies, in a review of this book writes"the book belongs to an older tradition of writing West Indian histories, the tradition that was dominant up to the 1950s, before the “decolonisation” of Caribbean historiography. This older school had no doubt that the creators of Caribbean history were Europeans. These were the men (hardly ever women) who “founded her [England’s] colonies, fought her battles, covered the ocean with commerce, ...more
This book has been an emotional experience. This well researched book chronicles the rise and fall of the West Indian planter. A small number of unremarkable men rose to prominence in the 15- 18th century. It looks at major family based in Barbados, Jamaica and eastern America. Each island has a less than stellar beginning, odds are against the planter. Only the resourceful succeed. With success, the ripple effect of slavery and its effect on both the planters and slaves is excellently related. ...more
Martin Hogan
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
I am writing this only halfway through reading all the pages.

I am appalled at the level of ultra-violence employed as a "lifestyle norm". The people featured are the builders of empire in North America. This West Indies culture transplanted itself in South Carolina to reinvigorate the profit-by-brutality business.

Jumping ahead on the political timeline, South Carolina can't escape it's past of empowering its history to positions of power.

My rant. The end.
Victoria JS
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
From the moment I saw this on the shelf at the bookstore I knew it would present a fantastic read. I wasn't disappointed. It serves to confirm what I have believed for some time - that the British Empire was built on greed, self-aggrandisement and the abuse, misery and suffering of others.
A fascinating history which I lent to a friend who promptly read within the week. Unputdownable.
Best Pants
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I adored this book. Page after page of almost rote history. It delves deep into the lives of the Sugar Baron families, the West Indie slaves, and the small whites who made up the early settlers of the Caribbean. Parker details how sugar came to be a dominating factor in world politics for almost 200 years.

Every few chapters Parker transitions from the history of Sugar Baron families to the slave trade and how it had evolved over time. He outlines the methods of mistreatment, torture and executi
S0 much of American, British, and World History, for that matter, hinges upon what occurred in the West Indies during these years but for myself this history has always been told in more of a sideshow way to the subject matter I was looking at. It was very enlightening to focus in on the story in the Caribbean itself and see how the events there helped shape and were determined by events elsewhere.
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing

I decided to read this book as the reviews said that nevertheless long, it was easy to read. I couldn't agree more. The book is full of details but dynamic and an easy read. It gives the impression the author has no problem in telling things as they are.

It totally opened my eyes on the sugar and slave trade and on the west Indies and their personalities.

Proper research work gone into it.
Amazed by it through out the book.
Dec 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Not bad - some interesting tidbits would like to see the story from the side of a native of the West Indies. The slavery details were overdone and more real letters from people would have been interesting.
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars really. I enjoyed this fascinating book and learnt a lot.
There's plenty of good information in this work, but as a narrative, it wanders and circles around itself on occasion. It does so because it lacks a clear thesis that would've provided a solid roadmap for narration and analysis. The latter is weak and frequently simplistic.

Parker chose to the follow the most interesting characters (highly piratical in attitude, behavior, and brutality) in the colonization of the British Caribbean--the Draxes, the Beckfords, the Codringtons--to show how the fabu
Richard Nicklin
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shocking, powerful but slow in places

An excellent book that truly illustrates the evils of slavery, and the pivotal role of the West Indies in England’s colonial system in the Americas. Between pg100-200 it does drag a bit with what feels like an interminable list of planet families and their crimes, however.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up-books
The topic of the book is a fascinating one, but it was told in a piecemeal, fragmented fashion. It could have been a fascinating narrative, instead it simply presented facts, one after the other. I ultimately gave up, which was disappointing because I really wanted to like this book.
Dec 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it interesting but a hard read. Too much detail in my view but nonetheless the way it showed you the start and in many ways the end of the Sugar Barons was worth reading. However the details on the various wars could have been less in my view.
Wauconda Library
I've got so much to read lately that I'm usually happy to finish a book. This one I wanted more of. Fascinating topic and very well written. - Lynn M ...more
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Capitalism and racism come to the Caribbean. It's the sad beginnings of later horrors in the 19th Century -- many implications for early days in America, too. ...more
Jul 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Detailed book about sugar in the west indies and how it became in 17-18th century a major cash crop also highlights the imperial tensions between rival colonies and countries
Ankur Vohra
Oct 22, 2019 rated it liked it
I found it to be informative but a bit slow read with lot of effort required for continued reading on a daily basis. Worth a read for history buffs I guess.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fortunes done on human misery, upon human misery, upon human misery... upon destroying natural resources and other species too. Bravo.
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 but rounded up.
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I'm currently working on a new book, due to be published in August 2015, that tells the extraordinary story of Willoughbyland, the forgotten seventeenth-century English colony in Suriname that was exchanged with the Dutch for New York.

When not reading, writing or staring out of the window, I love making sushi, pubs, growing stuff and visiting remote places.

I'm a member of the Authors Cricket Club,

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