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

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  576 Ratings  ·  113 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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Bettie☯
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01h5xcj

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
...more
Lewis Weinstein
As compelling a family memoir as you are ever likely to read.

Although very well written, the read is difficult because of the subject matter; there is very little joy as the author pulls no punches regarding her family's role in the sugar-based slavery of Barbados. The descriptions of the sugar business and the slaves central role in it are fascinating and brutal. And shameful.

The blending of family history with the history of Barbados is, for the most part, very well done, although I tended t
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this for my book club. It had an interesting connection to another book we read earlier in our 2015-16 season, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, which briefly touches on France and Haiti in some of the same time period.

The author traces her maternal family line back to 1620, when the first Ashby emigrated from England to Barbados. Like many white landowners in the Caribbean, he started a sugar plantation. The next few generations built the p
...more
Jim Dooley
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
...more
Laura
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week:
Four writers create a personal portrait, exploring their sense of identity and what it feels like to be at home in Britain.

'Sugar In The Blood' by Andrea Stuart. Read by Lorraine Burroughs.

This selection of original non-fiction is taken from a glorious and sometimes feistily cantankerous celebration of Britain.

Andrea Stuart arrived from Barbados in the mid 1970s, aged 14 yrs. Hers was a plantation owning Bajan family descended from an 18th century English emig
...more
Beverly
Oct 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Dave Steinbrunn
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Florence
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Alisa
May 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's rare for a book to impact me as strongly as Andrea Stuart's Sugar in the Blood. Stuart skillfully weaves a family genealogy with a geopolitical and economic history of Barbados, then wraps it up with an analysis of the way we are still impacted by the 17th century sugar industry.

Sugar was rarely used in Europe before the 17th century. Sugar then would have come from India, and like other rare spices from that part of the world, it was used sparingly. When Stuart's ancestor George Ashby left
...more
Sarbpreet Singh
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Joan Colby
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extremely well-written and fascinating book which covers the history of sugar while concentrating on a family epic in Barbados. The family which began with a white British settler evolved to a multiracial entity of which Stuart is the latest generation. Barbados as the center of the sugar trade became home to the wealthiest citizens of the British empire; planters whose luxurious lifestyles operated on the backs of mistreated and deprived slaves. The saga of slavery in the West Indies is trul ...more
John
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kate
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Susan Wright
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Marion Husband
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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....
Diana
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-issues
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.
Ahf
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Caroline
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent look at sugar plantation life.
Mervyn Lovatt
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Breadth and depth are the watchwords here as the writer covers a long period of history, combining a well told historical overview, zooming in and out from the writer's own family history twisting the thing inside and out with subtle and complex questions of psychology and belonging, and much else besides. The common thread through it all is the breathtaking cruelty and misery of slavery. Can we ever recover?

The whole is a story that deserves to be explored. Read this book.
Dave
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How about that Robert Cooper Ashby? Great x4 Gramps certainly had some spunk. This book was awesome.
Brigid D'souza
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently finished "Sugar in the Blood" and would definitely recommend it.

I started reading "Sugar in the Blood" while on a trip to Barbados with my husband. I knew very little about the history of the Caribbean, and assumed that most of what I would see (at a Hilton resort where my husband was staying on a work assignment) would likely not inform me much about the country or its history. Stuart's book was a welcome education.

Stuart's book is a thoroughly detailed, at times emotionally wrenchi
...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
Ptwest25
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Yaaresse
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those who don't need to be spoonfed, who can chew on some complex history.
Recommended to Yaaresse by: Fresh Air
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
...more
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
...more
Kamalendu Nath
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...more
Matthew Griffiths
When I decided to read this I admit to having had some reservations about the book given the title which lead me to believe that perhaps this was to be a family history with empire and slavery as a backdrop. how wrong I was. The author has successfully weaved an engaging narrative about her family and how it came about into the larger narrative about British imperialism and the international slave trade. Even when the author engaged in long discussions of family aspects it was done with a view o ...more
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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
...more
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