Sugar in the Blood

A Family's Story of Slavery and Empire

Andrea Stuart

Published: 6 June 2013
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 448 pages
ISBN: 9781846270727


In the late 1630s, Andrea Stuart's earliest known maternal ancestor set sail from England, lured by the promise of the New World, to settle in Barbados where he fell by chance into the lucrative life of a sugar plantation owner. With George Ashby's first crop, the cane revolution was underway and would go on to transform the Caribbean into an archipelago of riches, establishing a thriving worldwide industry that bound together ambitious white entrepreneurs and enslaved black workers. As it grew, this sweet colonial trade fuelled the Enlightenment and financed the Industrial Revolution, but it also had more direct, less palatable consequences for the individuals caught up in it, consequences that still haunt the author's past.

In this unique personal history, Andrea Stuart follows the thread of her own family's involvement with sugar through successive generations, telling a story of insatiable greed and forbidden love, of abuse and liberation.

About the author

Image of Andrea Stuart

Andrea Stuart was born and raised in the Caribbean and US. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and French at the Sorbonne. Her first book, Showgirls (Jonathan Cape, 1996), a collective biography of showgirls from Colette, to Marlene Dietrich to Madonna, was adapted into a two-part documentary for the Discovery Channel in 1998 and has since inspired a theatrical show, a contemporary dance piece and a number of burlesque performances. Her second book, The Rose of Martinique: A Biography of Napoleon's Josephine (Macmillan, 2003) was translated into several languages and won the Enid McLeod Literary Prize in 2004. She is writer in Residence at Kingston University and teaches at the Faber Academy. More about the author


‘A clear, imaginative and deeply shocking account of the dark history of the sugar trade... Diligently researched and elegantly written... with the depth and resonance of fiction’ Jane Shilling



‘A diligently researched hybrid of family memoir and history... Sugar in the Blood provides testimony to the high human drama of Caribbean slave trafficking and the misery endured by millions in the pursuit of sweetness... Absorbing’ Ian Thomson

‘A shocking and timely study of a tainted past’ Sally Morris, Must Read

‘A superb feat of research and memory... astonishingly readable, her elegant, thoughtful style is the perfect foil for often shocking material... sometimes harrowing, always fascinating’

‘Much of the fiery magic of this book arises from Stuart's ability to knit together her imaginative speculations with family research, secondary sources, and the work of historians of the region... Stuart spins this rich material into a colorful and complicated narrative... With this powerful book [Stuart] explains how she herself arrived in the complicated Caribbean, and she analyzes and, crucially, humanizes its conflicted, confounding legacy... Astounding’ Amy Wilentz

‘One hell of an evocative historical writer... a sparkling history of sugar and the slave trade. It fizzes with life and is meticulously researched.... an epic story well told’ Viv Groskop

‘Required reading... astounding’

‘Stuart breathes life into this complicated area of history’ Fiona Wilson

‘Stuart confronts the great dislocations of empire’ Books of the Year

‘Stuart fashions a rich family memoir that also serves as a vivid history of Caribbean slavery, and a moving account of migration’ Boyd Tonkin

‘Stuart uses a rich mix of imagination and family research to tell this story of insatiable greed’

‘Thanks to her thorough and sensitive research and her strong emotional engagement with the subject, Stuart succeeds with her professed aim to "understand the forces that brought our ancestors together from opposite ends of the world"... A compelling, passionate and continually stimulating book’ Matthew Parker

‘The book comes alive... Stuart explores with increasing assurance and complexity the legacy of slavery and race’ Andrew Holgate

‘The transformation of ordinary Englishmen into the masters of sugar plantations where African slaves toiled has rarely been fleshed out with so much biographical detail, or indeed, told by a descendant as elegant as Stuart... Captivating’ Valerie Grove

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