Sugar in the Blood

A Family's Story of Slavery and Empire

Andrea Stuart

Published: 7 June 2012
Hardback, Royal HB
156x234mm, 448 pages
ISBN: 9781846270710

Other Editions


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

Ebook Available


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


Sugar in the Blood provides not only a record but a human insight into colonial crimes ... what makes Andrea Stuart's offering exceptional is the way she tells the story. Her scholarship is impeccable; her research meticulous. But it is the compassion and personal connection with Barbados and the sugar trade that lifts this book out of dry academia ... Sugar in the Blood depicts the barbarism of colonialism and asks searching questions of how mass murder and human degradation survived for so long’ Chris Dolan



‘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’

‘Andrea Stuart has written a magisterial work of history ... In tracking the lives of the Ashbys as they become enmeshed in the sugar industry and the Atlantic slave trade, the book really delivers. A four-generational chronicle threads through the bulk of the pages, alongside the story of Barbados: a unique island, first predominantly populated by indentured white labour, then enriching itself by pioneering the cultivation of a crop that came to be known as "white gold" ... Stuart is admirably clear-eyed and unsentimental, rarely using a first-person perspective, relating or surmising from documented facts that are harrowing enough unadorned ... This is a family's story of slavery and empire, indeed, and an unforgettable one’ Margaret Busby

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

‘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 story Stuart tells is in many ways remarkable. Ms Stuart is the mixed-race descendant of both an African slave and an English slave owner. Hers is thus both a personal story of 12 generations on sugar plantations and a well-researched account of this epic westward emigration’

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

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