Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart – reviews

Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart – review

Sugar in the BloodAn absorbing but uneven family memoir taking in both sides of the Barbadian slave trade and its legacy — ( review)

Modern Britain was built on sugar; there is hardly a manufacturing town on these shores that was not in some way connected with the “Africa trade”. The glittering prosperity of slave ports such as Bristol and Liverpool was derived in large part from commerce with Africa.

In the heyday of the British slave trade, from 1700 to 1808, West Indians (as white sugar barons were then known) became conspicuous by their new wealth. Often they cast Barbados or Jamaica aside like a sucked orange in order to fritter their profits in England. A popular melodrama of 1771, Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian, satirised planters as drunken layabouts in ostentatiously buckled shoes and hats.  

Behind the great wealth of planters lay the “triangle merchants” who motivated the slave trade between Britain, Africa and the West Indies. A typical “triangle voyage” carried trading goods from England to Africa, then slaves from Africa to the Caribbean, and finally sugar, coffee, cotton and rum on the home stretch to England. It was one of the most nearly perfect commercial systems in modern times, a loop of supply and demand. The Atlantic crossing from Africa – the feared Middle Passage – foreshadowed the greater cruelties of the plantations in the British Caribbean, as Africans were herded on to slave ships and branded with irons.

In Barbados, where Andrea Stuart was born in the early 1960s, slaves were flogged virtually into the grave in order to speed up cane-cutting and crushing. For three centuries the Caribbean island’s slave-grown sugar satisfied the British craving for tea (that “blood-sweetened beverage”, the abolitionist poet Southey called it), as well as cakes and other confections. Barbados was the first colony in the English Americas to import slave labour across the Middle Passage, says Stuart. The earliest slaves to arrive in Barbados were not Africans, however, but white convicts and other “undesirables” shipped out from England in the 1600s.

Read more:

OTHER REVIEWS: (all review links are from  the St. Stanislaus College, Georgetown Blog)

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • de castro  On 08/20/2015 at 2:33 am

    We may forgive mans cruelty to man but we should never forget.
    To forgive is human to forget is “stupid” !

    Reminders as per the above evidence of the barbaric brutality of “slavery”
    Today “slavery” is ever present “money” its scourge !

    Sad fact.

  • wentworthcarrega  On 08/20/2015 at 9:14 am

    Stuart’s disassociation of slavery with being black is very refreshing in an age of myopic lenses that generally accepts and associates it as gospel truth. The Arabs had slaves ,, so did the Europeans as well as the Indians and the Chinese. From biblical times to the present, and still practiced in several African countries, slavery is also condoned and remains a fabric of those societies.

    The truth may be hard to swallow.

    • Thinker  On 08/20/2015 at 9:54 am

      The fact remains that Chattel slavery which enabled human beings to be bought and sold as commodities affected Black peoples on a SCALE not experienced by any other identifiable ethnic group. It is being dismissive to mention that certain other groups experienced it and imply that it could ever have been at the same level of intensity.that Arabs, for instance carried it on against Africans for 1400 years. That is a truth that is hard to swallow especially for ignorant people who give their children Muslim names (as opposed to authentically African ones). The Atlantic Slave Trade just added to the ongoing genocide. How many other atrocities were perpetrated in the Congo Free State South West Africa,etc. on the basis of race/ethnicity that the world is generally ignorant of!. We talk about the Holocaust but the MAAFA was much worse.

  • Norman Datt  On 08/20/2015 at 2:41 pm

    Here’s my version:

    Sweet sweet sugar
    Less than a dollar
    A whole pound
    From the ground
    Left by slaves
    Poor knaves
    Their sweat and tears
    For all dem lang years
    Where my forefathers cut cane
    Risking licks mek he go insane
    Their blood so gud
    In the black raw mud
    With many callused barefeet
    To mek something so sweet
    Loading punt
    As they grunt
    Pulling heavy punt
    Munth afta munth
    Years after years
    For five long years
    With the bakrah like a leech
    Until we indentureship reach
    As you sit and chataay
    Sucking at your latte
    Asking for your double double
    Not realizing the damn trouble
    It took to bring that suga
    Cubes from sunny Guiana
    To your comfortable table
    Hey man! It’s no stupid fable
    Today you tek it for granted
    Done by slaves who wanted
    To run away far from the plantation
    For you can’t tender yuh resignation
    As Massa munch on tea and cake
    When they do call for a break
    Time to wash off all the grime
    For hunger was never a crime
    Stuff down me stale rotie
    With some left ova curry
    Wash it down with black middle walk wata
    Feeling so hot feel I can swim back to India
    Avoiding the eyes of the lead-hand
    He’s nothing more than a brigand
    For although he is one of us
    He’s a man you cannot trus
    He will sell you down the riva
    Just to please his damn Massa
    Back to work Oh god!
    Tek me now Oh Laad!
    The sun is going down once more
    And I know I’ll be back for sure
    I got no way else to go
    I go as the hardship flo
    Where all de is promises what a life
    Maybe one day I’ll find a good wife
    These bastards told us about
    As they smile and they shout
    Nice country, new lives! nice Guiana!
    Betta me bin stay me fat ass in India
    Than come to this hell hole
    Gun get lots a full rice bowl
    But I see a bahin smile this afternoon
    I hope she don’t think I’m a buffoon
    Only her sweet smile keeping me alive
    That’s what I’m living for all the while
    One day one day we gun hook up
    Maybe at the end of this crop
    And we gun build a lil benab
    If only the Massa won’t rab
    Me, give me my promised land
    But I hope to God he understand
    Then me and me sweet bahin
    Guh marry and raise some kin
    And hope one day one day
    When dis damn denturship end
    And when I hope I can still bend
    We can leave this hell hole Guyana
    And go back home to Mother India

    Norman Datt

  • Gigi  On 08/21/2015 at 3:32 pm

    Slavery is slavery is slavery regardless of the raw numbers. In the final analysis, many of the people sold into slavery, which is still alive and thriving today in several African countries/cultures, were at the hands of their very own people and this fact must not be ignored. If we are only going to focus on whose people were sold the most into slavery, then we must also focus on those very same people who sold the most of their very own people into slavery. The Arabs enslaved Africans but there were also African Arabs. The Moors were Africans. The myth that these foreign folks landed on their shores and successfully hunted them down in a territory foreign and hostile to them is false. These foreigners trading in slavery had no knowledge of the territory – land, climate and other conditions hostile to them. Though they were able to do this with the Irish, Scottish and English to some degree because of closeness and familiarity with the surroundings, the Irish put up a darn good fight against the English whose ultimate motive/goal was to acquire land and slave labour. At the end of the English assisted famine in Ireland, the population of Ireland was reduced to a mere 25-50 percent of its original inhabitants. In the case of Scottish and English slaves, though most were convicts and societal undesirables, many were regular folks who were kidnapped off the streets while going about their daily lives. They were also those who were tricked into leaving with the promise of great wealth and prestige.

    What is also not discussed is that males were also sexually violated. We often hear about the women because the proof is in the babies they bore. I remember reading of an instance where a plantation owner had two of his young male slaves – ages 3 and 5 or thereabouts – taken away by another plantation owner for repeatedly abusing them sexually. The case ended up in court and the judge ordered the plantation owner to pay for the two young boys he took. He did. This was one of the few instances where sexual abuse of male slaves were brought to light. Many of the purchased slaves were young since: they took up less space allowing more to be fitted onto ships, and they were easily controllable. Very few were over 25 unless they were remarkably fit or there was room on board.

    The final take away is that ALL slavery is morally wrong. And this should be the focus.

    • Thinker  On 08/22/2015 at 3:45 am

      No one is denying African complicity. SCALE is still very relevant in the long run. Try asking Arabs if they think Blacks can be called Arabs. Examine the history of the Sudan, where the so-called Arabs exploited southern Blacks for centuries.. They can’t even come to terms with the fact that Arabic itself as a semitic language has a clearly African origin. And check which males were systematically castrated to guard the harems throuhout the Middle East.

      African Complicity is discussed here for those really interested.

  • Gigi  On 08/22/2015 at 9:48 am

    Examine Sudan’s recent history and ongoing situation. Genocide and violent conflicts among the people of the same race but different ethnic/cultural background — African Arabs and African Muslims. People of the same race brutally killing their own on a MASSIVE SCALE with the assistance of the West. But yes, by all means, do let’s divert attention from what is taking place in the present by putting the focus on what happened in the past.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: