The Sugar Barons by Matthew Parker
Family, Corruption, Empire, and War in the West Indies

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Synopsis

To those who travel there today, the West Indies are unspoiled paradise islands. Yet that image conceals a turbulent and shocking history. For some 200 years after 1650, the West Indies were the strategic center of the western world, witnessing 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 it became known as "white gold." As Matthew Parker vividly chronicles in his sweeping history, the sugar revolution made the English, in particular, a nation of voracious consumers-so much so that the wealth of her island colonies became the foundation and focus of England's commercial and imperial greatness, underpinning the British economy and ultimately fueling the Industrial Revolution. Yet with the incredible wealth came untold misery: the horror endured by slaves, on whose backs the sugar empire was brutally built; the rampant disease that claimed the lives of one-third of all whites within three years of arrival in the Caribbean; the cruelty, corruption, and decadence of the plantation culture.
While sugar came to dictate imperial policy, for those on the ground the British West Indian empire presented a disturbing moral universe. Parker brilliantly interweaves the human stories of those since lost to history whose fortunes and fame rose and fell with sugar. Their industry drove the development of the North American mainland states, and with it a slave culture, as the plantation model was exported to the warm, southern states. Broad in scope, rich in detail, The Sugar Barons freshly links the histories of Europe, the West Indies, and North America and reveals the full impact of the sugar revolution, the resonance of which is still felt today.
 

About Matthew Parker

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MATTHEW PARKER recently earned an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and has been drug- and crime-free since 2002. Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, he now lives in New York City.
 
Published November 13, 2012 by Walker & Company. 464 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, History, Travel, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Sugar Barons

Kirkus Reviews

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A rich, multifaceted account of the greed and slavery bolstering the rise of England's mercantile empire.

Aug 02 2011 | Read Full Review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Cor...

Publishers Weekly

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Tiny Caribbean islands generate outsized wealth, influence, and cruelty in this gripping history of the British West Indies. Historian Parker (Panama Fever) recounts the heyday of the planters of Barb

May 30 2011 | Read Full Review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Cor...

The Guardian

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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.

Apr 02 2011 | Read Full Review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Cor...

Publishers Weekly

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Tiny Caribbean islands generate outsized wealth, influence, and cruelty in this gripping history of the British West Indies.

May 30 2011 | Read Full Review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Cor...

The Wall Street Journal

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J.R. McNeill reviews "The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, and War in
the West Indies" by Matthew Parker.

| Read Full Review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Cor...

The Wall Street Journal

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(All planters were deliberately violent and cruel toward their African slaves, a subject on which Mr. Parker provides considerable, indeed excruciating, detail.) For a few generations, slave labor, good soils and robust British demand for sugar sustained lavish lifestyles.

Aug 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Cor...

The Economist

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Mr Durschmied concludes that China will cause more upheaval in future, though he cannot decide whether it will attack a rival, such as Japan, start a trade war that becomes a real war, or simply implode and drag others into its civil infighting.

Jun 22 2016 | Read Full Review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Cor...

London Evening Standard

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Mar 01 2012 | Read Full Review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Cor...

Literary Review

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, no one had a good word to say about the West Indies.

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Artswrap

And, as Matthew Parker documents in The Sugar Barons, for 200 years after 1650 it was the wild and lawless islands of the Caribbean, not the more prosaic settlements of the North American mainland, where the drama of that eventful age unfolded.

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BBC History Magazine

The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire and War.

Jun 01 2011 | Read Full Review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Cor...

Reviews in History

Definitions abound, ranging from the vague – connecting world history, international history, transnational history under one ‘global history’ umbrella – to the extremely specific – narrowing its study down to the structural changes that have affected world history, for instance.

Sep 02 2009 | Read Full Review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Cor...

Spectator Book Club

In this fascinating new study, Matthew Parker (much admired for Hell’s Gorge, his history of the Panama canal) sheds new light on this neglected class.

May 14 2011 | Read Full Review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Cor...

Reader Rating for The Sugar Barons
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