In the 1630s George Ashby left England for the Americas, seeking a life free from poverty, hunger and religious oppression.
He was one of many settlers who came to Barbados for a new life and fortune in an island paradise. This was not an easy road but he and his family overcame homesickness and hurricanes, crop failure and disease and established themselves, earning their dreamt-of riches from sugar cane. Whilst it was hard for the Ashby family, others paid a higher price still: the African slaves brought over to work the plantations suffered appalling abuse and mistreatment, deprived of their freedom and worked often to death.
Andrea Stuart is a descendant of George Ashby but also of an unnamed female slave who worked on the Ashby plantation. In Sugar in the Blood she follows her complicated family tree through four centuries, telling her own story alongside that of the building of a colony. This tale of the founding of Barbados, its rise funded by the sugar industry, subsequent economic decline, rebellion and independence is fascinating. Using her own family records and the diaries and letters of other early colonists, Stuart paints a vivid picture of a society built on sugar and slavery. This is the best sort of history - passionate and personal - and it makes for absorbing reading. Stuart is even-handed in her treatment of master and slave, questioning the effect on people who sought freedom and independence but found themselves buying it through greed and exploitation.