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The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, and War in the West Indies

by Matthew Parker

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1972138,589 (3.83)3
Historian Matthew Parker discusses the history behind one of the greatest power struggles of the 17th to 19th centuries as Europeans made and lost immense fortunes growing and trading in sugar--a commodity so lucrative it became known as "white gold'--in the tiny Caribbean islands of Barbados, Jamaica, and the Leeward Islands.… (more)
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"The Sugar Barons" is a detailed history of the islands of the Caribbean, focusing on the main British sugar plantation islands of Jamaica and Barbados. Unfortunately, I found myself spacing out, losing focus as well as interest for much of the time. The long personal descriptions of 17th century planters, their families, their homes, etc. just wasn't of much interest to me. I thought I might become more interested in the last 10% of the book, during the late 1700's as the United States began their revolutionary period, but the interaction of the Caribbean Islands, the American Colonies, and the British King and Parliament was all too brief to salvage things. However, that account of island trade, the importance of the sugar crops, the British war status against the French and Spanish during the revolutionary war period, as brief as it was, did shed a little light on what was happening beyond the borders of the American colonies at the time. The rest of the book just didn't carry the promised impact for me.
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  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
This reasonably interesting survey of the roots of the First British Empire is at its best when dealing with the settlement of Barbados and Jamaica, how sugar came to be the predominant cash crop, and the con-commitment to slavery as the prime means of production. Parker's narrative rapidly tails off when he reaches the conclusion of the Seven Years War, and then moves as quickly as possible to London's abolition of African slavery. Considering that Parker seems to be as interested in how piracy came to be the poor man's alternative to agribusiness, perhaps starting with a narrow focus on the origins of the sugar barons wasn't the best narrative choice; writing more of an account of London's West Indian empire from both sides of the Atlantic might have been a better strategy. Again, there's nothing actually wrong with this book, it just feels a bit thin. ( )
  Shrike58 | May 31, 2012 |
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Historian Matthew Parker discusses the history behind one of the greatest power struggles of the 17th to 19th centuries as Europeans made and lost immense fortunes growing and trading in sugar--a commodity so lucrative it became known as "white gold'--in the tiny Caribbean islands of Barbados, Jamaica, and the Leeward Islands.

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