‘A tale of wealth, bravery and debauchery – and how the foundations of the modern globalised world were made of sugar – by the author of an excellent earlier work, Panama Fever.'
Economist - Books of the Year, 2011
"Alternately coruscating and scintillating, Parker's account blends an analysis of how slavery deformed Britain's early empire with narratives worthy of Conrad. It is a tale peopled by terrifying grotesques: captains of industry whose initiative, swagger and fortitude were more than matched by the monstrous scale of their crimes." Tom Holland, Guardian, 3 December 2011
Guardian - Full review
“A tumultuous rollercoaster of a book … Mr. Parker tells an extraordinary, neglected and shameful story with gusto.” Economist, 13 August, 2011
Economist 2011 - Full review
‘informative, well-told … for all the sophisticated academic literature on these topics, no recent book provides such an effective overview.’
Maya Jasanoff, TLS, 27 April 2012
‘A compelling narrative … The Sugar Barons is a strong case for the role of popular history in communicating academic history beyond the academy.’
Bronwen Everill, Reviews in History, April 2012 - Full Review
“The fear-filled, bad old days of the sugar barons, brilliantly evoked in Matthew Parker’s spell-binding account ... colourful and absorbing.” Miranda Seymour, The Lady, 26 July, 2011
‘Mr. Parker mines the diary and the scholarship to illustrate the tawdry and often brutal sex life characteristic of overseers and planters in the West Indies ... general readers will find an engaging journey to a mercifully vanished world.’
J.R. McNeill, Wall Street Journal, 13 August, 2011
"Compelling ... though The Sugar Barons retells a familiar tale, it does so with a vigour and panache which often eludes more academic studies."
James Walvin, BBC History Magazine, June 2011.
“Parker brings huge understanding to this subject ... This is a magnificent account of a bleak and torrid era, told with great humanity and even some much needed humour. Parker’s descriptions of West Indian life are not only beautifully crafted but full of surprises. What’s more, his accounts of tropical combat are utterly compelling (in particular, Cromwell’s savage invasion of Jamaica in 1655, with an army comprised of the ‘scum of scums’). As a portrait of the heat, horror and vanity of that time, The Sugar Barons is surely without equal.”
John Gimlette, Spectator, 14 May 2011 Full review
"Life on the islands was so dramatic and tumultuous that it makes our age look as eventful as a mill pond ... Parker's rollercaster of a historical narrative is further enlivened by portraits of colourful characters... ... compelling, wonderful history ... The Sugar Barons is an exemplary book; history as it should be written."
Andrea Stuart, Independent, 6 May 2011 Full review
"A fascinating and bloody tale ... The Sugar Barons is an antidote to the modern strain of neo-conservative history that says empire was a rather good thing.”
Peter Chapman, Financial Times, 14 May, 2011 Full review
‘Grips the reader from the first page ... You may think you know all there is to know about West Indian history but I’m willing to bet Parker’s meticulous research ... will hold your interest from page one to page 364.’
Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, 30 January, 2012
‘ambitious, old-fashioned ... it shares many of the characteristics of good popular history: vigorous storytelling, a narrative flow, a fondness for anecdotes, very detailed accounts of exciting events, especially of battles and so on, and a fascination with colourful, strange, wicked, or downright weird individuals ... the book is well written, informative and readable.’ Bridget Brereton, emerita professor of history at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine,
The Caribbean Review of Books, January, 2012 Full Review
"A rich, multifaceted account of the greed and slavery bolstering the rise of England’s mercantile empire"
Kirkus, 1 June 2011
“Gripping… This is a rousing, fluently written narrative history, full of color, dash, and forceful personalities… Parker's vivid evocation of the elite evokes the queasy moral rot beneath la dolce vita.”
Publishers Weekly (US) Full review
"Racy, well-researched history ... eloquent testimony to the mercantile greed of a few and the manifest misery endured by millions in the pursuit of sweetness."
Ian Thomson, Guardian, 2 April, 2011. Full review
"Sugar, not oil, was the world's most important commodity of the 18th Century, and its trade changed the course of history and the lives of millions. Matthew Parker's grimly gripping book leavens its narrative of huge wealth and horrible cruelties, with the fascination of a fabulously monstrous cast of ne'er-do-wells, bankrupts, pirates, rapists and assorted Caribbean lowlife. It is a compendium of greed, horrible ingenuity and wickedness; but it is also a fascinating and thoughtful social history of the trade which operated the darkest of all the dark Satanic mills."
William Dalrymple, author of White Mughals
New Delhi 21. II. 2011
"Very impressive - a meticulously researched piece of work, and so engagingly written. I do congratulate you on it. It taught me so much that I didn't know about British Caribbean history. What a story!"
Andrea Levy, author of The Long Song, 18 March 2011
"Fabulously researched, the diary entries, letters and papers reveal a staggering level of corruption and cruelty. But despite the soap opera potential of the truly scandalous tales, Parker refuses to sweeten his matter-of-fact prose style for the casual page-burner. Instead he constructs, piece by piece, what amounts to a compelling prosecution of the slavery and Imperial greed that left a shocking legacy in the region."
Wanderlust, 31 March
"A shocking tale of corruption and brutality ... admirable and frequently gripping... Parker has the most extraordinary material at his disposal in this book (piracy, pillage, the destruction of Jamaica's Sodom-like Port Royal in an earthquake of biblical proportions), but he treats it with an admirable lack of shrillness.'
Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times, 10 April, 2011