To those who travel there today, the West Indies are unspoiled paradise islands. Yet that image conceals a turbulent and shocking history. For some two hundred years after 1650, the West Indies were the strategic center of the Western world's greatest power struggles as Europeans made and lost immense fortunes growing and trading in sugar-a commodity so lucrative it became known as "white gold." Matthew Parker vividly chronicles how 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. 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.
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Matthew was born in El Salvador in 1970 to an expatriate family and while growing up lived in Britain, Norway and Barbados. He read English at Balliol College Oxford, then worked in a number of roles in book publishing in London from salesman to commissioning editor.
His first book, published in 2000, was about the Battle of Britain. Then followed Monte Cassino, Panama Fever, The Sugar Barons and Goldeneye. HIs new book, published on 13 August, tells the extraordinary story of Willoughbyland, the forgotten seventeenth-century English colony in Surinam that was exchanged with the Dutch for New York.
When not writing/staring out of the window, he loves making sushi, pubs, growing stuff and visiting remote places.
He is a member of the Authors Cricket Club, and wrote a chapter of A Season of English Cricket from Hackney to Hambledon. He is also a contributor to the Oxford Companion to Sweets.
He lives in East London with his wife, three children and annoying dog.