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'Rarely has family history been so vivid' JENNY UGLOW

'An extraordinarily original work' AMANDA FOREMAN

Richard Atkinson was in his late thirties, and approaching a milestone he had long dreaded - the age at which his father died - when one day he came across a box of old family letters gathering dust on top of a cupboard.

This discovery set him on an all-consuming, highly emotional journey, ultimately taking him from the weather-beaten house of his Cumbrian ancestors to the abandoned ruins of their sugar estates in Jamaica.

Richard's searches led him to one forebear in particular, an earlier Richard Atkinson, a brilliant but flawed West India merchant who had shipped all the British army's supplies during the American War of Independence, and amassed staggering wealth and connections along the way. 'Rum' Atkinson died young, at the height of his powers, leaving a vast inheritance to his many nephews and nieces, as well as the society beauty who had refused his proposal of marriage; forty years of litigation followed as his heirs wrangled over his legacy.

Drawing on his family's personal correspondence, Richard writes with rare candour about his worldly ancestors and their involvement in the slave trade - for, like many well-to-do Georgian families, the Atkinsons' wealth was acquired at a terrible cost, through the lives of enslaved Africans. When the first of the Atkinsons sailed to Jamaica in the 1780s, the island was the jewel in the imperial crown; by the 1850s, when the last of them returned, it was an impoverished backwater. This vivid tale of a single family, their lives and loves, set against a panoramic backdrop of war, politics and slavery, offers a uniquely intimate insight into one of the most disturbing chapters in Britain's colonial past.

Mr Atkinson's rum contract - Richard Atkinson

9780007509249
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Title
Mr Atkinson's rum contract - the story of a tangled inheritance
Author
Richard Atkinson
format
Hardback
Publisher
4th Estate
Language
English
UK Publication Date
20200416

'Rarely has family history been so vivid' JENNY UGLOW

'An extraordinarily original work' AMANDA FOREMAN

Richard Atkinson was in his late thirties, and approaching a milestone he had long dreaded - the age at which his father died - when one day he came across a box of old family letters gathering dust on top of a cupboard.

This discovery set him on an all-consuming, highly emotional journey, ultimately taking him from the weather-beaten house of his Cumbrian ancestors to the abandoned ruins of their sugar estates in Jamaica.

Richard's searches led him to one forebear in particular, an earlier Richard Atkinson, a brilliant but flawed West India merchant who had shipped all the British army's supplies during the American War of Independence, and amassed staggering wealth and connections along the way. 'Rum' Atkinson died young, at the height of his powers, leaving a vast inheritance to his many nephews and nieces, as well as the society beauty who had refused his proposal of marriage; forty years of litigation followed as his heirs wrangled over his legacy.

Drawing on his family's personal correspondence, Richard writes with rare candour about his worldly ancestors and their involvement in the slave trade - for, like many well-to-do Georgian families, the Atkinsons' wealth was acquired at a terrible cost, through the lives of enslaved Africans. When the first of the Atkinsons sailed to Jamaica in the 1780s, the island was the jewel in the imperial crown; by the 1850s, when the last of them returned, it was an impoverished backwater. This vivid tale of a single family, their lives and loves, set against a panoramic backdrop of war, politics and slavery, offers a uniquely intimate insight into one of the most disturbing chapters in Britain's colonial past.

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Richard Atkinson is a publisher who has been behind some of the most successful cookbooks of recent years. He lives in London but has a deep-rooted affection for the north of England, the land of his ancestors.

'Rarely has family history been so vivid, following the generations and bravely confronting
harsh facts from a colonial past' JENNY UGLOW, author of The Lunar Men

'A wonderful, warm book, which manages to give a new, intimate twist to the epic story of sugar and slavery' ANDREA STUART, author of Sugar in the Blood

'A compelling story of war, slavery, international trade, unrequited love and a bitterly
contested will. A Navy-strength treat' NIKI SEGNIT, author of The Flavour Thesaurus

'A brilliant work of archival investigation - I was absorbed from start to finish' IAN THOMSON, author of The Dead Yard: A Story of Modern Jamaica

'An extraordinarily original and captivating work of detective biography. This is real history, from deep inside the heart of living individuals whose stories are all too human' AMANDA FOREMAN, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

'For (Atkinson) , it's not enough just to find the names of distant ancestors and place them properly on a chart. He wants to know them. He brings them to life with refreshing simplicity … It's rather delightful to share in the excitement of a newcomer to archival research … masterpiece …' The Times

Type
BOOK
Keyword Index
Slaveholders - Caribbean Area - History - 18th century.|Merchant marine - Atlantic Ocean Region - History.|Inheritance and succession.|Caribbean Area - History - 18th century.
Country of Publication
England
Number of Pages
496

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