Book Review by RQG Member Gary Lawrie
‘Blood Legacy – Reckoning with a Family’s Story of Slavery’ by Alex Renton
(2021, Canongate – ISBN 978-1-78689-886-9). Longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize.
Alex Renton is a direct descendant of the Fergussons of Kilkerran in Ayrshire who owned and ran plantations in the Caribbean in the 1700 and 1800’s, and owned slaves. He has used the original family records, now held at the National Records of Scotland, together with other sources to explain in some detail the family’s “business” operation and how they benefited financially from the slave trade and how these benefits have been passed down the generations including to Alex.
Renton holds no punches with the detail of how slaves were treated in his family’s plantations and across the Caribbean.
Despite what he describes as a privileged upbringing, Renton aims to highlight the horror of the slave trade in all its detail and uses many original sources, letters, business papers etc. to give a well-written insight into the reality of the slave trade. The book includes an explanation of the sources and records he used.
For any family historian with an interest in the slave trade and the role many of our ancestors played in the trade, I think this is essential reading.
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