Sugar, Slaves and High Society – The Grants of Kilgraston
Wednesday 11 October 2023
This illustrated talk by author Richard Blake tells a story of opportunism, wealth, good fortune and tragedies set against the background of slavery.
University of Dundee
The Grant family purchased and renovated Kilgraston estate near Perth with funds derived from enslaved labour in Jamaica.
As one of the Abertay Historical Society's contributions to Black History Month, Richard Blake will give an illustrated talk based on his recently published book Sugar, Slaves and High Society. It tells the story of how the fortunes of the Grants of Kilgraston in Perthshire were interlinked with the rise and subsequent decline of the Caribbean slave economy. The men and women of this family are a wonderfully varied cast of characters who were colourful, idiosyncratic, wayward and talented. As the British Empire extended its dominion, the Grants cemented their position in high society and left their mark on history as they encountered royalty and the White Rajahs of Sarawak.
Providing unique insights into the social, military, sporting and artistic worlds of the time, the book is a Scottish and British story which incorporates class and social advancement. Alongside glamour, adventures, knighthoods and tragedies was the ever-present reality that extravagant lifestyles and successful careers were sustained by enslaved labour in Jamaica, the links of which were hidden in plain sight.
Richard Blake is a descendant of the Grants of Kilgraston. He was born in Edinburgh, brought up in East Lothian and read Law at the University of Edinburgh. He is a Writer to the Signet and practised as a solicitor in Perth for 36 years. As a part-time, mature student, he was awarded an MSc from the University of Dundee in The Origins, History and Contemporary Impact of Globalisation. Following retirement, he and his wife moved to the Scottish Borders where he is President of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, the oldest Natural History society in the United Kingdom.