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Washington State University
History | Sue Peabody

Meyer Distinguished Professor of History and Liberal Arts

Affiliate Faculty, Program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

WSU Vancouver




Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1993

Research and Teaching Interests

Sue Peabody specializes in the history of slavery, freedom and the law in the French empire, 1600-1850. She teaches early modern European society and culture, especially France and England; European colonialism 1450–1850; the Atlantic history of slavery, abolition and emancipation; and European women’s history.


Professor Peabody’s research examines the law of race and slavery in France and its Atlantic and Indian Ocean colonies and the people affected by those laws. Her most recent book, Madeleine’s Children: Family, Freedom, Secrets and Lies in France’s Indian Ocean Colonies (Oxford, 2017), is a microhistory of a mixed-race family in slavery and freedom in Réunion and Mauritius during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is the winner of three book prizes, including the Pinckney Prize of the Society for French Historical Studies for the best book in French history by an American or Canadian author. It is available in French as Les enfants de Madeleine: Famille, liberté, secrets et mensonges dans les colonies françaises de l’océan indien, translated and adapted by Pierre H. Boulle (Paris: Karthala, 2019).

Her first book, There Are No Slaves in France: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime (Oxford University Press, 1996), recovered the lost history of slaves’ freedom suits in France based on France’s Free Soil principle and legislation known as the Police des Noirs. Her subsequent works address France’s non-white residents in greater chronological and geographical scope, including: The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France, ed. with Tyler Stovall (Duke University Press, 2002); Slavery, Freedom and the Law in the Atlantic World, with Keila Grinberg (Bedford Books, 2007); The Free Soil Principle in the Atlantic World, with Keila Grinberg (Routledge, 2014); Le Droit des Noirs en France au temps de l’esclavage (L’Harmattan, 2014) and articles in French Historical Studies, Journal of Social History, and Annales: Histoire/Sciences Sociales, among others.

Honors and Awards

  • Meyer Professor of Liberal Arts, Washington State University (2010-2013, 2017- in perpetuity)
  • David H. Pinkney Prize (2018) awarded to Madeleine’s Children by the Society for French Historical Studies for “the most distinguished book in French history, published for the first time the preceding year by a citizen of the United States or Canada.”
  • Frances Richardson Keller-Sierra Prize (2018), awarded to Madeleine’s Children by the Western Association of Women Historians for “the best monograph in the field of history published by a WAWH member.”
  • Mary Alice and Philip Boucher Prize (2018), awarded to Madeleine’s Children by the French Colonial Historical Society for “the best book dealing with the French colonial experience from the 16th century to 1815.”
  • American Council of Learned Societies Sabbatical Fellowship (2013-2014)
  • Humanities Washington Project Grant (2010)
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, The Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (2008)
  • American Philosophical Society Sabbatical Fellowship (2007-2008)
  • Associate Fellow, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, Yale University (1999)
  • Research Associate, African American Religion: A Documentary History Project, Amherst, MA (2001)
  • American Historical Association’s Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant Award (1990)