Sue Peabody, Ph.D.

A smiling woman with blond hair.


Sue Peabody, Ph.D., is Meyer Distinguished Professor of History and Liberal Arts at Washington State University Vancouver, and author of numerous books and articles on slavery, race and the law in France and its colonies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Born in Omak, Dr. Peabody grew up in the “other” Washington, our nation’s capital, where her public school education introduced her to both the French language and the historical legacies of slavery and racism.

Her books and articles have shaped the field of French history over the last quarter century. “There Are No Slaves in France”: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime (Oxford, 1996) studied blacks in eighteenth-century Paris and French legal discourse around race and slavery, including the Free Soil principle, by which all slaves setting foot in France became free. Her most recent book, Madeleine’s Children: Family, Freedom, Secrets, and Lies in France’s Indian Ocean Colonies (Oxford, 2017), is the biography of a family founded by a Bengali slave, Madeleine, in Isle Bourbon (Réunion) and Isle de France (Mauritius), 1750-1850. It won three prizes, including the French Historical Studies’ Pinckney Prize for the best book on French history. It was adapted in French as, Les enfants de Madeleine, translated by Pierre H. Boulle, Centre International des Recherches sur l’ESClavage (CIRESC) (Karthala, 2019).

Today, in addition to mentoring and teaching (her primary joy), she is consulting on the museum exhibit, “L’Étrange histoire de Furcy Madeleine,” including a traveling English translation of the original exhibit mounted by the Musée historique de Villèle, 2019-2020. She is consulting producer on a proposed historical television drama. Her current book project is The Failure of the Succès: Anatomy of a Slave Smuggling Voyage, a microhistory of slave trafficking in the Indian Ocean world.

Illustration of the Washington state topography.