Dr. Sue Peabody
History is a story we tell ourselves about who we are. I love this definition for two reasons. First, it emphasizes the story-telling inherent in all histories. That is, histories are invented and crafted to engage particular audiences. That doesn't mean that they are entirely fictive -- indeed, professional historians go to great length to argue and prove the truth of their stories -- but at the heart of a good history are great characters and plot. Second, the emphasis on we asks us about the boundaries of identity. Who are the "we" in our histories and who are the "they"? How do the stories that we tell implicate us in our relationships to humanity and the rest of the planet?
Historical research uses archival and published documents to recover the lives and perspectives of the past. My research traces French law and policy regarding the presence of blacks, often enslaved, in the metropole, as well as colonial slave law, and has allowed me to travel to France, Brazil, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion, Mauritius, and Canada. Funded by the American Historical Association's Bernadotte Schmidt Prize, the University of Iowa, Washington State University, the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, the American Philosophical Society, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Edward G. Meyer Professorship, and the American Council of Learned Societies, my books include: "There Are No Slaves in France": The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Regime (Oxford, 1996); The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France, co-edited with Tyler Stovall (Duke, 2002); Slavery, Freedom and the Law in the Atlantic World, with Keila Grinberg (Bedford/St. Martins, 2007); Escravidão e Liberdade nas Américas, Coleção FGV de Bolso, (Rio de Janeiro, Editora da FGV, 2013); Free Soil in the Atlantic World, co-edited with Keila Grinberg (Routledge, 2014); and Le Droit des Noirs en France au Temps de l'Esclavage (Hachette, 2014). A new biography of an enslaved family in France's Indian Ocean empire with the working title, Madeleine's Children: Family, Freedom, Secrets and Lies in France's Indian Ocean Colonies, 1750-1850 will be published by Oxford University Press in 2016.