The seventh book by Sue Peabody, Meyer Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and History at WSU Vancouver, has been called “a meticulous work of archival detective work” and “both biography and global history at their very best.”
It took 10 years of painstaking research for Peabody to earn that high praise. The result is “Madeleine’s Children: Family, Freedom, Secrets, and Lies in France’s Indian Ocean Colonies,” published in 2017 by Oxford University Press. It is the first full-length biography tracing the lives of slaves in the Indian Ocean world, and it affirms her reputation as the world’s foremost expert on the law of slavery and race in the French Empire.
The narrative brings many dramatic moments to life as Peabody uncovers intimate relationships and legal disputes between slaves and free people in the Indian Ocean world that have been hidden for two centuries.
Peabody calls the book a “microhistory.” That is, it follows one family’s story to paint a broader picture of society in their time. The individual histories of family members illuminate the types of labor slaves performed and the varying nature of their relationships with society and plantation owners.