WSU Vancouver historian traces Indian Ocean slave saga

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 3:12pm -- brenda_alling

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Sue Peabody, Meyer Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and History at Washington State University Vancouver, has published the first full-length biography tracing slavery in the Indian Ocean World. “Madeleine’s Children: Family, Freedom, Secrets, and Lies in France’s Indian Ocean Colonies” was published by Oxford University Press. It is her seventh book.

A detailed family saga set against the broader context of South Asian slavery, plantation life, Parisian society and French colonization, “Madeleine’s Children” traces the multigenerational biography of a slave family and the legal battles pursued by Madeleine’s son Furcy—a slave who fought for his freedom in court for 25 years and finally won. It uncovers intimate relationships and legal disputes between slaves and free people in the Indian Ocean that have been hidden for two centuries. 

Peabody is one of the world’s leading authorities on slavery in the French Empire. Over a decade, the research took her to France, England and the Indian Ocean islands of La Reunion and Mauritius. One reviewer calls the work “both biography and global history at their very best.”

“Drawing on thousands of pages of archival and legal documents to reconstruct [the subjects’] lives with astonishing detail, Peabody presents us with the first biographical narrative of slaves held by French citizens and in the process illuminates the internal architectures of slavery and freedom in France's Indian Ocean colonies,” said another reviewer, Pier M. Larson of Johns Hopkins University.

More information is available at the publisher’s website,

About WSU Vancouver

As one of six campuses of the Washington State University system, WSU Vancouver offers big-school resources in a small-school environment. The university provides affordable, high-quality baccalaureate- and graduate-level education to benefit the people and communities it serves. As the only four-year research university in Southwest Washington, WSU Vancouver helps drive economic growth through relationships with local businesses and industries, schools and nonprofit organizations.



Sue Peabody, 360-567-9220,

Brenda Alling, Office of Marketing and Communications, 360-546-9601,

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