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 region. “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. 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.