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2016-17 Neukom Chair: Laura F. Edwards

Laura F. Edwards

Laura F. Edwards


Laura F. Edwards was appointed as the American Bar Foundation’s 2016-17 William H. Neukom Fellows Research Chair in Diversity and Law. Edwards is the Peabody Family Professor of History in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University. Prior to her position at Duke, she taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of South Florida, and the University of Chicago. Professor Edwards earned a B.A. in American Culture from Northwestern University and an M.A. and Ph.D in history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  An award-winning historian, Edwards’ research focuses on women, gender, and the law in the 19th-century, particularly in the southern United States.

Edwards is the author of four books: "
A Legal History of the Civil War and Reconstruction: A Nation of Rights"(2015); "The People and Their Peace: Legal Culture and the Transformation of  Inequality in the Post-Revolutionary South" (2009);  "Scarlett Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Southern Women in the Civil War Era(2000); and "Gendered Strife and Confusion: The Political Culture of Reconstruction" (1997). "The People and Their Peace" was the winner of the Southern Historical Association’s Charles Sydnor Prize for the best book in southern history and the American Historical Association’s Littleton-Griswold Prize for the best book in American law and society. She has been the recipient of several fellowships, including from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Humanities Center, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the National Museum of American History.

During her year at as the Neukom Fellows Research Chair, Edwards focused on research for her forthcoming book: “Only the Clothes on Her Back: Women, Textiles, and State Formation in the Nineteenth-Century United States.” The project focused on the relationship between the textile trade in 19th century America and systems of law and governance, exploring conceptions of property ownership to reveal how textile possession and trade by subordinated groups served to redefine property ownership and shaped the nation’s governing institutions. 

Research Focus: 

Women, gender, and the law in the nineteenth-century, with a specific focus on how disadvantaged and dependent groups such as slaves, women, and children used the law in the nineteenth century to empower themselves and shape their communities.

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