Laura F. Edwards

Peabody Family Professor of History in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences

External address: 
333 Carr Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
Box 90719, Durham, NC 27708-0719
(919) 668-1435


My research focuses on women, gender, and the law in the nineteenth-century, particularly the U.S. South. In addition to articles on these topics, I have published 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 awarded the Charles Sydnor Prize for the best book in southern history by the Southern Historical Association and the Littleton-Griswold Prize for the best book in American Law and Society by the American Historical Association.  I have received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Humanities Center, the Newberry Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Smithsonian Institution.  I am now working on a new book project, Only the Clothes on Her Back:  Women, Textiles, and State Formation in the Nineteenth Century United States.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1991

  • M.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1987

  • B.A., Northwestern University 1985

Edwards, LF. "Reconstruction and the History of Governance." The World the War Made. Ed. G Downs and K Masur. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2015. 30-44. (Essay)

Edwards, LF. "Laura Edwards on the Early Republic, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Women’s History." The Historians Behind the History: Conversations with Southern Historians. Ed. M Bever and S Suarze. Birmingham, AL: University of Alabama press, 2015.

Edwards, LF. "Epilogue (In preparation)." Rethinking Emancipation: Legacies of Slavery and the Quest for African American Freedom. Ed. W Link. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Edwards, LF. "The Material Conditions of Dependency: The Hidden History of Free Women’s Control of Property in the Early Nineteenth Century South." Signposts: New Directions in Southern Legal History. Ed. S Hadden and P Minter. University of Georgia Press, 2013. 171-92. (Essay)

Edwards, LF. "The Contradictions of Democracy in American Institutions." Democracy from Book to Life: Language and Practice in the North Atlantic 1750-1850. Ed. J Innes and M Philp. Oxford University Press, 2013. 40-54. (Essay)

Edwards, LF. "Up from the Pedestal: The Influence of Anne Scott's Ladies on Southern Women's History." Writing Women's History: A Tribute to Anne Firor Scott. Ed. E Payne. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2011. 28-63. (Essay)

Edwards, LF. "The Civil War and Reconstruction." The Cambridge History of Law in America: Volume 2, The Long Nineteenth Century. Ed. C Tomlins and M Grossberg. NY: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 313-344. (Essay)

Edwards, LF. "Reconstruction, Women, and Political Culture." Reconstruction in North Carolina. Ed. PD Escott. University of North Carolina Press, 2008. (Essay)

Edwards, LF. "Emancipation and its consequences." A Companion to the American South. November 30, 2007. 269-283. Full Text

Edwards, LF. "The People’s Sovereignty and the Law: Defining Gender, Race, and Class Differences in the Antebellum South." Beyond Black and White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the United States South and Southwest. Ed. S Cole. Arlington, Texas: University of Texas Press for the University of Texas, Arlington, 2004. 3-34.


Edwards, LF. "The History in "Critical Legal Histories": Robert W. Gordon. 1984. Critical Legal Histories. Stanford Law Review 36:57-125." LAW AND SOCIAL INQUIRY-JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN BAR FOUNDATION 37.1 (2012): 187-199. Full Text

Edwards, LF. "The Peace: The Meaning and Production of Law in the Post-Revolutionary United States." University of California, Irvine Law Review 1 (September 2011): 565-85.

Edwards, LF. "Southern History as US History." JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY 75.3 (August 2009): 533-564.

Edwards, LF. "The Forgotten Legal World of Thomas Ruffin: The Power of Presentism in the History of Slave Law." North Carolina Law Review 87 (March 2009): 855-900.

Edwards, LF. "Law, Domestic Violence, and the Limits of Patriarchal Authority in the Antebellum South." Journal of Southern History 65 (November 1999): 733-70.


Edwards, LF. "Textiles: Popular culture and the law." January 1, 2016.

Edwards, LF. "Women and Work in Florida: A Photographic Essay." Tampa Bay History 18 (1996): 32-48.