Laura F. Edwards

Laura F. Edwards

Peabody Family Distinguished 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 American Bar Foundation,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:  Textiles, Law, and Commerce in the Nineteenth Century United States.

Education & Training

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

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

  • B.A., Northwestern University 1985

Selected Grants

Only the Clothes on Her Back: Textiles, Law, and Commerce in the Nineteenth-Century United States awarded by American Council of Learned Societies (Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2020

Only the Clothes on Her Back: Textiles, Law, and Commerce in the Nineteenth-Century United States awarded by Newberry Library (Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2020

Fellowships, Supported Research, & Other Grants

Visiting Neukom Fellows Chair in Diversity and Law awarded by American Bar Foundation, (2016 to 2017)

Mellon Research Fellowship awarded by The Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, (2014)

Guggenheim Fellowship awarded by John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (2012 to 2013)

Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship awarded by National Humanities Center (2007 to 2008)

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities awarded by The Newberry Library (2006 to 2007)

NEH Postdoctoral Fellowship awarded by National Endowment for the Humanities (2000 to 2001)

Research Fellow awarded by American Center for Politics and Public Policy (1998 to 1999)

Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellowship awarded by National Museum of American History (1995)

Edwards, Laura F. “Anne Twitty, Before Dred Scott: Slavery and Legal Culture in the American Confluence, 1787–1857. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. 285. $49.99 cloth (ISBN 9781107112063).Law and History Review, vol. 36, no. 3, Cambridge University Press (CUP), Aug. 2018, pp. 681–83. Crossref, doi:10.1017/s0738248018000238. Full Text

Edwards, L. F. “Afterward.” The Civil War and the Transformation of American Citizenship, edited by Paul Quigley, Louisiana State University Press, 2018, pp. 217–36.

Edwards, L. F. “Law as Social History.” The Oxford Handbook of Legal History, edited by Christopher Tomlins and Markus Dubber, Oxford University Press, 2018.

Edwards, L. F. “Reconstruction and the History of Governance.” The World the War Made, edited by G. Downs and K. Masur, University of North Carolina Press, 2015, pp. 30–44.

Edwards, L. F. “Laura Edwards on the Early Republic, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Women’s History.” The Historians Behind the History:  Conversations with Southern Historians, edited by M. Bever and S. Suarze, University of Alabama press, 2015.

Edwards, L. F. “Epilogue.” Rethinking Emancipation: Legacies of Slavery and the Quest for African American Freedom, edited by W. Link, Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 252–70.

Edwards, L. F. “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, edited by S. Hadden and P. Minter, University of Georgia Press, 2013, pp. 171–92.

Edwards, L. F. “The Contradictions of Democracy in American Institutions.” Democracy from Book to Life: Language and Practice in the North Atlantic 1750-1850, edited by Joanna Innes and Mark Philp, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 40–54.

Edwards, L. F. “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, edited by E. Payne, University Press of Mississippi, 2011, pp. 28–63.

Edwards, L. F. “Reconstruction, Women, and Political Culture.” Reconstruction in North Carolina, edited by Paul D. Escott, University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

Edwards, L. F. “The Civil War and Reconstruction.” The Cambridge History of Law in America:  Volume 2, The Long Nineteenth Century, edited by C. Tomlins and M. Grossberg, Cambridge University Press, 2008, pp. 313–44.


Edwards, L. F. “Response to Rebecca Scott's "discerning a Dignitary Offense".” Law and History Review, Jan. 2020. Scopus, doi:10.1017/S0738248019000920. Full Text

Edwards, L. F. “Rights that made the world right.” Judicature, vol. 102, no. 2, June 2018, pp. 14–25.

Edwards, L. F. “Sarah Allingham's sheet and other lessons from legal history.” Journal of the Early Republic, vol. 38, no. 1, Mar. 2018, pp. 121–47. Scopus, doi:10.1353/jer.2018.0009. Full Text

Edwards, Laura F. “The Reconstruction of Rights: The Fourteenth Amendment and Popular Conceptions of Governance.” Journal of Supreme Court History, vol. 41, no. 3, Wiley, Nov. 2016, pp. 310–28. Crossref, doi:10.1111/jsch.12121. Full Text

Edwards, L. F. “Textiles: Popular culture and the law.” Buffalo Law Review, vol. 64, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 193–214.

Edwards, L. F. “The History in "Critical Legal Histories": Robert W. Gordon. 1984. Critical Legal Histories. Stanford Law Review 36:57-125.” Law and Social Inquiry, vol. 37, no. 1, Dec. 2012, pp. 187–99. Scopus, doi:10.1111/j.1747-4469.2012.01301.x. Full Text

Edwards, L. F. “The Peace: The Meaning and Production of Law in the Post-Revolutionary United States.” University of California, Irvine Law Review, vol. 1, Sept. 2011, pp. 565–85.

Edwards, Laura F. “Southern History as US History.” Journal of Southern History, vol. 75, no. 3, Aug. 2009, pp. 533–64.

Edwards, L. F. “The Forgotten Legal World of Thomas Ruffin: The Power of Presentism in the History of Slave Law.” North Carolina Law Review, vol. 87, Mar. 2009, pp. 855–900.

Edwards, L. F. “Status Without Rights: African American and the Tangled History of Law and Governance in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. South.” American Historical Review, vol. 112, Apr. 2007, pp. 365–93.


Edwards, L. F. “You Can’t Go Home Again: Politics, War, and Domestic Life in the Nineteenth-Century South.” Reviews in American History, vol. 25, 1997, pp. 570–76.

Edwards, L. F. “Women and Work in Florida: A Photographic Essay.” Tampa Bay History, vol. 18, 1996, pp. 32–48.