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Gunther W. Peck, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Hart Leadership Program and Associate Professor of Public Policy Studies and Bass Fellow of History  

Office Location: 308 Carr Bldg, 136 Public Policy, Durham, NC 27708
Office Phone: (919) 668-5297
Duke Box: 90719
Email Address: peckgw@duke.edu
Web Page: http://www.pubpol.duke.edu/people/faculty/peck/

Areas of Expertise

  • Environment and Energy, Environmental History
  • History
  • Immigration and Migration

Ph.D., Yale University, 1994
MPhil, Yale University, 1991
M.A., Yale University, 1991
MA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1989
M.A., University of Wisconsin at Madison, 1989
B.A., Princeton University, 1984

Research Categories: comparative labor, immigration, and environmental history

Research Description: The central problem I have studied as an historian of labor, immigration, and the environment has been the persistence of unfree labor relations in North America and the social, cultural, and geographic reasons for that complex reality. I am currently writing two books on the long history of human trafficking. The first, entitled "Trafficking in Race: White Slavery and the Rise of a Transatlantic Working Class, 1660-1860," explores the relationship between the history of human trafficking and the discourses of antislavery, whiteness, and humanity that structured efforts to rescue trafficked Anglo-American subjects when African chattel slavery remained legal. I have published one article from the book, entitled "White Slavery and Whiteness" and am currently revising a second entitled "Reading Whiteness: From Christian Servants to White Servants in the Colonial State Papers, 1660-1720." I have also completed much of the research on a second policy-oriented book entitled "The Shadow of White Slavery: Innocence, Rescue, and Race in Contemporary Human Trafficking Campaigns." I have published one article from this project entitled "Feminizing White Slavery: Marcus Braun and the Transnational Traffic in White Bodies" and have a second article, "The Shadow of White Slavery" forthcoming as a chapter in a book called History and Foreign Policy: How Understanding the Past can Help Current Leaders, published by Harvard University Press. My interests in the history of immigration, labor, and international relations grew out of my first book. Entitled Reinventing Free Labor: Padrones and Immigrant Workers in the North American West, 1880-1930, the book examined the histories of three infamous padrones and the immigrant workers they imported to North America and exploited. Published by Cambridge University Press in 2000, the book won the Taft prize for best book in North American Labor History, the Billington Prize for the best book in frontier history, and the Pacific Coast Branch Award for best book in comparative North American history. I have also published articles on labor, immigration, and environmental history in The Journal of American History, Social History, Labor History, The Western Historical Quarterly, and Environmental History. I have a joint appointment in the Department of History and the Terry Sanford Institute in Public Policy and teach undergraduate courses in ethics, North American environmental history, North American immigration history, and 20th century U.S. social and cultural history. I also teach graduate seminars in social theory and transnational history in the Department of History.

Recent Publications   (More Publications)

  1. Peck, G. "Labor abolition and the politics of white victimhood: Rethinking the history of working-class racism." Journal of the Early Republic 39.1 (March, 2019): 89-98. [doi]
  2. Peck, GW. "Movement Culture in Durham, North Carolina (forthcoming)." TBD (April, 2016).  [abs]
  3. Peck, GW. The Shadow of White Slavery: Innocence, Rescue, and Empire in Contemporary Human Trafficking Campaigns (In Progress). April, 2016.
  4. Peck, GW. Trafficking in Race: White Slavery and the Rise of a Transatlantic Working Class, 1660-1860 (In Progress). April, 2016.
  5. Peck, GW. "Reinventing Free Labor: Immigrant Padrones and Contract Laborers in North America, 1885 - 1925 (forthcoming)." The Workers' West (April, 2016).


My research focuses on the long history of human trafficking and its relationship to the evolution of racial ideology, humanitarian intervention, and immigration policy in North America and Europe.

In addition to mentoring both History and Public Policy graduate students, I regularly teach four undergraduate lecture courses entitled “Immigrant Dreams, American Realities: U.S. Immigration Policy History,”  “Historicizing Whiteness,” “Human Trafficking, Past to Present,” and “North American Environmental History.”  As a community activist in North Carolina, I have also taken a keen interest in voting rights and understanding how and why citizens do and do not vote.


Gunther W. Peck