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Suzanne Miers Oliver (1922-2016)

Suzanne Miers (née Doyle) was born in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1922 to American parents and educated in Brussels and London. She was awarded a BA by the University of London in 1944 and an MA in 1949, the same year that she married Brigadier Richard Miers, with whom she had two children. She taught at the University of London in 1947-48 and the University of Malaya (Singapore) between 1955 and 1958. After Richard’s death in 1962, she took a Ph.D. in African History at the University of London with Professor Roland Oliver, the eminent founder of this then-new field of study, whom she subsequently married in 1990. He predeceased her in 2014.

Sue, as she was known to her many friends and colleagues, taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1967-68 and again in 1969-70 before joining the history department at Ohio University in 1970 where she remained until her retirement in 1990. During her time at Ohio, she became an internationally-known and respected leader in the study of global `slavery and abolition. While Africa remained the principal focus of her scholarship, her dedication to deepening our knowledge and understanding of this fundamental problem in human history prompted her to pursue her interests as far afield as China.

Sue was the author of two major monographs, Britain and the Ending of the Slave Trade (Longmans, 1975) and Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem (Altamira Press/Roman and Littlefield, 2002). With Igor Kopytoff, she co-edited the historiographically important Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives (University of Wisconsin Press, 1977). She also co-edited other significant collections: The End of Slavery in Africa (University of Wisconsin Press, 1988) with Richard Roberts; Women in Chinese Patriarchy: Submission, Servitude and Escape (Zed Books, 1994) with Maria Joschok; Slavery and Colonial Rule in Africa (Frank Cass, 1998) with Martin A. Klein; Women and Slavery (2 vols., Ohio University Press, 2007-08) with Gwyn Campbell and Joseph C. Miller; and Children in Slavery Through the Ages (Ohio University Press, 2009) and Child Slaves in the Modern World (Ohio University Press, 2011), also with Campbell and Miller. In addition to these works, she authored numerous articles, book reviews and conference papers. The esteem in which she was held was made manifest in October 2002 when some fifty colleagues gathered in Avignon to participate in a conference in her honor. Many of the papers presented to the conference subsequently appeared in the two-volume Women and Slavery published by Ohio University Press, an endeavor to which she characteristically devoted her own time and expertise as a co-editor.

This accomplished and dedicated scholar leaves enlightened students and colleagues on every continent. Although saddened by her passing, those of us who knew Sue will take solace from the fact that we had the good fortune, not to mention the honor, of having her presence grace our lives. 

Joseph C. Miller
T. Cary Johnson Professor, Emeritus
University of Virginia

Richard B. Allen, Editor
Indian Ocean Studies Series
Ohio University Press