Research/Publications

I have written or co-edited 4 books at the intersection of environmental, technological, energy, and diplomatic history. Many of my publications can be downloaded here.

My most recent book is titled: Fixing Niagara Falls: Environment, Energy, and Engineers at the World’s Most Famous Waterfall (2020). This book explores the process whereby the US and Canada sought to increase water diversions for hydro-electricity while simultaneously “beautifying” the Falls by manipulating their flow and appearance. Given Niagara Falls’ iconic status as the sublime, I argue that this is a revealing tale in the history of North American conceptions of nature, progress, technology, conservation, and environment. I have also published numerous articles and book chapters on my Niagara research in publications such as Environmental History, Environment and History, Technology & Culture, and Diplomatic History.

My book, Negotiating a River: Canada, the US, and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway was published in 2014.  There were several failed attempts at a St. Lawrence agreement in the first half of the 20th century, but in the early Cold War Canada began to pursue an all-Canadian seaway which would work in conjunction with an Ontario-New York hydro-power project. This attempt by Canada to “go it alone” represented the combination of several different forms of nationalism, including a St. Lawrence nationalism that viewed the river as a Canadian birthright and the seaway as an opportunity to exert Canadian independence from the United States. However, for security and economic reasons, the U.S. was not willing to let an all-Canadian waterway come to fruition, pressuring Canada into a joint seaway agreement in 1954. Between 1954 and 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power was constructed. It would prove to be one of the most monumental engineering achievements of the 20th century, but it also revealed the peak of high modernist conceptions of technology, environment, and society. The project involved turning much of the international stretch of the St. Lawrence River into a lake, flooding over 40,000 acres, and dislocating some 6,500 people on the Canadian side alone. The concomitant rehabilitation effort is an extremely revealing episode in mid-20th century North American history.

I am a co-editor (with Lynne Heasley, University of Western Michigan) of an open access book on the history of Canadian-American water relations: Border Flows: A Century of the Canada-US Water Relationship. Covering all sides of the continent, this book aims to situate and explore Canadian-U.S. border waters as a central issue shaping the bilateral relationship over the past century. Each chapter serves as a case study, collectively analyzing the complex ecological, political, economic, and socio-cultural dynamics that have unfolded in trans- and bi-national contexts, while foregrounding the collective importance of these cases in the evolution of environmentalism, environmental law, and ecological management in each country.

As most of my research concerns the International Joint Commission, I have co-edited with Murray Clamen an open access book (published in 2020) titled The First Century of the International Joint Commission. 

I am part of the editorial collective for the NiCHE group blog, called “The Otter”, and have contributed numerous blog posts. I utilize GIS mapping in my research. In that vein, I co-wrote a chapter in a 2014 book on Historical GIS in Canada, and I co-wrote (with Jim Clifford and Josh McFadyen) parts of an e-textbook on learning HGIS called The Geospatial Historian.

I’ve also been involved in digital and public history. In addition to creating GIS maps for my own work, I was a co-author and co-editor of “The Geospatial Historian” which is an e-textbook that teaches how beginners can profitably use GIS mapping and techniques to enhance their work. I’ve published public-facing work in Slate, Washington Post, Toronto Star, National Post, Maclean’s, The Conversation, etc.

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