About Sean Kheraj

I am an associate professor of Canadian and environmental history in the Department of History at Toronto Metropolitan University and Vice-Provost Academic. I am also host and producer of Nature’s Past: Canadian Environmental History Podcast. These are my current research areas:

Oil Pipelines and Canadian History

My current research looks at the social and environmental consequences of the development and operation of oil pipelines in Canada. I have started with preliminary work on the history of oil pipeline spills in Canada. It will also explore the historical social, economic, and environmental consequences of on-shore oil spills in Canada.

Find out more about this project at “Silent Rivers of Oil: A History of Oil Pipelines in Canada since 1947.”

Animals and Urban Environments

I am also conducting research on the historical interrelationship among humans, non-human animals, and urbanization in Canada. Canadians built their major cities in the nineteenth century with animals in mind. They were places intended to facilitate symbiosis between people and their domestic animals and exclude wild animals. During the twentieth century, Canadians worked to extirpate most of their domestic animals from the urban environment (except for those used for pleasure or companionship). My research aims to understand how these historical changes in urban human-animal relations transformed cities and changed human ideas about their relationship with non-human nature.

I co-edited Traces of the Animal Past: Methodological Challenges in Animal History with Jennifer Bonnell. This book includes a set of 17 original essays by an international group of leading scholars in the field each exploring different aspects of the methods historians use to study animals in the past. My chapter is titled, “Spatial Analysis and Digital Urban Animal History.”

Find out more about this project at Symbiotic Cities: Animals and Urban Environments in Canada.

Digital History and Open Educational Resources

Podcast Interview about Open History Seminar: Canadian History textbook project. Source: “Gettin’ Air: The Open Pedagogy Podcast”

On an ongoing basis, I continue to research and write about digital history and open educational resources. Digital technologies have transformed historical scholarship, teaching, and public history. They enable new means by which historians can research the past, communicate that research, and teach history to new generations of historians. Digital technologies also enable extraordinary new access to history and historical sources, which can be further disseminated through the development of open educational resources.

I have published several book chapters and blog articles on various aspects of digital history methods. I have also co-authored an open textbook in Canadian history called, Open History Seminar: Canadian History, which provides free access to secondary and post-secondary educators and students.

Ecological Imperialism

I am beginning work on a new research project that will examine the social and ecological consequences of the transfer of biota from the Old World to North America and the history of European colonization and biological expansion in Western Canada through a case study of the Red River colony. European colonization of Western Canada was dependent upon the transfer and propagation of plants, animals, and microbes from the eastern hemisphere. These invasive species were vital partners in European expansion in North America and facilitated substantial ecological transformations. This project has the potential to expand our knowledge of how human societies have responded and adapted to swift, fundamental ecological changes related to the introduction of invasive species.

Parks and Conservation

My prior research explored historical conservation and parks policy to understand the role that people have played in creating protected natural spaces in Canada. In particular, my work on parks focuses on the interactions between human expectations of idealized wilderness and the volatile and unpredictable condition of complex ecosystems.

I am the author of the book, Inventing Stanley Park: An Environmental History. This book explores the changing relationship between humans and a relatively small peninsula on the Northwest Coast of North America that became a world-renowned urban park in the late nineteenth century. The book covers the long history of Vancouver’s Stanley Park from its deep geological past to the present, from its original occupancy by Coast Salish First Nations to its resettlement by European and Asian colonists to its transformation into an urban park. This book is now available for purchase from UBC Press and on Google Play. You can read a preview chapter from the book here.

Get it on Google Play

I have also published several peer-reviewed scholarly articles and book chapters in edited collections:

“Urban Environmental History in Anglophone Canada: Omissions and Opportunities” Urban History Review/Revue d’histoire urbaine 50, no. 1-2 (September 2022): 45-52.

“A History of Oil Spills on Long-Distance Pipelines in Canada” Canadian Historical Review, 101, no. 2 (June 2020): 161-191.

“The Great Epizootic of 1872-73: Networks of Animal Disease in North American Urban Environments” Environmental History, 23, no. 3 (July 2018): 1-27.

“How Canadian Used to Live with Livestock in Cities” in Calgary: City of Animals. Ed. Jim Ellis. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2017. Pgs. 1-9.

“Epilogue: Why Animals Matter in Urban History, or Why Cities Matter in Animal History” in Animal Metropolis: Histories of Human-Animal Relations in Urban Canada. Eds. Joanna Dean, Darcy Ingram, and Christabelle Sethna. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2017. Pgs. 309-323.

With K. Jan Oosthoek. “Online Digital Communication, Networking, and Environmental History” in Methodological Challenges in Nature-Culture and Environmental History Research. Eds. Jocelyn Thorpe, Stephanie Rutherford, and L. Anders Sandberg. London: Routledge, 2017. Pgs. 233-247.

“Urban Environments and the Animal Nuisance: Domestic Livestock Regulation in Nineteenth-Century Canadian Cities” Urban History Review/Revue d’histoire urbaine 44, no. 1-2 (Fall/Spring 2015/2016): 37-55.

“Animals and Urban Environments: Managing Domestic Animals in Nineteenth-Century Winnipeg” in Eco-Cultural Networks and the British Empire: New Views on Environmental History. Eds. James Beattie, Edward Melillo, and Emily O’Gorman. London: Bloomsbury, 2015. Pgs. 263-288.

“Scholarship and Environmentalism: The Influence of Environmental Advocacy on Canadian Environmental History” Acadiensis 43, no. 1 (Winter/Spring 2014): 195-206.

“Borders and Ideas of Nature: Intersections in the Environmental Histories of Canada and the United States” Canadian Historical Review 95, no. 4 (2014): 604-609.

“Living and Working with Domestic Animals in Nineteenth-Century Toronto” in Urban Explorations: Environmental Histories of the Toronto Region, edited by L. Anders Sandberg, Stephen Bocking, Colin Coates, and Ken Cruikshank, 120-140. Hamilton: L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History, 2013.

“Demonstration Wildlife: Negotiating the Animal Landscape of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, 1888-1996” Environment and History, 18 (4) 2012: 497-527. Full Text (with subscription)

“Improving Nature: Remaking Stanley Park’s Forest, 1888-1931” BC Studies (158) 2008: 63-90.

“Restoring Nature: Ecology, Memory, and the Storm History of Vancouver’s Stanley Park” Canadian Historical Review 88 (4) 2007: 577-612. (Awarded the 2007 Canadian Historical Review Prize for best article of the year).

NP Logo 1200x1200 12 July 2016

I am the producer and host of a monthly podcast on the environmental history community in Canada called Nature’s Past. New episodes are available every month through the website and iTunes. I am also a regular contributor for Activehistory.ca and The Otter~La loutre.

For my complete CV, click here.

Contact me at seankheraj@torontomu.ca