Matt Farish Home Page

Farish_imageAssociate Professor and Associate Chair, Undergraduate

Department of Geography and Planning
University of Toronto
Sidney Smith Hall
100 St. George Street, Room 5047
Phone: 416-978-6671
E-mail: farish (at)



I am a historical geographer, and much of my work has been concerned with relationships between militarization, geographical knowledge, and landscapes in the twentieth-century United States.  This has led to three overlapping projects:

1. A history of geographical thought in the U.S. from 1940-1960.  My book The Contours of America’s Cold War was published in 2010 by the University of Minnesota Press.

2. A comprehensive history of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, the radar chain constructed from Alaska to Greenland in the 1950s as part of the continental defence network.  This project, which has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), is a collaboration with P. Whitney Lackenbauer, a historian at Trent University.

3. A history of the US militarization of the planet in the middle of the twentieth century (also funded by SSHRC), looking backward and forward from that period, as understood through the construction and use of climate laboratories, proving grounds, and survival schools.

My broader interests include urban culture (particularly ‘from film noir to hip-hop’); intellectual history; and ‘popular’ forms of geography.




Matthew Farish, The Contours of America’s Cold War (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010).

Reviewed in the American Historical Review, the Canadian Geographer, Contemporary Sociology, Diplomatic History, Historical Geography, Isis, the Journal of American History, Progress in Human Geography, and Society and Space. See also the “Review Forum: Reading Matthew Farish’s The Contours of America’s Cold War,” Political Geography 31.7 (2012), 464-473.

Recent Journal Articles and Book Chapters

(If you do not have access to these, please contact me for a copy)

“Cold War Planet,” in M. Domosh, M. Heffernan, and C. Withers, eds., The SAGE Handbook of Historical Geography (SAGE, forthcoming 2021).

“Below the Bombs,” in C. Lauzon and J. O’Brian, eds., Through Post-Atomic Eyes (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020), 113-132.

“Making ‘Man in the Arctic’: Academic and Military Entanglements, 1944-49,” in S. Bocking and D. Heidt, eds., Cold Science: Environmental Knowledge in the North American Arctic during the Cold War (Routledge, 2019), 85-106.

“Nuclear Landscapes,” Progress in Human Geography (in press) (with L. Pitkanen).

“Western Electric Turns North: Technicians and the Transformation of the Cold War Arctic,” in S. Bocking and B. Martin, eds., Ice Blink: Navigating Northern Environmental History (2017), 261-293 (with P.W. Lackenbauer).

“The Ordinary Cold War: The Ground Observer Corps and Mid-Century Militarization in the United States,” Journal of American History 103.3 (2016), 629-655.

“Reflections on Research in Military Archives,” in A. Williams et al, eds., The Routledge Companion to Military Research Methods (2016), 21-29.

“Canons and Wars: American Military Geography and the Limits of Disciplines,” Journal of Historical Geography 49 (2015), 39-48.

“The Lab and the Land: Overcoming the Arctic in Cold War Alaska,” Isis 104.1 (2013), 1-29.



I teach courses in historical and cultural geography, as well as the history of geographical thought.



Centre for the Study of the United States, University of Toronto

Association of American Geographers (AAG)
Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG)