Matt Farish Home Page

Farish_imageAssociate Professor

Department of Geography and Program in Planning
University of Toronto
Sidney Smith Hall
100 St. George Street, Room 5047
Phone: 416-978-6671
Fax: 416-946-3886
E-mail: farish (at)



I am a historical geographer, and much of my work has been concerned with relationships between militarization and geographical knowledge 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 St. Jerome’s University (University of Waterloo).

3. A history of American military research on ‘nature’ in the twentieth century (also funded by SSHRC).  My emphasis to date has been on mid-century climate laboratories and survival schools.

My broader interests include: North American urban culture (particularly from the 1940s-1980s); geopolitics and media; and ‘popular’ forms of geography.



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

(See 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

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

“Reflections on Research in Military Archives,” in Neil Jenkings, Matthew Rech, Alison Williams, and Rachel Woodward, eds., The Routledge Research Companion to Military Research Methods (in press, 2016).

“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.

“Militarization,” in Klaus Dodds, Merje Kuus, and Joanne Sharp, eds., The Ashgate Research Companion to Critical Geopolitics (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2013), 247-262.

“Creating Cold War Climates: The Laboratories of American Globalism,” in John R. McNeill and Corinna R. Unger, eds., Environmental Histories of the Cold War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 51-84.

“High Modernism in the North: Planning Frobisher Bay and Inuvik,” Journal of Historical Geography 35.3 (2009), 517-544 (with P. W. Lackenbauer).

“The Cold War on Canadian Soil: Militarizing a Northern Environment,” Environmental History 12.4 (2007), 921-950 (with P. W. Lackenbauer).

“Panic, Civility, and the Homeland,” in War, Citizenship, Territory, eds. D. Cowen and E. Gilbert (New York: Routledge, 2007), 97-118.

“Targeting the Inner Landscape,” in Violent Geographies: Fear, Terror, and Political Violence, eds. D. Gregory and A. Pred (New York: Routledge, 2007), 255-271.

“Between Regions: Science, Militarism, and American Geography from World War to Cold War,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 96.4 (2006), 807-826 (with T. J. Barnes). [Reprinted in four collections of key works in geography]

“Frontier Engineering: From the Globe to the Body in the Cold War Arctic,” The Canadian Geographer 50.2 (2006), 177-196.


Other Publications

Review of D. Vine, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World (Metropolitan, 2015), Los Angeles Review of Books 16 March 2016.

Matthew Farish, “Introduction: Histories of Cold War Cities,” Urban History 42.4 (2015), 543-546(with D. Monteyne).

“Battling Shadows,” Dialogues in Human Geography 4.3 (2014), 324-326.

“The Arctic is no place for military spectacles,” The Globe and Mail 13 August 2013.

Matthew Farish, “Need-to-know: On Area 51,” Toronto Review of Books 2 (December 2011).

“Locating the American Military-Industrial Complex: An Introduction,” Antipode 43.3 (2011), 777-782 (with P. Vitale).

“Maps and the State,” International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Vol. 6, eds. N. Thrift and R. Kitchen (Oxford: Elsevier, 2009), 442-454. (Overview entry, 9485 words)

“Military, and Geography,” International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Vol. 7, eds. N. Thrift and R. Kitchen (Oxford: Elsevier, 2009), 116-121. (Standard entry, 4601 words)



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



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

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