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); 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

“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.

“Militarization,” in K. Dodds, M. Kuus, and J. 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.



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)