Nature’s Past Episode 46: Historical GIS Research in Canada

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Episode 46: Historical GIS Research in Canada

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In recent years, environmental historians and other historians have been working with maps in new ways. Specifically, they have been using HGIS software, that is, historical geographic information systems. You may have heard a bit about this already.

HGIS has allowed historians to take historical data and visualize and analyze it spatially. This allows one to present evidence in new ways, but perhaps more significantly, it provides researchers with novel approaches to the analysis of historical data. We can see things in the data with HGIS that we couldn’t see before.

HGIS research has taken off in the field of environmental history. More researchers have been using HGIS as part of what some have called a “spatial turn” in scholarship. Census data, municipal assessment rolls, and aerial photographs, just to take a few examples, can be analyzed and presented in new ways spatially with HGIS software.

Getting started with HGIS can be intimidating and it often requires collaboration among historians, geographers, librarians, and other scholars. To help researchers in the field of environmental history get acquainted with the uses of this technology, the University of Calgary Press and the Network in Canadian History and Environment have published a new book called, Historical GIS Research in Canada. You can read our review of the the book here.

On this episode of the podcast, we speak with the editors of this new book, Jennifer Bonnell and Marcel Fortin as well as a couple of the contributors.

Please be sure to take a moment to review this podcast on our iTunes page.

Book cover of Historical GIS Research in Canada.


Jennifer Bonnell
Marcel Fortin
John Lutz
Josh MacFadyen

Works Cited:

Sean Kheraj, Canadian History & Environment

Bonnell, Jennifer and Marcel Fortin. Historical GIS Research in Canada. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2014.

Clifford, Jim, Josh MacFadyen, and Daniel Macfarlane. The Geospatial Historian: Open HGIS Lessons and Resources

Jessica Dewitt. Review of Jennifer Bonnell and Marcel Fortin, Historical GIS Research in Canada. The Otter ~ La Loutre Reviews. October, 2014.

Music Credits:

“Esaelp Em Xim” by Pitx feature Caleb Charles

“Nor Egrets” by Pitx

“The Ballad of Captain Jack” by Ginger Tom

Photo Credit:

“Bird’s Eye View of Winnipeg (1881)” by Manitoba Historical Maps


Kheraj, Sean. “Episode 46: Historical GIS Research in Canada” Nature’s Past: Canadian Environmental History Podcast. 26 January 2015.

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Sean Kheraj

Associate Professor and Vice-Provost Academic at Toronto Metropolitan University
Sean Kheraj is a member of the executive committee of the Network in Canadian History and Environment. He's an associate professor in the Department of History and Vice-Provost Academic at Toronto Metropolitan University. His research and teaching focuses on environmental and Canadian history. He is also the host and producer of Nature's Past, NiCHE's audio podcast series and he blogs at


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