Joshua MacFadyen

Assistant Professor
TEMPE Campus


Joshua MacFadyen is an assistant professor of environmental humanities in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies and the School of Sustainability.

His work examines the social and ecological problems of energy in Canadian and U.S. agriculture, particularly during the transition from traditional to modern agroecosystems. By examining the long-run movement of agricultural commodity and energy flows, Professor MacFadyen's research expands our understanding of coupled land use and sustainable food systems. It asks when agriculture became global, hyper productive, and -- many would argue -- unsustainable, and what the past can teach us about new solutions in food systems. His work on energy consumption in Canada demonstrates that our sense of the transition from organic to fossil fuels is premature; due to cold climates, stable woodlots, and the centrality of livestock and other animals, biomass remained the primary energy flow in most rural and some urban areas until the mid-twentieth century.

Professor MacFadyen's latest publications include chapters in several environmental histories of energyfood, and historical GIS, as well as articles in Business HistoryRegional Environmental ChangeAgricultural History and Urban Historical Review / Revue d'histoire urbaine. In 2016 he coedited Time and a Place: An Environmental History of Prince Edward Island (McGill-Queens University Press), and his first monograph is an environmental history of flax and linseed oil in North America (McGill-Queens University Press, forthcoming). MacFadyen recently conducted two postdoctoral fellowships, one at the University of Western Ontario (where he was also the project coordinator for NiCHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment), and the other at the University of Saskatchewan with the Sustainable Farm Systems project.


  • Ph.D. University of Guelph, Canada
  • M.A. University of Waterlo, Canada
  • B.A. University of Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown, PEI) 

Google Scholar

Research Interests

What can the past teach us about new solutions in food systems? MacFadyen's research uses environmental and digital history methods to explore this question and other themes in agriculture, energy, and sustainability in Canada and the northern US. By examining the long-run movement of agricultural commodity and energy flows, his research expands our understanding of sustainable food systems and coupled land use. 


Refereed Contributions – Books

Edward MacDonald, Joshua MacFadyen, and Irene Novaczek, eds., Time and a Place: An Environmental History of Prince Edward Island (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016).
Includes authoring chapter “The Fertile Crescent: Agricultural Land Use on Prince Edward Island, 1861-1971,” 161-194.

Refereed Contributions -- Book Chapters

[in press] Brown, H.C. PeachAngus, R., Armitage, D., Brown, S., Charles, A., Khirfan, L. and J. MacFadyen. “Building Resilient Coastal Communities in the Context of Climate Change.” 16 pages. In L. Brinklow and R. Gibson (Editors) Building Community Resilience: From Dark Horses to White Steeds. (Charlottetown, PEI: Island Studies Press, 2017).

“Hewers of Wood: A History of Wood Energy in Canada,” in R. W. Sandwell ed., Powering Up Canada: A History of Power, Fuel, and Energy from 1600 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016), 129-161.

“Spinning flax in mills, households, and the Canadian state, 1850-1870,” in James Murton, Dean Bavington, and Carly Dokis, eds., Subsistence Under Capitalism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016), 76-102.

Joshua MacFadyen and William Glen, “Top-down History: Delimiting Forests, Farms, and the Census of Agriculture on Prince Edward Island Using Aerial Photography, ca.1900-2000,” in Jennifer Bonnell and Marcel Fortin eds., Historical GIS Research in Canada (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, Canadian History & Environment Series, 2014), 197-223.

“Drawing Lines in the Ice: Regulating Mussel Mud Digging in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence,” in Claire Campbell and Robert Summerby-Murray eds., Land and Sea: Environmental Histories of Atlantic Canada (Fredericton: Acadiensis, 2013), 99-119.

Refereed Contributions – Journal Articles

[in press] Owen Temby and Joshua MacFadyen, “Urban Elites and Smoke Policy in Montreal during the Interwar Period,” Urban History Review / Revue d'histoire urbaine, submitted 12 August, 2015.

Joshua MacFadyen, “Long-range forecasts: Linseed oil and the hemispheric movement of market and climate data, 1890–1939,” Business History 59(7) (October 2017). Published online, April 2017

G. Cunfer, A. Watson, J. MacFadyen, “Energy profiles of an agricultural frontier: The American Great Plains, 1860-2000,” Regional Environmental Change (May 2017) 

I. Novaczek, J. MacFadyen, and D. Bardati, “L’utilisation de la cartographie des valeurs sociales et culturelles comme outil dans l’adaptation aux changements climatiques: exemple d’un project pilote a I’lle-du-Prince-Edouard (Canada).” VertigO-la revue electronique en sciences de l'environnement 10 no. 3 (2010) [on line]

“Breaking Sod or Breaking Even? Flax on the Northern Great Plains and Prairies, 1889-1930,” Agricultural History 83 no. 2 (Spring 2009): 221-246.


Spring 2018
Course Number Course Title
SOS 110 Sustainable World
HST 485 History in the Wild
HST 494 Special Topics
SOS 594 Conference and Workshop
Summer 2017
Course Number Course Title
HST 591 Seminar
Spring 2017
Course Number Course Title
SOS 514 Human Dimensions of Sustain
GCU 514 Human Dimensions of Sustain
SOS 591 Seminar
HST 591 Seminar
Fall 2016
Course Number Course Title
SOS 110 Sustainable World
SOS 494 Special Topics
HST 591 Seminar
SOS 598 Special Topics
Summer 2016
Course Number Course Title
HST 580 Practicum
Spring 2016
Course Number Course Title
HST 306 Studies in US History
Fall 2015
Course Number Course Title
HST 591 Seminar