• Liza Piper, PhD

    Historian, University of Alberta


    My research seeks to understand how invisible, intangible, and abiotic elements of other-than-human nature—including pathogens, rocks and minerals, energy, climate and ice—are powerful agents in our past. I explore these questions primarily in the context of lands that are now northern and western Canada, which means that I engage with histories of settler colonialism, industrialization, infrastructure, pollution, environmental activism, and resource politics.

  • Mining, clearing, and reclaiming the Rocky Mountains and Foothills, 1947 to 1997

    This on-going SSHRC-funded research project examines the history of industrial resource extraction in the Rocky Mountains and Alberta's Eastern Foothills in the era of surface mining, clear-cuts, and environmental activism.

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  • Health and disease in northern Canada.

    These works describe colonial histories of epidemics and health on the lands that became the Yukon and Northwest Territories in northern Canada. Circumpolar epidemics in the 20th century shaped historical interpretations of the role of pathogens in European imperialism in the Americas and beyond. Specifically, epidemics among northern Indigenous peoples were used to model so-called "virgin soil epidemics" that were then used to interpret diverse histories of colonialism.

    My book When Disease Came to this Country as well as other research articles and chapters, examine disease, health, and subsistence in the Yukon and Northwest Territories between 1860 and 1940. These works illuminate the ecological, spatial, and colonial relationships that allowed certain diseases (influenza, measles, and tuberculosis especially) to flourish, as well as examining the colonial ideas about race and isolation that led northern lands and peoples to be used in the construction of the historical models of health and disease.

  • Some other recent works.


    “The Arctic and Subarctic in Global Environmental History,” in A Companion to Global Environmental History, ed. J.R. McNeill and E. Stewart Mauldin, Oxford; Malden:Wiley-Blackwell, 2024.

    With Lize-Marié van der Watt, “Time and the Future of Polar History,” in Cambridge History of the Polar Regions, ed. P. Roberts and A. Howkins. Cambridge University Press, 2023.

    “Pandemic Relations,” in Reflections: Environmental History in the Era of COVID-19, Environmental History 25, no. 4 (October 2020).


    “Climates of Our Times,” in The Nature of Canada, ed. G. Wynn and C. Coates, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2019.

  • Connect With Me

    If you have questions about my research or you are interested in studying history at the University of Alberta, please send me an email: epiper at ualberta dot ca.

    Photo credits on website: 

    Electric storm - photographed midnight July 9.06, Edmonton, Alta. Peel's Prairie Provinces Postcard Collection, PC006393.

    Engraving titled, "Grand steppe Dié-tchô-ellon-trièlè. Parhélie." In E. Petitot, Exploration de la région du Grand Lac des Ours. Paris : Téqui, 1893. p. 125.

    Wop May and Vic Horner off to Fort Vermillion with diphtheria antitoxin, January 1929. Photo A11800 appears courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

    Photographs from Crowsnest Lake (Summit Lime Works), Tent Mountain (snow-topped terraced rock and lake), and Peel River fish camp (fish on willow branches) by L. Piper, 2019-2023. These photographs are licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.