My research employs ordinary commodities to reveal the social and environmental impact of modern agriculture. My latest project examines the history of biomass energy in rural Canada, and I have also written about sodbusting and soil treatment on Canadian farms. This section of the website provides summaries of some of the work I do with:



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). ISBN: 9780773546936.

Joshua MacFadyen, Flax Americana: A History of the Fibre and Oil that Covered a Continent. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, [in press].


In addition to the research published in my blogs and the items above, some of my print publications are available here:


ADM Linseed Oil Company

Long-range forecasts

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





Owen Temby and Joshua MacFadyen, “Urban Elites, Energy, and Smoke Policy in Montreal during the Interwar Period,” Urban History Review / Revue d’histoire urbaine, Fall 2016 / Spring 2017.

“Building Resilient Coastal Communities in the Context of Climate Change.” 169-190. withBrown, H.C. PeachAngus, R., Armitage, D., Brown, S., Charles, A., and Khirfan, L. In L. Brinklow and R. Gibson eds., From Black Horses to White Steeds: Building Community Resilience (Charlottetown, PEI: Island Studies Press, 2017). ISBN: 978-1-988692-07-4 Publisher website.

Hewers of Wood

Hewers of Wood

Joshua MacFadyen, “Hewers of Wood: A History of Wood Energy in Canada,” in Ruth Sandwell ed., Powering Up: The History of Fuel, Power and Energy in Canada, 1800-2015 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press), 129-161. Publisher website.





The Fertile Crescent

The Fertile Crescent

Joshua MacFadyen, “The Fertile Crescent: Agricultural Land Use on Prince Edward Island, 1861-1971,” in 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, 2013), 195-217. Publisher website.




Joshua MacFadyen, “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. Publisher website.

Top-Down History

Top-Down History [pdf]

Joshua MacFadyen and William Glen, “Top-down history: Delimiting forests, farms, and the Agricultural Census on Prince Edward Island using Aerial Photography, c.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

Drawing Lines in the Ice [pdf]

Joshua MacFadyen, “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.





Time Flies, Poster

Time Flies, Poster [pdf]

Joshua MacFadyen and Alan MacEachern, “Time Flies: Aerial Photography and Landscape Change in Prince Edward Island, 1935-2010,” American Society for Environmental History meeting, Toronto, ON, April 2013 [Awarded the Best Poster].





Breaking Sod or Breaking Even

Breaking Sod or Breaking Even [pdf]

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

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