Western University HistoryWestern Social Science

Robert MacDougall

Associate Professor
Graduate Chair, Department of History

PhD, Harvard University, 2004
Telephone: 519-661-2111 ext. 85305
Email: rmacdou@uwo.ca
Office: Lawson Hall 2228
Office Hours: Mondays 1:00-3:00pm or by appointment.

Research Interests

I study the history of the late 19th and 20th century United States with a special focus on the cultural and political history of information, communication, science, and technology.

My first book, The People’s Network (2014), tells the story of the telephone in the United States and Canada before the triumph of the Bell System: the rise and fall of an independent telephone movement and the forgotten struggle for a more democratic communications regime. The People’s Network won the 2016 Albert B. Corey Prize, jointly awarded by the American Historical Association and the Canadian Historical Association for the best book in the last two years on the history of Canada and the United States.

I am currently writing a history of pseudoscience in 19th-century America, tentatively called King Crank. This SSHRC-funded research project uses computational methods to trace the circulation of so-called “quack,” “crank,” and “pseudoscientific” ideas. How do wrong, bad, and weird ideas spread? And how do the networks through which we communicate shape the beliefs we hold? The goal of this project is to understand the past but also to draw useful lessons for responding constructively to pseudoscience and misinformation in our own time.

I also study the history of games and the use of games and simulations in teaching history. Between 2011 and 2013, I co-designed and directed Tecumseh Lies Here, an augmented reality game designed to teach critical historical thinking while exploring the history of the War of 1812.

I blog occasionally at http://www.robmacdougall.org/blog/ and I am on Twitter as @robotnik. I co-host a podcast about the seminal 1978-82 sitcom, WKRP in Cincinnati, called “Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser”. For more information about my work and hobbies, please visit my personal website.


I teach a variety of courses on United States history at the graduate and undergraduate level, and I lead graduate seminars on the writing and teaching of history. I have also taught courses on digital history, media history, big history, business history, and the history of science and technology. I supervise several M.A. and Ph.D. students and I welcome inquiries from potential students interested in any of these topics.

Major Research Projects

I have just completed a book, The People’s Telephone, on the fight to build and control telephone networks in the United States and Canada from the 1870s through the 1920s. My next book project is a history of pseudoscientists and cranks in 19th-century America, tentatively called King Crank. I continue to explore the use of games and simulations in teaching history and good historical thinking, and am preparing for the launch of Tecumseh Lies Here, an augmented reality game that both commemorates and subverts the history of the War of 1812.

Selected Publications


Book Chapters:


In the News

Awards and Distinctions