The entrance to the Department of History’s office in Sidney Smith Hall

Bret Edwards

PhD Program


Major and Minor Fields:

Major: Canada

Minor: Modern United States, Cultural History Supervisor: Steve Penfold

Dissertation Title:

“A Bumpy Landing: Jet Age Airports, Global Aero-Mobility, and Local-National Frictions in Late Twentieth Century Canada”

Description of Dissertation and Research Interests:

My dissertation explores the material and discursive transformation of major Canadian airports  in the early decades of the jet age and the wider socio-spatial impact of these changes. I argue that multiple, radical shifts in the form, function, and meaning of Canada’s largest and busiest airports between 1960 and 1990 was linked to local and national responses by state and non-state actors to the expansion of jet travel and the rise of a new global aero-mobility that accelerated the movement of bodies across borders. From this, I investigate how the multiple tensions – political, economic, socio-cultural, and environmental – that characterized this process of engagement played out in and around airports, collectively altering how these environments were organized, administered, experienced, and negotiated in Canada during the late twentieth century.


Sole-Authored Journal Articles and Book Chapters

“Canada and Air Travel: Thinking Historically about Mobility”, Mobility in History 5, 1 (January 2014), 134-142 (9).

“The Megaphone as Material Culture: Design, Use and Symbolism in North American Society, 1878-1980”, Material Culture Review 73 (Spring 2011), 7-19.

Other Sole-Authored Articles

“Downsizing Flight Attendants and the Deregulation and Privatization of Air Travel in Canada”. Active History, June 10, 2014:

“Canada’s Messy History of Big-Ticket Airport Projects, from Mirabel to Porter to Pickering”. The Toronto Review of Books, January 22, 2014: 2014/01/canadas-messy-history-big-ticket-airport-projects-mirabel-porter-pickering/

A Bumpy Landing: The State, Mass Aeromobility, and the Making of the Modern Airport in Late Twentieth Century Canada

2015-16 Dictionary of Canadian Biography Fellowship in Public History

Book Reviews

Marilyn Crosbie, Memories of Jack Pickup: Flying Doctor of British Columbia; Brandon Lillis, Atlin’s Anguish: Bush Pilot Theresa Bond and the Crash of Taku Air Flight 2653; Jack Schofield, A Pilot’s Journey Log: Daryl Smith and Pacific Coastal Airlines; and Jay Sherwood, Furrows in the Sky: The Adventures of Gerry Andrews. BC Studies, 181, Spring 2014, 138-40.

Selected Presentations:

“Global Mobilities, Local Stasis: Refugees, the State, and the Struggle for Citizenship at Canadian Airports, 1976-1989”. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility (T2M), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 18-21, 2014.

“A Smoothness Unrealized: Airport Security and Local/Global Frictions in Late Twentieth Century Canada”. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Historical Association, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, May 24-26, 2014.

“Canada’s Next Generation Airport: Mirabel, The Gospel of Growth, and New Spatial Realities”. Presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, October 3-6, 2013. Session organizer.

“The Bad Neighbour: The Jet Age Airport and the Discourse of Noise in Suburban Vancouver, 1973-1996”. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Social Science History Association, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, November 1-4, 2012.

“’Tuning In’: Jet Aircraft, Noise Awareness and Prevention, and the Modern Soundscape in Canada, 1973-1996”. Presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Urban History Association, New York City, October 26-28, 2012.

Selected Awards and Scholarships:

John Scholes Transport History Research Essay Prize, 2014
International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic, and Mobility, Conference Travel Award, 2014
Canadian Studies Graduate Fellow, University College, 2013-14
Jeanne Armour Graduate Scholarship in Canadian History, 2011-14
Patricia and Alan Marchment Graduate Student Travel Award, 2012

Academic Service:

Panel Chair and Moderator, “(De)Constructing Sites: Reinterpreting Histories”, Annual Graduate History Symposium, University of Toronto, 2014

Associate Editor, Past Tense, graduate journal of the Department of History, University of Toronto, 2013-14

Department of History representative to the Graduate Students’ Union, University of Toronto, 2012-13

Co-organizer, “Debt and Dependence”, Annual Graduate History Symposium, University of Toronto, 2012


  • MA, University of Ottawa
  • BA (Honours), University of Toronto


  • Earlier Cohorts