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Curriculum, Teaching  & Learning
Ruth Sandwell

Ruth Sandwell

phone: (416) 978-1216
email: ruth.sandwell@utoronto.ca  

Department: Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

Research Overview

Dr. Sandwell's teaching and research interests are in Canadian history (of education, rural society and the social history of energy) and the teaching of history, and broadly reflect the importance of studies in the humanities in general, and history in particular, to theories and practices of education. She is the founding co-director and executive board member of The History Education Network/Histoire et ducation en Rseau (www.thenhier.ca) and founding co-director and educational director of The Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History project (www.canadianmysteries.ca)

More specifically, her interests focus on:
teaching history using primary documents
developing discipline-based historical thinking in students and student teachers
understanding changes in the meaning and purposes of history education in Canadian history
understanding the relationship between family, the educational state, and the Canadian economy in nineteenth and twentieth century Canada
exploring the history of rural Canada in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
and most recently, the social history of fossil fuels: exploring the massive public education campaign and changes in household behaviour that accompanied Canadians' change from self-supporting energy systems in their homes (mainly wood) to the collectivities and mass consumption of energy from the grid.

Curriculum Vitae


Academic History

Ph.D., History, Simon Fraser University, 1998. "Reading the Land: Rural Discourse and the Practice of Settlement, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, 1859-1891." Supervisor: Dr. J. I. Little. Fields: Canadian and European Family and Rural History.

M.A., History, University of Victoria, 1981. "'Making Health Contagious': The Medical Inspection of Schools in British Columbia, 1910-1920." Supervisor: Dr. Chad Gaffield.Fields: Canadian History of Education and the Family; English Social History.

B.A., English, First Class Honours, Carleton University, 1979.

Teaching Overview

Dr. Sandwell teaches one or more courses in the history department and U of T and has taught the following courses at OISE:

CTL1799 Special Topics: Bringing together theory and practice in the history curriculum: exploring historical thinking
CTL 1799: Special Topics: Education and Social Reform in Rural Canada, 1860-1960
CTL1454: Battles over History Education
TPS1461 Selected Topics in the History of Education: History Wars
TPS1454 Battles over History Education (2009 permanent course replacing TPS 1461 Special Topics)
TPS1426, History of the Family in Canada
TPS1404, History of Rural Education in Canada

Representative Publications

Selected Publications:


R. W. Sandwell, ed. (2016) Powering Up Canada: Essays on the History of Heat, Light and Work from 1600 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press)

R. W. Sandwell (2016), Canada’s Rural Majority, 1870-1940: Household, Environment, Economies (Toronto: University of Toronto Press), part of Themes in Canadian History, Series Editor, Colin Coates

Ruth Sandwell and Amy von Heyking, eds. (2014), Becoming a History Teacher: Sustaining Practices in Historical Thinking and Knowing, Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 345  pages

Ruth W. Sandwell, ed. To The Past:  History Education, Public Memory and Citizenship Education in Canada, (Toronto, University of Toronto Press: October: 2006), 131 pp.

R.W. Sandwell, Contesting Rural Space: Land Policy and the Practices of  Settlement, Saltspring Island, British Columbia,  1859-91,  Kingston and Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, June 2005, 318 pp

R. W. Sandwell, ed. ,  Beyond the City Limits: Rural History in British Columbia, (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1999).


R.W. Sandwell (2016) “The Emergence of Modern Lighting in Canada: A Preliminary Reconnaissance” The Extractive Industries and Society: An International Journal http://www.journals.elsevier.com/the-extractive-industries-and-society/ Volume 3, Issue 3, 850-863.

R.W. Sandwell (2015), “Pedagogies of the Unimpressed: Re-Educating Ontario Women for the Mineral Economy, 1900-1940” Ontario History, Volume CVII, No. 1 / Spring. 36-59.


R. W. Sandwell, (2017), “People, Place and Power: Rural Electrification in Canada, 1890-1950,” in  Paul Brassley, Jeremy Burchardt and Karen Sayer, eds. Transforming the Countryside: the Electrification of Rural Britain,(London and New York: Routledge), 178-204.

R. W. Sandwell (2016) “Introduction: Towards a History of Energy in Canada,” in R. W. Sandwell, ed. Powering Up Canada: Essays on the History of Heat, Light and Work from 1600 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press), 3-36.

R. W. Sandwell and Colin A.M. Duncan (2016) “Manufactured and Natural Gas,” in R. W. Sandwell, ed. Powering Up Canada: Essays on the History of Heat, Light and Work from 1600 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press), 300-328.

Ruth Sandwell, with Penney Clark and Stéphane Lévesque (2015), “Dialogue Across Chasms: History and History Education in Canada,” Elisabeth Erdmann and Wolfgang Hasberg,eds.,  History Teacher Education: Global Interrelations, Wochenschau, Geschichte, 163-182.

Ruth Sandwell, (2014) “On Historians and their Audiences: An Argument for Teaching(and not just writing) History” in Ruth Sandwell and Amy von Heyking, eds.  Becoming a History Teacher: Sustaining Practices in Historical Thinking and Knowing, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 77-90.

R.W. Sandwell (2014),  “Mapping Fuel Use in Canada: Exploring the Social History of Canadians’ Great Fuel Transformation” in Jennifer Bonnell and Marcel Fortin, Historical GIS Research in Canada, Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 239-268.

Ruth Sandwell with John Lutz (2014), “What Has Mystery Got To Do With It?” in Kevin Kee, ed. Pastplay: Teaching and Learning History with Technology, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 23-42.

R.W. Sandwell (2013),  “Notes towards a History of Rural Canada, 1870-1940” in John R. Parkins, and Maureen G. Reed, eds. Social Transformation in Rural Canada: Community, Cultures, and Collective Action, Vancouver: UBC Press. 21-42.

"We were allowed to disagree, because we couldn't agree on anything': Seventeen Voices in the Canadian Debates Over History Education," in Tony Taylor and Robert Guyer, eds., History Wars and the Classroom: A Global Prospective, (Information Age, 2011)

Ruth Sandwell (2011), “History is a Verb: Teaching Historical Practice to Teacher Education Students” in Penney Clark, ed., New Possibilities for the Past: Shaping History Education in Canada, Vancouver: UBC Press. 224-242.

“Using Primary Documents in History and Social Studies” in Roland Case and Penney Clark, eds., The Anthology of Social Studies: Secondary Education (Vancouver: Pacific Educational Press, 2008), 293-305

Research Grants and Contracts

2016-18 SSHRC Insight Development Grant, "The Canadian Clearances: Land, Energy and the Transformation of Rural Canada, 1940-1980"
2013-16 SSHRC Partnership Development Grant "Life and Death in the Arctic: The Franklin Mystery"http://canadianmysteries.ca:8080/demo/current/home/homeIntro_en.html
2013-14 SSHRC Connections Grant "Powering Up Canada: A Social History of Energy from 1600"
2009-13, Principle Investigator, Heat, Light and Work in Canadian Homes 1900-1950: The Social History of Fossil Fuels and Hydro-Electricity. $72,000.
2008-15, Co-investigator, The History Education Network )/ Histoire et ducation en Rseau (THEN/HIER) SSHRC Strategic Research Cluster Grant for $300,00 per year for seven years ($2.1 million dollars total) to support research in history education in Canada; Penney Clark, UBC, principal investigator

Honours and Awards

2016 One of three finalists for 2016 SSHRC Impact "Connection" Award for the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History Project. The Connection Award recognizes an outstanding SSHRC‑funded initiative to facilitate the flow and exchange of research knowledge within and/or beyond the academic community. It is given to an individual or team whose project has engaged the campus and/or wider community, and has generated intellectual, cultural, social and/or economic impacts
2008, Pierre Berton Prize for Canadian Public History for the educational website series The Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History www.canadianmysteries.ca co-directors John Lutz, Peter Gossage, Ruth Sandwell
2008, Chosen as the 2008 Canadian National Leader in History EducatCion by the Ontario History and Social Science Teachers' Association (OHASSTA).
2008, MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) "History Classic" Award for the history education website project "Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History" www.canadianmysteries.ca (American based)

Professional Activities

Roundtable participant: "Future Directions in Energy History", European Society of Environmental Historians Annual Meeting, Zagreb, Croatia, June 28-July 2, 2017

Invited Keynote Address: "Leading Lights: A History of Energy and Everyday Life in Canada," Leeds Energy Symposium, School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, Leeds University, May 4, 2017.

Invited Keynote Address, "Households at the Centre: Understanding Canada's Energy Transformation," for the workshop Transitions in Energy Landscapes and Everyday Life in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Munich, 27 to 29 April 2017. Rachel Carson Center, Deutsches Museum, Munich.

" A History of Modern Lighting in Canada, 1860-1940" in panel Lighting Across the British Empire, American Society for Environmental History Annual Conference, Chicago, Ill. March 29-April 1, 2017 (panel organizer)

"Energy Then and Now: Introducing a Central Canadian Energy Humanities Working Group" Organizers: Ruth Sandwell, Imre Szeman, University of Toronto, January 27, 2017

"'An Almost Perfect Illuminant:' Kerosene Lighting in Rural Canada, 1859-1940"' European Social Science History Conference, Valencia, Spain March 31-April 3, 2016

"The First Modern Lighting: A Short History of Manufactured Gas in Canada" in panel "Rethinking Canada as a Fossil Fuel Nation," American Society for Environmental History, 18-21 March 2015, Washington DC.

"Before the Clearances: Rural Protest and the Decline of Rural Canada, 1930-1960," European Social Science and History Conference, Vienna, 23-26 April 2014