Julia Roberts

Associate Professor


Professor Julia Roberts
Since arriving at the University of Waterloo in 2007, my research has centred upon early Canadian colonial society, especially the concepts and actualities of public space and public life. 

Social historians, like me, are interested in the long, enduring patterns of the past: demography, families, economic and intellectual transitions, popular culture, and social norms and the effects of each of these upon personal and group experience. Classically, they conceive history “from the bottom up” and seek to locate ordinary men and women as historical actors; as people who made history as much as they experienced it. My work as a researcher and a teacher engages with the discipline’s classic foci upon class, gender and race, upon the wide, non-episodic, social and cultural patterns of colonial Canada in the longue durée.

I published my first book in 2009. Called In Mixed Company: Taverns and Public Life in Upper Canada, it explores taverns as colonial public space and how men and women of diverse backgrounds – Native and newcomer, privileged and labouring, white and non-white – negotiated a place for themselves within them. The stories that emerge unsettle comfortable certainties about who belonged where in colonial society.

Currently I hold a SSHRC Standard Research Grant for a new project entitled “Repositioning the War of 1812: The Cultural Politics of War in a Colonial Society.” My new 1812 project blends the methodologies of social history and military history to write about the cultural politics of war. 


  • B.A. (Hon) Wilfrid Laurier University, 1989       
  • M.A. History, University of Waterloo, 1991
  • PhD Canadian History, University of Toronto, 1999

Research and teaching interests

I like teaching. I like its traditional element: the profession of knowledge in a public setting. I like its service role: assisting students to reach whatever goals first brought them to the University. I want students to learn to value History for its power to shape their sense of place, identity, and citizenship. But I know I have done my job well when they learn to read with more comprehension, write more fluently and persuasively, improve their skills in critical thinking, or when they can discuss competing interpretations with mutual respect.

Courses taught

  • HIST 191 Ten Days That Shook the World
  • HIST 201 Columbus & After: New Worlds in North America
  • HIST 253 Canadian History: The Colonial Period
  • HIST 374 Canada’s Social History
  • HIST 403A  Early Canada
  • HIST 614 Space, Identity and Culture: Readings in Canadian Social History before the 20thC
  • HIST 691 (Directed Readings)
  • HIST 710 / HIST 760 Doctoral Field Seminar in Canadian History 

Recent publications

  • “‘The snipe were good and the wine not bad’: Enabling an Elite Male Public Life,” in Franca Iacovetta, Marlene Epp, and Valerie Korinek, eds., Edible Histories, Cultural Politics: Towards a Canadian Food History (University of Toronto Press, 2013)
  • “The Games People Played: Tavern Entertainments and Public Life,” Ontario History, Special Issue on Entertainment, Autumn 2010, Vol. 102, Iss. 2: 154-74
  • In Mixed Company: Taverns and Public Life in Upper Canada (University of British Columbia Press 2009)
  • “‘A Mixed Assemblage of Persons’: Race and Tavern Space in Upper Canada,” ed. Elizabeth Jane Errington and Cynthia R. Comacchio, People, Places and Times: Readings in Canadian Social History, Volume 1, Pre-Confederation (Toronto: Thomson Nelson 2007)
  • “Taverns,” The Oxford Companion to Canadian History. Ed. Gerald Hallowell. Oxford University Press 2004 and Oxford Reference Online www.oxfordreference.com
  • “Stagecoaches,” The Oxford Companion to Canadian History. Ed. Gerald Hallowell. Oxford University Press 2004 and Oxford Reference Online www.oxfordreference.com
  • ‘Women, Men and Taverns in Tavernkeeper, Ely Playter’s Journal,’ Histoire Sociale / Social History, 36, 72 (November 2003): 371-406
  • “Harry Jones and his Cronies in the Taverns of Kingston, Canada West,” Ontario History, 95, 1 (Spring 2003): 1-21
  • “‘A Mixed Assemblage of Persons’: Race and Tavern Space in Upper Canada,” Canadian Historical Review, 83, 1 (March 2002): 1-28
  • “Taverns and Tavern-going in Upper Canada: 1849,” in Derek Pollard and Ged Martin, eds.,Canada 1849, (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, Centre for Canadian Studies, 2001): 93-107
  • “Women in the Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren,” with Marlene Epp, in C. Arnold Snyder and Linda Huebert Hecht, eds., Profiles of Anabaptist Women: Sixteenth-Century Reforming Pioneers, Studies in Women and Religion 3 (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press 1996): 202-21

Keynote Addresses

  • 12 May 2011, “George Jones, Captain Wilson, and Versions of Local History,” at the Niagara Historical Society, Niagara-on-the-Lake.
  • 30 Sept. 2010, “Tavern Tales and Tavern Spaces,” at Montgomery’s Inn Community Museum, Toronto, as part of Approaching the Past: A Series Connecting People Teaching History,” Sponsored by History of Education Network/ Histoire et Éducation en Réseau (THEN/HiER).
  • 18 March 2010, “Public Life and the Taverns of Niagara,” at the Niagara Historical Society, Niagara-on-the-Lake.