Associate professor and primary investigator of the web archives for historical research group

Ian Milligan is a digital and Canadian historian. He’s currently exploring how historians can fruitfully use web archives and other large digital repositories. 

Ian MilliganTraditionally historians had to scrounge for any information they could find and now, information is being preserved that never would’ve been in the past – this produces an overload of sources. This fundamental shift creates many barriers and historians have largely been left out of the big data discussion. His work aims to change that – to bring historians into the big data discussion, break down barriers to access web archives, and provide tools to enable all historians to revolutionize their own work.

He is principal investigator of the Web Archives for Historical Research group, which is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, and Compute Canada. 

A digital historian, Ian has been nominated for leading awards by both the Canadian Historical Association and the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities. In 2016, he was awarded the Outstanding Early Career Award by the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities, and in 2015 he was nominated for the John A. Macdonald Prize in Canadian History by the Canadian Historical Association. 

Ian also works in the area of postwar Canadian youth and labour history, which he continues to publish in. His first book, Rebel Youth: 1960s Labour Unrest, Young Workers, and New Leftists in English Canada, was published in 2014 by the University of British Columbia Press. Ian’s second peer-reviewed book, Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope, a handbook aimed at demystifying digital methods, appeared in late 2015 with Imperial College Press. He wrote this with Shawn Graham (Carleton) and Scott Weingart (Carnegie Mellon). You can read his post-peer reviewed but pre-proofed (post-print) online!

Currently, Ian has taken on a number of editorial responsibilities. He is the co-editor of the in-preparation Sage Handbook of Web History (SAGE, projected to appear in 2018) and of the online Programming Historian textbook. 

Ian has an extensive record of service at the national and international level, serving as a member on Library and Archives Canada's Acquisitions Advisory Committee, has served as co-Program Chair for the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (Toronto, 2017). 

Ian regularly blogs at and tweets professionally at @ianmilligan1. He’s always happy to work with potential graduate students interested in postwar Canadian history, digital history, and digital methodologies. Ian has additional funding for interested MA and PhD students.


  • B.A. (Hons) Canadian History, Queen's University, 2006
  • M.A. Canadian History, York University, 2007
  • PhD Canadian History, York University, 2012

Research and teaching interests

  • Canada
  • Digital
  • Youth
  • Social Movements

Milligan teaches courses in postwar Canadian history, historical methodologies, youth and childhood history, as well as digital methodologies more generally. The teaching approach differs based on the course! Sometimes a mixture of lecture and small group discussions grapple with difficult material, in other courses small-format discussions help to move through both primary and secondary readings fruitfully, and in digital classes students do a good amount of hands-on work with new tools and software.

Courses taught

  • HIST 109 Ten Days That Shook the World
  • HIST 250 The Art and Craft of History
  • HIST 255 History of Childhood and Youth in Canada
  • HIST 303  Digital History
  • HIST 388  Modern Canada
  • HIST 403A/403B  Canadian Seminars
  • HIST 602 Canadian History II

Key Areas of Graduate Supervision

  • Postwar Canada
  • Digital history
  • Historical methodologies
  • Internet/Web history

Current projects

Milligan’s current projects largely involve how historians can deal with the sheer quantities of digital data that are profoundly reworking how we research, teach, and write.  In addition to publications, Ian is working on portals to access web archives through the Web Archives for Longitudinal Knowledge (WALK) project. An early prototype can be found at

For a full CV, visit

Recent publications


Shawn Graham, Ian Milligan, and Scott Weingart, Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope. London: Imperial College Press, 2015.

Rebel Youth: 1960s Labour Unrest, Young Workers, and New Leftists in English Canada. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2014. [shortlisted for the 2015 John A Macdonald Prize]

Peer-Reviewed Articles

Jimmy Lin, Ian Milligan, Jeremy Wiebe, and Alice Zhou. “Warcbase: Scalable Analytics Infrastructure for Exploring Web Archives,” ACM Journal of Computing and Cultural Heritage. Accepted and forthcoming, December 2017.

Nick Ruest and Ian Milligan, “An Open-Source Strategy for Documenting Events: The Case Study of the 42nd Canadian Federal Election on Twitter,” Code4Lib Journal, Issue 32, April 2016.

Ian Milligan, Nick Ruest, and Anna St-Onge, “The Great WARC Adventure : Using SIPS, AIPS and DIPS to document SLAPPs,” Digital Studies / Le champ numérique, Vol. 6, 2016. 

Ian Milligan, “Lost in the Infinite Archive: The Promise and Pitfalls of Web Archives,” International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, Vol. 10, No. 1-2 (2016): 78-94.

Ian Milligan, "A Haven for Perverts, Criminals, and Goons: Children and the Battle for and Against Canadian Internet Regulation, 1991-1999,” Histoire Sociale/Social History, 47. No. 96 (May 2015): 245-274.

Ian Milligan, "Illusionary Order: Online Databases, Optical Character Recognition, and Canadian History, 1997-2010,” Canadian Historical Review, Vol. 94, No. 4 (December 2013): 540-569.

Ian Milligan, "Mining the Internet Graveyard: Rethinking the Historians’ Toolkit,”Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, Vol. 23, No 2 (2012, published in 2013): 21-64. [Winner of the 2013 JCHA Best Article Prize.]

Ian Milligan, “Coming off the Mountain: Forging an Outward Looking New Left at Simon Fraser University,” BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly, Vol. 171 (Autumn 2011): 69-91.

Ian Milligan, “‘This Board Has a Duty to Intervene,’ Challenging the Spadina Expressway Through the Ontario Municipal Board, 1963-1971,” Urban History Review/Revue d’histoire urbaine, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Spring 2011): 25-37.

Ian Milligan, “‘The Force of All Our Numbers:’ New Leftists, Labour, and the 1973 Artistic Woodwork Strike,” Labour/Le Travail, 66 (Fall 2010): 37-71. 

Ian Milligan, “Sedition in Wartime Ontario: The Trials and Imprisonment of Isaac Bainbridge, 1917-1918,” Ontario History, Vol. 100, No. 2 (Autumn 2008): 150-177.

Book Chapters

Ian Milligan. “Welcome to the Web: The Online Community of GeoCities and the Early Years of the World Wide Web,” in The Web as History, edited by Ralph Schroeder and Niels Brügger. London: UCL Press, March 2017.

William J. Turkel and Ian Milligan. “The Challenge of ‘High-Throughput’ Computational Methods,” in Education and Understanding: Big History Around the World, edited by Barry Rodrigue, Leonid Grinin, and Andrey Korotayev. New Delhi: Primus Books, 2016.

Peer-Reviewed Computer Science Conferences

Emily Maemura, Christoph Becker, and Ian Milligan. “Understanding Computational Web Archives Research Methods Using Research Objects,” IEEE Big Data Workshop in Computational Archival Science, IEEE Big Data, December 2016.

Ian Milligan, Nick Ruest, and Jimmy Lin, “Content Selection and Curation for Web Archiving: The Gatekeepers vs. the Masses,” Proceedings of the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, Vol. 16 (2016): 107-110.

Andrew Jackson, Jimmy Lin, Ian Milligan, and Nick Ruest, “Desiderata for Exploratory Search Interfaces to Web Archives in Support of Scholarly Activities,” Proceedings of the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, Vol. 16 (2016): 103-106.

Peer-Reviewed Technical Contributions

Ian Milligan and James Baker, “Introduction to the Bash Command Line,” The Programming Historian, September 2014. Available online.

James Baker and Ian Milligan, “Counting and Mining Research Data with Unix,” The Programming Historian, September 2014. Available online.

Shawn Graham, Scott Weingart, and Ian Milligan, “Getting Started with Topic Modeling and MALLET,” The Programming Historian 2, September 2012. Available online.

“Automated Downloading with Wget,” The Programming Historian 2, August 2012. Available online.


Milligan has also written professional contributions or book/web/software reviews for the Canadian Parliamentary ReviewPerspectives on History, the Literary Review of Canada, the Canadian Historical Association BulletinNatureOral History ForumLabor History, the Canadian Historical ReviewLabour/Le Travail, the Journal of Digital Humanities, and Histoire Sociale/Social History. He has presented at numerous international conferences and workshops.

Ian's work has appeared in the media, including CBC's The Current and Spark.


$1,240,201 CAD total in grant funding; $1,160,772 CAD as Principal Investigator.

  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Scholarly Communications Program (“Archives Unleashed Project”). Principal Investigator: Ian Milligan, Co-Principal Investigators: Nick Ruest and Jimmy Lin. $610,625. 2017-20.
  • Microsoft Research, Microsoft Azure Research Award (“Web Archives for Longitudinal Knowledge”). Principal Investigator: Ian Milligan. $20,000 USD, or $26,804 CAD. 2016-17.
  • Compute Canada, Research Platforms and Portals Competition (“Web Archives for Longitudinal Knowledge”). Principal Investigator: Ian Milligan, Co-Principal Investigator: Nick Ruest (York University). $11,635. 2016-19.
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) (“Born-Digital Data and Methods for History and the Humanities”). Principal Investigator: Jane Winters (University of London), Co-Investigator: Tobias Blanke (King’s College, London), Main Partners: Sonia Ranade (National Archives of the UK), Anne Alexander (University of Cambridge), James Baker (University of Sussex), Ian Milligan (University of Waterloo), Jason Webber and Jonathan Pledge (British Library), Peter Webster (Webster Research and Consulting). £32,210 GBP, or $60,125 CAD. 2016-17.
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Connection Grant (“Unlock Your Web Archives Hackathon”), Principal Investigator: Ian Milligan, Co-Investigators: Jimmy Lin (University of Waterloo), Matthew Weber (Rutgers University), Nathalie Casemajor (Université du Québec en Outaouais), Nicholas Worby (University of Toronto). $23,715 CAD. 2015-16.
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Insight Grant (“A Longitudinal Analysis of the Canadian World Wide Web as a Historical Resource, 1996-2014”). Principal Investigator: Ian Milligan, Co-investigators: Nick Ruest (York University), William Turkel (Western University). $257,541 CAD. 2015-20.
  • Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, Early Researcher Award (“A Longitudinal Analysis of the Canadian World Wide Web as a Historical Resource, 1996—2014”). $150,000 CAD. Principal Investigator: Ian Milligan. $150,000 CAD. 2015-20.
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Connection Grant (“New Directions in Active History: Institutions, Communication, and Technologies”). Principal Investigator: Thomas Peace (Huron University College), Co-Investigators: Ian Milligan, Jim Clifford (University of Saskatchewan), Daniel Ross (York University), Kaleigh Bradley (York University), Krista McCracken (Algoma University), Andrew Nurse (Mount Allison University). $19,304 CAD. 2015-16.
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Insight Development Grant (“An Infinite Archive? Developing HistoryCrawler to Explore the Internet Archive as a Historical Resource”). Principal Investigator: Ian Milligan, Co-Investigator: William Turkel (Western University). $74,952 CAD. 2013-15.
  • University of Waterloo/Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Institutional Block Grant (SEED Grant for same project as above), June 2013 — June 2015. Principal Investigator: Ian Milligan. $5,500 CAD. 2013-15.

Awards and achievements

  • Outstanding Early Career Award, Canadian Society for Digital Humanities, 2016.
  • Compute Canada Research Portals and Partnerships Grant, 2016 - 18. (Principal Investigator)
  • Shortlisted for John A. Macdonald Prize, Canadian Historical Association, 2015.
  • University of Waterloo Outstanding Performance Award, 2014.
  • , 2013-15.
  • Journal of the Canadian Historical Association Best Article Award, 2013
  • SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2012-14 (declined August 2012 onwards)

Professional affiliations

  • American Historical Association (member)
  • Association for Canadian Computers and the Humanities (member)
  • Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing (member)
  • Canadian Historical Association (member)
  • Canadian Society for Digital Humanities (member)
University of Waterloo

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