[Photo of Dr. W. George Lovell]

Dr. W. George Lovell

Adjunct Professor Emeritus, FRSC

Department of Geography and Planning



Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Room D305

I was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, where many formative geographical experiences took place. The first member of my family to finish high school (Allan Glen's) and go on to university, I stuck close to home and daily crossed the river from Govan to Gilmorehill. At the University of Glasgow (1969-1973) I graduated with an M.A. in Regional and Systematic Geography, thereafter traversing the Atlantic, not the Clyde, to pursue my graduate education.

Two degrees from the University of Alberta (M.A., 1975; Ph.D., 1980) convinced me that I might, after all, have a future career in education. Queen's University hired me in September 1979 on a one-year contract, ABD. After I defended my dissertation three months later, Queen’s re-hired me for another one-year position. Since then, I have remained at Queen's in various guises: Killam, SSHRC, and Plumsock postdoctoral fellow, tenure-track appointee, tenured professor, and now professor emeritus. At the Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville, Spain, I also serve (and have done since its founding in 1997) as visiting professor in Latin American history.

Degree Credentials:

  • M.A. (Glasgow)
  • M.A., Ph.D.. (Alberta, 1980)

Research Interests

For the most part, my research relates to a long-standing interest in the nature of the colonial experience in Latin America, which varied markedly from place to place. The regional setting I am most familiar with is Central America, specifically Guatemala, but over the years I have conducted research throughout Latin America, from Mexico in the north to Argentina and Chile in the south, including some work on Brazil. A central issue of my research is indigenous response to imperial intrusion. Of particular importance in this regard are patterns of native survival. Why, for example, were the Maya of Guatemala (today still half the national population) more successful in shaping a culture of survival than their autochthonous counterparts elsewhere in the Americas? What were the key determinants in the complex process of cultural continuity as well as cultural change? Answering these questions requires careful consideration (among other factors) of contact-period culture, environment and resource use, landholding and settlement, economic demands and ethnic relations, and demographic shifts over time. The colonial connection between Old World disease and New World depopulation has consumed much of my attention. In 1996, my work in these fields earned me the Carl O. Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award from the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers, a laurel that was followed by a Queen's University Prize for Excellence in Research in 2013 and an Award for Scholarly Distinction in Geography from the Canadian Association of Geographers in 2014. That same year, in recognition of my research achievements, I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2012-13 I was the recipient a Killam Research Fellowship from the Canada Council for the Arts, only one of a handful of geographers to be so honoured. Likewise, in 2016 I was one of very few non-US citizens elected to serve as President of the American Society for Ethnohistory. In 2018, the Conference of Latin American Geography bestowed on me its Preston E. James Eminent Career Award, my second such honour from the professional body I identify with most.

While the study of colonial Latin America is the subject I would consider my primary area of specialization, I am interested in other aspects of historical and cultural geography as they relate to regions outside of Latin America, especially Spain, where (as part of my affiliation with the Universidad Pablo de Olavide) I also supervise graduate students. I consider it important that, as academics, we try to share the results of our research with an interested general public and publish in languages other than English. With these ends in mind I have published op-ed pieces in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and the Ottawa Citizen as well as having my work translated into languages other than English, in Spanish, French, Italian, and Catalan. On two occasions (1995 and 2005) stories I have written have been short-listed in the CBC Literary Awards competition. My love of music is reflected in two memoirs about the British rock group, Procol Harum.

Also central to my research endeavours has been my co-editorship (with Armando J. Alfonzo) of the journal Mesoamérica, published in Spanish as a venture that began life more than forty years ago with the founding of Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica (CIRMA) in Antigua, Guatemala. Over the past four decades Mesoamérica has emerged as the premier forum for scholarly research on the region between Mexico and Panama. Between 1998 and 2008 I co-edited issues 36 through 50 of Mesoamérica, as well as a bibliographical guide (Indice General) to the contents of all fifty numbers of the journal then published to date. I continue to serve Mesoamérica both as contributor and member of its editorial board, my ties to CIRMA ongoing too.

Teaching and Supervisory Duties

Undergraduate teaching duties at Queen’s have seen me teach at all levels in the curriculum, from introductory first-year courses to fourth-year Honours seminars. Two of the latter have included memorable field excursions to Spain, where Seville was the site of student inquiries. Others have involved day outings to archives, art galleries, and museums in Ottawa and Toronto. Over the past decade, besides instructing GPHY 101 (Geography and the Environment) and GPHY 229 (Place, Space, Culture, and Social Life), two courses in regional geography (GPHY 257/Middle America and GPHY 258/South America) have proven perennially popular not only among students in Geography but also those in programs of study across the Faculty of Arts and Science. At graduate level, the course I have offered most frequently, and fruitfully, is GPHY 874 (Seminar in Cultural Geography). Graduate students under my supervision at Queen’s undertake their investigations for the most part in the field of historical-cultural geography, their spatial focus being not only far-flung parts of Latin America, but Canada and Spain as well.

As noted above, I teach and supervise graduate students in the Master’s and doctoral program in Latin American history at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville, Spain. Though demanding, this is an experience I undertake with considerable satisfaction, as it allows me to engage with students from all over Latin America, something simply not possible given the way graduate programs at Queen’s are organized, funded, and run.

For further details and access to publications, please visit Professor Lovell's personal website.

Curriculum Vitae (PDF, 389 kB)