Michael Borsk is an historian of empire and early North America, with a focus on the legal histories of the United States and Canada; spatial history and the history of map-making; and Indigenous histories.
His dissertation, Measuring Ground: Surveyors and the Geography of Colonialism in the Great Lakes Region, 1783-1840, is a connected history of the fieldwork and paperwork done by surveyors in the British colony of Upper Canada and the American Territory of Michigan. In it, he argues that the material infrastructure of maps and monuments made by surveyors defined property rights, as well as the rise of settler state power and dispossession of Indigenous nations, with lasting consequences for the political, legal, and economic regimes that divided surveyed land – and still do.
His next project is focused on the political economy of gift giving in North America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He is also at work on a digital humanities project on the history of Hudson Bay Company’s provisioning system during the eighteenth century.
His work has been supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the W.C Good Fellowship, the Donald S. Rickerd Fellowship in Canadian-American Studies, the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, the William L. Clements Library, the American Philosophical Society, the John Carter Brown Library, the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History at Harvard University, and, most recently, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
- “Conveyance to Kin: Property, Preemption, and Indigenous Nations in North America, 1763-1822,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 80, no. 1 (January 2023): 87-124.
- “Debt Amongst Friends: Sympathy in Exchange and the Narration of a Transatlantic Credit Network, 1792-1837,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, 30, no. 2, (2019)