Ian Milligan

Associate Professor of History

University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo History Logo Ian Milligan is an associate professor of history at the University of Waterloo. His primary research focus is on how historians can use web archives, as well as the impact of digital sources on historical practice more generally. He is author of two monographs: History in the Age of Abundance (2019) and Rebel Youth (2014). Milligan also co-authored Exploring Big Historical Data (2015, with Shawn Graham and Scott Weingart) and edited the SAGE Handbook of Web History (2018, with Niels Brügger).

Milligan is principal investigator of the Archives Unleashed project. In 2016, he was awarded the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities Outstanding Early Career Award and in 2019 he received the Arts Excellence in Research award from the University of Waterloo. In 2020, recognizing his track record of research and advocacy, the Association of Canadian Archivists awarded Milligan the Honourary Archivist Award.

Milligan is currently co-editor of Internet Histories and was a co-program chair of the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries. He has an extensive interdisciplinary service record, sitting on selection committees for multiple granting agencies as well as sitting on the steering committee for the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries. At Waterloo, Milligan is an elected faculty representative on both the University Senate (two terms; 2018–2021 and 2021–2024) and the Board of Governors (two terms; 2020-2021 and 2021-2023).

He lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada with his partner, son, and daughter.

You can read his full CV here.


  • Web archives and web history
  • Digital history and digital humanities
  • How technology is changing the historical profession


  • PhD in History, 2012

    York University

  • MA in History, 2007

    York University

  • BA (Hon) in History, 2006

    Queen's University

Recent Posts

Pre-November 2019 posts can be found at http://ianmilli.wordpress.com.

American Historical Review Review Roundtable on History in the Age of Abundance

I was thrilled to see that the American Historical Review has published a review roundtable, including an author’s response from …

Interview at Canada's History: The past is now digital

I was recently interviewed by Joanna Dawson of Canada’s History magazine. The focus was primarily on my recent book History in …

Re-Posted from the Conversation: 2020 is a year for the history books, but not without digital archives

Ian Milligan, University of Waterloo A seasonal change is in the air. With a minimal amount of nostalgia about the dwindling days of …

Interdisciplinary scholarship needs to be normalized within professions

Inspired by conversations I’ve had with colleagues, I wrote a recent piece in University Affairs/Affairs universitaires: …

New Project: Integrating Archives Unleashed Cloud with Archive-It

Excerpted from a recent story about our new exciting project: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $1,084,087 CAD grant to …


History in the Age of Abundance: How the Web is Transforming Historical Research

Believe it or not, the 1990s are history. As historians turn to study this period and beyond, they will encounter a historical record that is radically different from what has ever existed before. Old websites, social media, blogs, photographs, and videos are all part of the massive quantities of digital information that technologists, librarians, archivists, and organizations such as the Internet Archive have been collecting for the past three decades.

SAGE Handbook of Web History

The SAGE Handbook of Web History marks the first comprehensive review of this subject to date. Its editors emphasise the two different forms of its study: the use of the web as an historical resource, and the web as an object of study in its own right. Bringing together all the existing knowledge of the field, with an interdisciplinary focus and an international scope, this is an incomparable resource for historians and students alike.

Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope

The Digital Humanities have flourished at a moment when digital big data is becoming easily available. Yet there is a gap in the scholarly literature on the ways these data can be explored to construct cultural heritage knowledge, for both research and in our teaching and learning. We are on the cusp of needing to grasp big data approaches to do our work, whether it’s understanding the underlying algorithms at work in our search engines, or needing to design and use our own tools to process comparatively large amounts of information. This book fills that gap, and in its live-writing approach, will set the direction for the conversation into the future.

Rebel Youth: 1960s Labour Unrest, Young Workers, and New Leftists in English Canada

While university-based activists combined youth culture with a new brand of radicalism to form the New Left, young workers were pressing for wildcat strikes and defying their aging union leaders in a wave of renewed militancy that swept the country. In Rebel Youth, Ian Milligan looks at these converging currents, demonstrating convincingly how they were part of a single youth phenomenon. With no fewer than seventy interviews complementing the extensive use of archival records, this book reveals a youth current that, despite regional differences, spanned an intellectual network from Halifax to Victoria that read the same publications, consulted the same thinkers, and found inspiration in the same shared ideas.

Current Digital Projects

Averting the Digital Dark Age

This project seeks to identify the cultural, intellectual, and theoretical factors during the early 1990s which contributed to the momentous decision to pursue ambitious and widespread web archiving. Secondly, it traces the technical development of new web archiving systems from the “digital dark age” worries of 1995 to the sophisticated systems developed in 1996, particularly at the Internet Archive. Finally, it will assess the accessibility, effectiveness, and impact of these new web archiving systems using the attacks of September 11th, 2001 – a major historical event accompanied by intense online activity – as a case study.

Archives Unleashed

Archives Unleashed aims to make petabytes of historical internet content accessible to scholars and others interested in researching the recent past. Supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we are developing web archive search and data analysis tools to enable scholars, librarians and archivists to access, share, and investigate recent history since the early days of the World Wide Web. Please visit our website for more information. Principal Investigator (w/ Nick Ruest and Jimmy Lin)

Continuing Education to Advance Web Archiving (CEDWARC)

Supported by the IMLS LB21 program, the CEDWARC project develops a continuing education curriculum and teaches library and archive professionals advanced web archiving and analysis techniques. We will offer one in-person training workshop and multiple online training workshops throughout the project period. Details about the project. Co-Investigator (grant led by Zhiwu Xie at Virginia Tech)

A Longitudinal Analysis of the Canadian World Wide Web as a Historical Resource, 1996-2014

This project will help train highly-qualified personnel (HQP) in the humanities to prepare for the digital deluge that is already affecting our profession. It was among the first attempts to harness data in ways that will enable present and future historians to usefully access, interpret, and curate masses of born-digital primary sources. Principal Investigator (w/ Nick Ruest and William J. Turkel)

Recent Courses

HIST 640: Digital History

Digital history, the application of new and emerging technologies to the study of history, is an important field that has begun to reshape historical production and scholarship. This graduate level course introduces students to the literature on digital history, and then puts theory into practice by digitally collecting, publishing, and producing new historical knowledge with cutting-edge tools.
See course page

HIST 216: A Long History of the Internet (Online)

The Internet has enabled global connection on an unprecedented level. To live and innovate in a society dominated by network communications requires understanding from where we have come. Yet, as Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen have noted, “the Internet is among the few things humans have built that they don’t totally understand.” (Schmidt and Cohen)

While the technological story of the rise of the Internet and the Web today is important – our course touches on early computing, theories of hypertext, the ARPANET, and the networking revolutions of the 1980s and 1990s – the longer human story is equally critical. How has the concept of information evolved? How has print media emerged and evolved? How have humans communicated over time and space? How have common standards evolved, allowing people across the globe to communicate with each other?

Previously taught Spring 2020 (Online), Winter 2020 (Online), Fall 2018 and Winter 2018.
See course page

ARTS 490: Socio-Cultural Implications of Artificial Intelligence

We have seen exponential growth in the automation of jobs, from the manufacturing to the service sector, and the consequent transformations of our everyday lives, including the displacement of human labour. We are also witness to new cultural forms ranging from gaming devices to companion robots. It’s clear then that the socio-cultural and political impacts of such trends deserve our attention – as students, scholars, policy makers, and practitioners.
See course page

Recent & Upcoming Talks/Events

For a full list of talks and presentations, please see my CV.

The National Library of Canada’s Electronic Publication Pilot Project and its Enduring Contribution to Digital Preservation

I explored the National Library of Canada’s Electronic Publication Pilot Project, one of the first projects in the world to …

Keynote Panel: Digitized Newspapers as Everyday Interdisciplinarity

Historical research has been fundamentally transformed by digitized newspapers over the past two decades. Yet historians have not …

Are we all Digital Historians now? Technology and Historical Practice

Historical research has been fundamentally transformed by digitized newspapers over the past two decades. Yet historians have not …

From Engagement to Retreat? Historians and Digital Preservation, 1968-2003

I explored the relationship between historians and born-digital primary sources between 1968 and 2003 as part of UCL/CESTA’s …

Liberal Education in the Digital Age

I was incredibly honoured to give a talk as part of a panel hosted by the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse Foundation on Does Liberal Education …