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  Adjunct Professor Emeritus,   

  Department of Geography at Queen's University,   

  Kingston, Ontario, Canada   


   Professor of Geography, Emeritus   

   Visiting Professor in Latin American History   

   Queen's University and Universidad Pablo de Olavide   

   Kingston, Ontario, Canada and Seville, Spain   


Short Bio
George and Oscar (Defense Day).jpg

Doctoral Defence Day, December 15, 1979 

(candidate on the left, his external examiner, Dr. Oscar H. Horst, on the right. Photograph taken by supervisor John F. Bergmann, en route to the Department of Geography at the University of Alberta in Edmonton).

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.


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 close to 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 American Geography, 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 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.

Research Interests

 “The lesson lies in learning, 

 and by teaching 

 I’ll be taught.” 

 – Keith Reid lyric for Procol Harum,

Dr. Lovell's favourite progressive rock band, 

about whom he has written two books

"A good professor cannot separate teaching from research, because the classroom is best place to test and present research."
– W. George Lovell

2018 – present    Professor of Geography, Emeritus, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada 

​1997 – present     Visiting Professor, Latin American History, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain

1993 – 2017          Full Professor, Department of Geography, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada

1986 – 1993          Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada

1983 – 1986          Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada

1981 – 1983          Canada Council Killam Postdoctoral Fellow, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada

1980                      Lecturer, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada


1979                       Lecturer, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON,  Canada


Professor Emeritus, Geography, Arts and Sciences, Queen's University at Kingston, Canada


1980     Ph.D., Geography, University of Alberta, Canada


1975      Master of Arts, Geography, University of Alberta, Canada


1973      Master of Arts, Geography, University of Glasgow, Scotland

Academic & Employment History


2019    Invited Keynote Speaker, International Symposium Marking the 500th Anniversary of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico (Dirección de Estudios Históricos, Mexico City).

2018    Recipient of the Preston E. James Eminent Career Award (Conference of Latin American Geographers).

2015    Elected President of the American Society for Ethnohistory. 

2014    Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

2014    Recipient of the Award for Scholarly Distinction in Geography from the Canadian Association of Geographers.

2013    Recipient of Queen’s University’s Prize for Excellence in Research.

2011    Recipient of Canada Council Killam Research Fellowship.

2010    Recipient of Maury A. Bromsen Residency Fellowship (John Carter Brown Library, Providence, Rhode Island, USA).


2008    Recipient of Julian Szeicz Award for Excellence in Teaching (Department of Geography, Queen’s University)

2004    Finalist in the CBC Canada Literary Awards (Creative Non-Fiction). 

2003    Recipient of Helen Watson Buckner Residency Fellowship (John Carter Brown Library, Providence, Rhode Island, USA).  

2003    Recipient of Julian Szeicz Award for Excellence in Teaching (Department of Geography, Queen’s University).

2000    Recipient of Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture Sabbatical Fellowship.

1997     Awarded Visiting Professorship in Latin American History by the Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain. 

1997     Recipient of Julian Szeicz Award for Excellence in Teaching (Department of Geography, Queen’s University).

1996     Recipient of the Carl O. Sauer Distinguished Scholarship Award (Conference of Latin American Geographers).

1995     Finalist in the CBC Canada Literary Awards (Creative Non-Fiction).    

1984     Recipient of SSHRC Private Scholar Award.

1983     Recipient of Two-Year Plumsock Mesoamerican Studies (USA) Postdoctoral Fellowship.

1981     Recipient of Two-Year Canada Council Killam Research Associateship.

1981     Recipient of SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (declined in favour of Killam award)

1978     Recipient of Dissertation Scholarship (Department of Geography, University of Alberta). 

1975     Recipient of Three-Year Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship (Department of Geography, University of Alberta).

Honours & Awards
Memberships & Professional Roles


2019     Member of the American Geographical Society, American Society for Ethnohistory, Canadian Association of Geographers, Canadian Association of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Conference of Latin American Geographers, Guatemala Scholars Network, International Conference of Historical Geographers, Latin American Studies Association, Royal Society of Canada, Writers’ Union of Canada.  

1990     Member (for periods up to the present) of the editorial boards of the Anuario de Estudios Americanos, Colonial Latin American Review, Ethnohistory, Journal of Historical Geography, Journal of Latin American Geography, La Rábida (a Spanish-language literary review), Mesoamérica (co-editor, 1998-2008), and the Scottish Geographical Journal.


1990     Invited Witness (on post-war scenarios in Central America) before the Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Trade (Ottawa). 

1983     Recruited by M. Maurice Dupras (Chair of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee for Canada’s Relations with Latin America and the Caribbean) as one of his research consultants.

1982     Invited Witness (on war-torn Guatemala) before the Parliamentary Sub-Committee for Canada’s Relations with Latin America and the Caribbean (Ottawa).



Doctoral Supervisions at Queen’s University (1990-2021) in Chronological Order
Mireya Folch-Serra (1990), Catherine Nolin, Madelaine Jacobs, Giselle Valarazo, Victoria Henderson, Paul Chaput, Alexandra Pedersen, Robin Westland, Carola Ramos (2021).

Master’s Students at Queen’s University (1987-2020) in Chronological Order
Peter Cleary (1997), Robert Rock, Paul VanZant, James Reynolds, Catherine Nolin, Krista House, Finola Shankar, Kim McFarlane, Leah Huff, Michelle Switzer, Giselle Valarezo, Victoria Henderson, Robert Huish, Ryan Barberstock, Jonathan Aarssen (2020).

Doctoral Supervisions at Universidad Pablo de Olavide (Seville, Spain)

Sergio Mauricio Uribe (2017), José Heriberto Erquicia Cruz (2019), and Ana Sofía Solano Acuña (2019).

In addition to supervising the above students, I have served on scores of Master’s and PhD examination committees at both Queen’s and the Universidad Pablo de Olavide, besides also having served as an external examiner elsewhere in Canada and Spain.

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