Mairi Cowan

Mairi Cowan

Associate Professor, Teaching Stream
Historical Studies - History
  • Room:
    MN 4282
  • Office Hours:
    Please refer to the syllabus and/or contact via email.
  • Mailing Address:

    3359 Mississauga Road, Maanjiwe nendamowinan, 4th floor
    Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6


Mairi Cowan is a historian of the late medieval and early modern world, with specializations in the social and religious histories of Scotland and New France. She has written about the connections between social discipline and the Catholic Reformation in Scotland; tensions of international theology, national politics, and local tradition in twelfth-century Glasgow; experiences of childhood in the Renaissance court of James IV, King of Scots; colonial efforts to “Frenchify” Indigenous people in seventeenth-century Québec; and Jesuit missionaries’ beliefs about demons in Indigenous societies of North America. Her most recent book, The Possession of Barbe Hallay: Diabolical Arts and Daily Life in Early Canada, is a microhistory of bewitchment in New France.

Professor Cowan is also interested in studying how best to teach and learn history. She has published research on the development of critical thinking skills in large history courses, on the gaps that separate high school preparation from university expectations, and on the effectiveness of different kinds of feedback on students’ work. She is the recipient of several teaching awards, including the E.A. Robinson Teaching Excellence Award, which recognizes excellence in undergraduate teaching at the University of Toronto Mississauga; the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations Teaching Award, which is given to Ontario’s most outstanding university teachers; and the Canadian Historical Association’s Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources Award.

At the Department of Historical Studies, Professor Cowan teaches courses on world history, colonial North American history, and European history. Whether in a large first-year lecture, an advanced seminar, or an independent reading project, she focuses on guiding students through authentic historical problems while helping them to develop the skills they need to discover, understand, and engage with the human past in a historically responsible way. 

Mairi Cowan's Curriculum Vitae


Journal Articles:

  • Cowan, Mairi and Whitney Hahn. "Food History as an Ingredient in Teaching Early Modern Mobility." Dublin Gastronomy Symposium (2022): 68-73.
  • Cowan, Mairi, Tyler Evans-Tokaryk, Abdullah Farooqi, Michael Kaler, and Allison Graham. "Phrasing Feedback to Improve Students' Writing in a Large First-Year Humanities Course." International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 15, no. 2 (2021).
  • Cowan, Mairi and Christoph Richter. “The Faro a Colón in Santo Domingo: Reinterpreting a ‘More Nearly Perfect’ Memorial to Christopher Columbus.” The Public Historian 43, no. 2 (May, 2021): 63-80.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “An Introduction to Volume 30: Continuities and Innovations from the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Historical Association / Une introduction au volume 30: continuités et innovations de la réunion annuelle de la Société historique du Canada.” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 30, no. 1 (2019): 1-5.
  • Hahn, Whitney and Mairi Cowan. “Food, Foodways, and Francisation in Seventeenth-Century Québec.” Dublin Gastronomy Symposium (2018).
  • Cowan, Mairi. “Education, Francisation, and Shifting Colonial Priorities at the Ursuline Convent in Seventeenth-Century Québec.” The Canadian Historical Review 99, no. 1 (2018): 1-29.
  • Reprinted in Interpreting Canada's Past: A Pre-Confederation Reader, Sixth Edition, edited by Amy Shaw, Corey Slumkoski, and J. M. Bumstead. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2021.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “‘The Saints of the Scottish Country will Fight Today’: Robert the Bruce’s Alliance with the Saints at Bannockburn.” International Review of Scottish Studies 40 (2015): 1-33.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “In the Borderlands of Periodization with ‘The blythnes that hes bein’: The Medieval / Early Modern Boundary in Scottish history.” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 23, no. 2 (2012): 142-175.
  • Cowan, Mairi and Christopher Landon. “The Missing Links in History Education.” The Canadian Journal for Social Research 4, no. 1 (2011): 20-30.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “Teaching the English Reformation to History Students through the Music of Thomas Tallis.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching 15, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 79-93.
  • Mozel, Phil and Mairi Cowan. “Did Philips Lansbergen Own the University of Toronto's De revolutionibus by Nicolaus Copernicus?” The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada 101 (December, 2007): 236-240.

Book Chapters:

  • Cowan, Mairi. "A Deliverance from Demons: Possession and Healing at the Seigneurie of Beauport." In French Connections: Cultural Mobility in North America and the Atlantic World, 1600-1875, edited by Robert Englebert and Andrew N. Wegmann, 11-34. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2020.
    • The collection has won the Wilson Book Prize, which recognizes a book that best places Canadian history in a transnational context.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “Jesuit Missionaries and the Accommodationist Demons of New France.” In Knowing Demons, Knowing Spirits in the Early Modern Period, edited by Michelle D. Brock, Richard Raiswell, and David R. Winter, 211-238. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “A Contested Conception: Jocelin of Furness and St Kentigern in Twelfth-Century Glasgow.” In From Learning to Love: Schools, Law, and Pastoral Care in the Middle Ages, edited by Tristan Sharp with Isabelle Cochelin, Greti Dinkova-Bruun, Abigail Firey, and Giulio Silano, 571-589. Toronto: Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies Press, 2017.
  • Cowan, Mairi and Laura Walkling. “A ‘gret cradil of stait’: Growing Up with the Court of James IV.” In Children and Youth in Premodern Scotland, edited by Elizabeth Ewan and Janay Nugent, 15-31. St Andrews: Boydell and Brewer for St Andrews Studies in Scottish History, 2015.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “The Spiritual Ties of Kinship in Pre-Reformation Scotland.” In Finding the Family in Medieval and Early Modern Scotland, edited by Elizabeth Ewan and Janay Nugent, 176-195. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.


  • Cowan, Mairi, Tyler Evans-Tokaryk, Elaine Goettler, Jeffrey Graham, Christopher Landon, Simone Laughton, Sharon Marjadsingh, Caspian Sawczak, and Alison Weir. Engaging Students to Think Critically in a Large History Class. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, 2014. 76 pp.

Magazine and Other Articles:

  • Cowan, Mairi. "The Thistle and the Cross." Canada's History, February-March 2022, 39-45.
  • Cowan, Mairi, Nicole Laliberté, Fiona Rawle, Monika Havelka, Sanja Hinic-Frlog, and Barbara Murck. “Welcome to the Committee of No.” Times Higher Education, 21 July 2021. 
  • Cowan, Mairi. “Transferrable Skills are a Byproduct, not the Point, of a University Education.” University Affairs, 2 June 2021.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “The Stitches of Politics in Mary Stewart’s Needlework,” program notes for the play The Glove Thief by Beth Flintoff, Theatre Erindale, October 2019.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “President Trump’s Medievalish Walls.” Active History, 15 January 2019.
  • Cowan Mairi and Whitney Hahn. “Food Studies and Feasting at the Dublin Gastronomy Symposium.” In Culinary Historians of Canada Digestible Bits and Bites, July 2018.
  • Kaler, Michael, Mairi Cowan, and Tyler Evans-Tokaryk. “Making Time for Writing Pedagogy: Introducing the UTM Faculty Writing Fellowship.” In the Teaching & Learning Collaboration @UTM Newsletter, January 2018.
  • Overgaard, Nicholas and Mairi Cowan. “A “Very Particular Assistance’ from Jean de Brébeuf: Opium and relics as a cure for phrénésie in seventeenth-century New France.” In Findings / Trouvailles, The Champlain Society, June 2017.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “Season of Good Cheer.” Canada’s History (December 2016 / January 2017): 48-55.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “King Cakes at the Ursuline Convent in Quebec,” “A Musical Midnight Mass in New France,” and “Courtship in Muddy Yuletide York.” In the Twelve Days of Trouvailles series, Findings / Trouvailles, The Champlain Society, 2016.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “The Emerging Histories of the Early Modern French Atlantic Conference from an Early Modern Canadianist Perspective.” In Borealia: A Group Blog on Early Canadian History, 2015.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “Learning How to Prepare.” In Success in First-Year University: A Survival Guide For International and ESL Students. Edited by Laura Taylor, Stacey Platt and Joanna Mackie. Mississauga: University of Toronto Mississauga Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, in partnership with the International Education Centre, 2015, 99-101.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “African Currents in the Renaissance Scottish Court.” History Scotland (November / December, 2014): 38-43.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “Janet Rynd.” In The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women. Edited by E. Ewan, S. Innes, R. Pipes and S. Reynolds. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.
  • Cowan, Mairi. “Yule in the Court of James IV.” History Scotland (January / February, 2005): 17-23.

Teaching and Learning Resources: