Sean Fraga


I study historical connections between technology, mobility, and the environment. I’m interested in the ways people use technology to understand places and to shape their surroundings through movement, especially in the U.S. West and Pacific World during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

I’m currently a Ph.D. candidate in History at Princeton University, where I work with Marni Sandweiss and Emily Thompson. I’m also an American Studies graduate student affiliate. My dissertation, “Ocean Fever: Water, Trade, and the Terraqueous Northwest,” argues that Americans went west in order to participate in Pacific Ocean commerce. Americans interested in Asian trade saw the Pacific Northwest’s deep harbors as valuable portals to the Pacific Ocean, and used railroad and shipping connections to build Northwest seaport towns into global commercial hubs. Read more here.

I combine traditional archival research with digital mapping and geospatial analysis to understand old stories in new ways. This spring, I’ll work with Princeton’s Center for Digital Humanities to map historical maritime trade networks in the Pacific Northwest and northern Pacific Ocean. See more here.

This spring, I’ll teach a Princeton seminar, “Writing About Cities: Place and Memory,” in which students will develop proposals for new monuments to be added to Princeton’s campus. I also teach about the history of the U.S. West, the history of technology, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, and American cultural landscapes, among other subjects. Learn more here.

My hometown is Bainbridge Island, Wash.