Sean Fraga is an assistant professor (teaching) of Environmental Studies and History. Fraga is an environmental historian of the North American West and eastern Pacific Ocean during the long nineteenth century. He specializes in connections between U.S. imperial expansion, Native sovereignty, technology, and the environment. Fraga’s digital humanities research focuses on digital mapping and on scholarly uses of augmented reality. 


Fraga’s book project, Ocean Fever: Steam Power, Transpacific Trade, and American Colonization of Puget Sound, is under contract with Yale University Press for publication in the Lamar Series in Western History. Ocean Fever argues that Americans interested in trade with East Asia saw Puget Sound’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. But in the process, American settlers dramatically altered coastal environments and repeatedly displaced Native peoples. Today, Tribal nations around Puget Sound are leveraging their marine sovereignty to shape the region’s future. 


Fraga is the project director for Booksnake, a multidisciplinary experiment in mobilizing augmented reality as an interface for scholarly research. Booksnake lets researchers, educators, and students view digitized archival materials in the real world, making it feel like digital items are physically present. Learn more at


Fraga’s scholarly research has been published in MobilitiesCurrent Research in Digital History and the Western Historical Quarterly. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Post. His research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the North American Society for Oceanic History, and the Newberry Library, among others.


At U.S.C., Fraga teaches about environmental history, U.S. engagement with the Pacific Ocean, island and coastal studies, and digital and spatial humanities.


Fraga holds a Ph.D. and an M.A., both in history, from Princeton University. He received his B.A. in American Studies, with distinction in the major, from Yale University. Before joining U.S.C.’s faculty, he was a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in U.S.C.’s Humanities in a Digital World program.


  • Ph.D. History, Princeton University, 1/2019
  • M.A. History, Princeton University, 5/2015
  • BA American Studies (intensive), with distinction, Yale University, 5/2010
  • Journal Article

    • Fraga, S. P. (2022). “Steam Power, Native Labor, and Contested Terraqueous Mobilities during American Settlement of Puget Sound, 1846–1873”. Mobilities. Vol. 17 (2), pp. 196–212. article link
    • Fraga, S. P. (2020). “‘An Outlet to the Western Sea’: Puget Sound, Terraqueous Mobility, and Northern Pacific Railroad’s Pursuit of Trade with Asia, 1864–1892”. Western Historical Quarterly. Vol. 51 (4), pp. 439–451. (article link)
    • Fraga, S. P. (2020). “Digitally Mapping Commercial Currents: Maritime Mobility, Vessel Technology, and U.S. Colonization of Puget Sound, 1851–1861,”. Current Research in Digital History. Vol. 3 (article link)
    • Fraga, S. P. (2014). “Native Americans, Military Science, and Settler Colonialism on the Pacific Railroad Surveys, 1853–1855”. Princeton University Library Chronicle. Vol. 75 (3), pp. 317–349. (article link)
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