Two scientists in a hot air balloon

When Victorian Scientists Caught Ballomania

In a moment when scientists were working to fashion a credible identity for themselves, they had to decide how much showmanship was too much.
Ancient Greek funerary naiskos

When Was the First Handshake?

A Curious Reader asks: When and how did the handshake originate?
Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Willem van der Meer by Michiel van Mierevelt

Public Dissection Was a Gruesome Spectacle

Renaissance-era anatomists taught people to “knowe thyself” by reading the books of bodies.
Tarantella dancers, 1828

When Dancing Plagues Struck Medieval Europe

The tarantella is named for a peasant woman from southern Italy whose tarantula bite started a contagious dancing fever!
A tree with branches blown sideways by wind

When Europeans Feared the Wind

In early modern Europe, various sorts of winds were associated with illness and even death.
A woman dropping her tea-cup in horror upon discovering the monstrous contents of a magnified drop of Thames water

What Does History Smell Like?

Scholars don't typically pay that much attention to smells, but odors have historically been quite significant.
A rack of shoes from different eras

Our Long Relationship with Leather

A recently-discovered skeleton wearing leather boots inspires a walk through our history of wearing animal hides.
Kodak Brownie Starlet, 1957

How the Brownie Camera Made Everyone a Photographer

Eastman Kodak used folklore to sell a modern technology, and ended up creating new communities and forms of expressions along the way.
Image from Livre des profits ruraux (late 15th century France)

The Landlord Asks for a Christmas Rose

Bizarre customs of landholding—from demands for flowers to ritualized flatulence—reflect the philosophy that developed under the feudal system.