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Black and white headshot of author Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon is a freelance writer in Nashua, New Hampshire. Her writing has appeared in publications including Salon, Aeon Magazine and the Good Men Project. Contact her on Twitter @liviagershon.

Depiction of the Battle of Ravine-à-Couleuvres, during the Haitian Revolution, February 1802

The Haitian Revolution and American Slavery

For both US politicians and enslaved Black Americans, the Haitian Revolution represented the possibility of a successful violent rebellion by the oppressed.
illustration of a woman's body on abstract blob background

Do You Own Your Body?

The idea that our bodies are our own may be intuitive, but when it comes to market transactions like surrogacy, our beliefs and feelings get more complicated.
The spartan mother by Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée, 1770

Why Some Spartan Women Had Two Husbands

In ancient Sparta, it was accepted practice for more women to marry and have children by more than one man.
Acharya Shri Bhikshu, the founder and first spiritual head of Śvētāmbara Terapanth

Jain Ascetics in a Material World

The Jain Śvētāmbara Terāpanth sect began as an ascetic discipline, but it has increasingly emphasized physical health over renunciation of the body.
Walter Evans-Wentz and Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup, c. 1919

Where Tulpas Come From

Created through the power of the human mind, tulpas bear little resemblance to anything found in the Tibetan traditions in which they allegedly originated.
Source: https://harvardartmuseums.org/collections/object/313378

Self Care and Community in 1901 Indianapolis

For Black women engaged with local institutions, the “Delsarte” technique was a means of supporting struggling city residents while advancing political power.
Asahi Beer poster with a young woman of Dai Nippon Brewery. From the Taisho period, circa 1920s.

How Beer Came to Asia

Reactions to the introduced brew ranged from Japanese efforts to imitate German beers to a reluctance to imbibe among Muslims and Hindus in India.
A 19th century madstone

Dubious Medicine on the Texas Frontier

If you got sick in the Texas frontier area in the decades before the Civil War, your options were all pretty bad.
Punctuation Personified: or, Pointing Made Easy (London: John Harris, 1824).

What Is Punctuation For?

Between the medieval and modern world, the marks used to make writing more legible changed from “pointing” to punctuation.
The dream of Zulaykha, from the Amber Album, c. 1670

Dreams in Islam

Even before the founding of Islam, Arabia was home to professional dream interpreters.
West Sumatra in Indonesia

The Complicated Gender of Sumatran Tombois

Indonesian tombois are understood as men in many public contexts, but their families of origin often treat them as female in some respects and male in others.
A few of the workers of the San Martin Cigar Company in Tampa, Florida

How Jim Crow Divided Florida’s Cubans

In the late nineteenth century, many Cuban immigrants supported racial equality. That began to change as white supremacist terrorism grew in intensity.
A woman sitting on a fence, books in her left hand while thumbing a lift with her right hand, on a country road, United States, circa 1955.

When Hitchhiking was Wholesome

In the 1930s, hitchhiking was viewed as an opportunity for generosity on the part of the driver and a way to practice good manners on the part of the rider.
Asia Poppers, who portrays colonist Tryphosa Tracy, prepares fritters in her one-room house November 25, 2003 at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The Countercultural History of Living Museums

In the 1960s and ’70s, guides began wearing period costumes and farming with historical techniques, a change that coincided with the back-to-the-land movement.
Giacomo Casanova by Francesco Narici

Casanova was Famous for Being Famous

Giacomo Casanova achieved celebrity not through any particular achievement but by mingling with famous people and making himself the subject of gossip.
Prince of Wales, Edward VII with Sir Jung Bahadoor shooting a tiger during a hunting expedition in India,1876

Resisting British Hunters in India

In nineteenth-century India, many locals stood up against British hunting—sometimes at the cost of their own lives—as a means of cultural conservation.
Undated broadsheet, Printed Ephemera Collection, Portfolio 23, Folder 11, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. ht

The Rise of Anti-Societies

In the early 1800s, Americans formed all sorts of anti-vice societies, triggering jokes and serious resistance to reform through a wave of anti-societies.
Distribution of coal to the poor at Christmas by the Parish Beadle, c. 1888

Banning Christmas Dinner

Poor laws passed in Great Britain in the 1830s reversed a centuries-old tradition to forbid workhouses from serving roast beef and plum pudding at Christmas.
A painting of the Henry Grace à Dieu, 1512

The Learning Labs of Sailing Ships

Taking a ship from Europe to the Americas in the early 1500s meant entering a world of cutting-edge applied technology and the mixing of social classes.
Swedish folk musicians, 1922

The Tricky Politics of Swedish Folk Music

In the early twentieth century, folk music in Sweden was connected with right-wing nationalists, leaving a complicated inheritance for today’s music fans.
Portrait of Ranavalona I, Queen of Merina from 1828 to 1861

How Madagascar’s Queen Ranavalona Helped Define Queen Victoria

In the nineteenth century, Queen Ranavalona became a foil to Queen Victoria, her “savage” queenship held in contrast to that of the “civilized” female monarch.
Bal Masqué by Charles Hermans, 1880

Paris’s Wild Costume Balls

As urban growth brought rich and poor Parisians closer together in the 1830s, masked balls encouraged class mixing and costumes that crossed gender lines.
Medieval coin, sixpence of Elizabeth I dating to AD 1596

The Magic of a Crooked Sixpence

Coins were used for centuries in many ritual contexts, but the English silver sixpence was a particularly common charm—for several reasons.
A black preacher addressing his mixed congregation on a plantation

When Enslaved Virginians Demanded the Right to Read

In 1723, a group of enslaved African Americans petitioned the Bishop of London to ensure that their children could attend school and learn to read the Bible.
A painting of Elizabeth Hamilton

Redeeming the Old Maid

Scottish-born novelist Elizabeth Hamilton used her characters to anticipate a future for herself in middle age as a confident and intelligent woman.