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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.

An 1890s advertising poster showing a woman in fancy clothes (partially vaguely influenced by 16th- and 17th-century styles) drinking Coke

Who Took the Cocaine Out of Coca-Cola?

The medical profession saw nothing wrong with offering a cocaine-laced cola to white, middle-class consumers. Selling it to Black Americans was another matter.
Collier's illustration for E. W. Hornung's Raffles short story "Out of Paradise" by J. C. Leyendecker, 1904

The Joy of Burglary

In the early 1900s, a fictional “gentleman burglar” named Raffles fascinated British readers, reflecting popular ideas about crime, class, and justice.
Historical Marker sign for Camp Jened in Hunter, NY

Creating Communities for Disability Activism

In the 1960s, young disabled people found each other at camps and colleges, creating ever-expanding networks for challenging discrimination.
The covers of the novels Janet March by Floyd Dell, Boys and Girls Together by William Goldman, and Weeds by Edith Summers Kelley

The Novels that Taught Americans about Abortion

Twentieth-century novels helped readers to learn about the practicalities of abortion as well as the social and moral questions around the procedure.
Cicero Denounces Catiline in the Roman Senate by Cesare Maccari

Political Corruption in Athens and Rome

Bribery was widespread in the ancient world. That didn’t mean it was considered acceptable.
Relief from a wall of the northern palace of Nineveh, Iraq. 645-635 BC

Haunted Soldiers in Mesopotamia

In ancient Mesopotamia, many medical disorders were attributed to ghosts, including mental problems faced by men who had spent years at war.
Star-Herb Medicines and Teas for all Diseases, 1923

How Government Helped Birth the Advertising Industry

Advertising went from being an embarrassing activity to a legitimate part of every company’s business plans—despite scant evidence that it worked.
The Vivisection of Humans, 1899

The Dangers of Animal Experimentation—for Doctors

Nineteenth-century opponents of vivisection warned that the practice could make researchers and physicians callous toward all living creatures.
From Orbis habitabilis oppida et vestitus, centenario numero complexa, summo studio collecta, atque in lucem edita à Carolo Allard, c. 1700

The Power of the Veil for Spanish Women

In sixteenth-century Spain, veiling allowed women to move freely through cities while keeping their identities private.
The 19 year old Indian elephant, Fritz-Frederic, favourite of the children of Paris, was put to death after he had gone mad for several days, c. 1910

Elephant Executions

At the height of circus animal acts in the late nineteenth century, animals who killed their captors might be publicly executed for their “crimes.”
Colombian taitas, 2001

The Diverse Shamanisms of South America

In Brazil, Indigenous people and city-dwellers of all backgrounds mix various shamanic practices, including rituals imported from North America and elsewhere.
An illustration from Technic and Practice of Chiropractic, 1915

The Metaphysical Story of Chiropractic

Chiropractic medicine began as a practice built on an approach to the human condition that was distinctly opposed to Christianity.
Jizō, c. 1202

A Bodhisattva for Japanese Women

Originally known in China as Dizāng, the “savior of the damned,” Jizō has evolved into a protector of children and comforter of women in Japan.
Image of U.S. commemorative stamp fir the Gadsden Purchase

Taking Slavery West in the 1850s

Before the Civil War, pro-slavery forces in the South—particularly the future president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis—tried to extend their power westward.
Tabula Indiae Orientalis et Regnorum adjacentium.

Culinary Fusion in the Ancient World

People from eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, South Asia, and Southeast Asia have been sharing food plants across the Indian Ocean for millennia.
Vintage engraving showing police officers transporting prisoners in to the London Police Courts

The Industrial Revolution and the Rise of Policing

The increased use of machines and the division of labor allowed for the production of standardized products. It also made it easier to fence stolen goods.
A Spectro-Chrome, c. 1925

Colorful Lights to Cure What Ails You

Between 1920 and the 1960s, tens of thousands of people received treatment with a Spectro-Chrome to address various ailments.
The portrait of Confucius from Confucius, Philosopher of the Chinese

Confucius in the European Enlightenment

Many Enlightenment thinkers admired Confucius, leading to a debate over whether classical Chinese philosophy was compatible with Christianity.
The Reverend Brian Hession of the Dawn Trust and Bible Films Ltd film company starts a showing of a religious film at St Peter's Church, Piccadilly, London, 1946

Seeing the World Through Missionaries’ Eyes

One way Americans got a look into life in distant parts of the world in the 1930s and ’40s was through films made by Protestant missionary groups.
Matthias Brinsden murdering his wife in a quarrel, 18th century

Does Adultery Justify Murder?

There’s a popular (mis)perception that, prior to the rise of modern legal systems, a husband was considered justified in killing a straying wife.
Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, ca. 1860

Why Not Just Be a Nurse?

To be taken seriously as physicians, women doctors in nineteenth-century Britain felt the need to distinguish themselves from others of their gender.
Saint Wilgefortis

Meet Saint Wilgefortis, the Bearded Virgin

A Christian martyr, Wilgefortis was divinely gifted with a sudden growth of facial hair to escape forced marriage, only to be crucified by her father.
A dukun preparing medicine, c. 1910-1940

The International History of “Indigenous” Malay Healers

The origins of Malay and Indonesian dukun healers are intertwined with the history of Persian involvement in the region.
One knight consoling another knight on the ground

The Swooning Knights of Medieval Stories

In romantic literature of the fourteenth and fifteen centuries, fainting wasn’t just for ladies.
The eclipse of Agathocles

How Astronomers Write History

Scientists’ approach to dating past eclipses changed when they stopped treating classical texts as authoritative records.