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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.

A tall bookcase of old books

Who Decides Which Books Are “Great?”

The concept of “Great Books," the historian Tim Lacy explains, developed in the late nineteenth century as an attempt to foster a “democratic culture.”
A shameful looking dog in a pig costume

Does My Dog Really Feel Shame?

A Curious Reader asks: When my dog gets that “hang dog” expression after I scold her for misbehavior, is she really ashamed?
A Hudson Bay Company trading post

Why the Dakota Only Traded among People with Kinship Bonds

“Trapping was not a ‘business for profit’ among the Dakota but primarily a social exchange,” one scholar writes.
the front panel of the very first Internet Message Processor (IMP), which went to UCLA's Boelter 3420 lab and became the very first node on the ARPANET, which would become the Internet

Happy Birthday to Cyberspace!

The first message sent through the ARPANET was “LO.” It was supposed to be “LOGIN,” but the network crashed after the first two letters.
Storm King on the Hudson by Samuel Colman, 1866

Can American Expansion Continue Indefinitely?

Or will continued abundance require serious changes in consumer behavior?
A pink breast cancer awareness ribbon

Branding the Breast Cancer Narrative

Do those ubiquitous pink ribbons stand for women’s health concerns... or for normative concepts of beauty?
Jamie Lee Curtis holds a knife in a scene from the film 'Halloween', 1978

Selling Slashers to Teen Girls

The heroines of 1970s and 80s teen horror movies were traditionally feminine, tough, and sexually confident.
Mother and Child Hand Coloured Ambrotype (Collodion Positive) c. 1860

Industrial London’s Maternal Child Abductors

In industrial-era England, children took on new value in family life. Around this time, they started to be stolen more often, too.
Two siblings standing back to back with serious expressions

The Invention of Sibling Rivalry

Sibling jealousy feels like a universal problem, but most parenting experts didn't even acknowledge it until the early 20th century.
Punch and Judy by George Cruikshank, 1828

When Puppet Shows Were Too Violent For Kids

How much violence do we accept in our entertainment? 19th-century Punch and Judy shows were misogynistic, murderous, and definitely not for children.
A student standing at a crossroads

Why Everyone Doesn’t Value Choice to the Same Degree

Studies show that college-educated white Americans value having choice -- and yet having too much choice can paralyze and lead to dissatisfaction.
A woman sitting alone on a bed

A Brief History of Masturbation

In the U.S. and Europe, there's still discomfort around the topic of masturbation. But we’ve come a long way from tying it to mortal sin and insanity.
The cover of Gharbzadegi by Jalal Al-e-Ahmad

Progress Is Not the Same as Westernization

Jalal Al-e Ahmad, a political and literary writer in pre-revolutionary Iran, had ideas about how his country could modernize in its own, non-Western way.
Three women wearing corsets

How Colonialism Shaped Body Shaming

When did heaviness and curviness in women become connected with the idea of "savagery"? It has a lot to do with 19th-century imperialist world views.
A little girl playing superhero

Why Playing Superhero Is Good for Kids

It's hard to know how to respond to imaginative play that looks violent. Some experts say it's best to go ahead and let little kids play superhero anyway.
George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush. Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton at at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

Why Did Christianity Thrive in the U.S.?

Between 1870 and 1960, Christianity declined dramatically across much of Europe. Not in America. One historian explains why.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_F._Francis_(attrib)_-_Still_Life_of_Strawberries_and_Cream.jpg

The Invention of Dessert

The English word “dessert” emerged in the seventeenth century, derived from the French verb “desservir.” But the concept has changed a lot since then.
An advertisement for Ivory Soap from the Christian Herald, 1913

Using God to Sell Soap

Ivory Soap got its name from Psalm 45.
Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach

Surgery for Stuttering

In the 19th century, Europe and the United States saw a "mania for operating."
the Publick Universal Friend

The Genderless Eighteenth-Century Prophet

In 1776, a 24-year-old Quaker woman named Jemima Wilkinson died of fever, and came back to life as a prophet known as the Publick Universal Friend.
Antique engraving of a view of the State Street, Boston. Mid 1800s.

The Birth of the Modern American Debt Collector

In the 19th century, farm loans changed from a matter between associates into an impersonal, bureaucratic exchange.
The editorial staff at Reuters Press Agency, circa 1900.

The Invention of Journalistic Objectivity

In the contemporary United States we tend to expect journalists to separate fact and opinion. It's actually a relatively new phenomenon.
Illustration of a man surrounded by women

A 19th-Century Catfishing Scheme

In the late 1800s, a U.K. scheme lured lonely bachelors with newspaper advertisements supposedly placed by wealthy women.
Protesters Demand Resignation Of Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello, July 22, 2019

“Jokes” about Genocide in Puerto Rico

The resignation of Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rosselló echoes an incident from the 1930s.
Satan's fall from heaven, into the logo for Chapo Trap House.

Satan, the Radical

There is a long history of leftist thinkers embracing Satan, usually just as a way to shake up political rhetoric.