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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 group of slaves gathered outside a building at the Foller Plantation in Cumberland Landing, Pamunkey Run, Virginia, May, 1862.

Did Black Rebellion Win the Civil War?

Historians are giving credence to W.E.B. DuBois's assertion that enslaved workers coordinated a general strike, which helped end the Civil War.
An advertisement for Fry's Chocolate

How Chocolate Came to Europe

Pre-Colombian cultures valued chocolate highly as a drink, and often served it at important events. It wasn't made into a solid candy until 1847.
A trade card for Dilworth's Coffee, Philadelphia

The Racism of 19th-Century Advertisements

Illustrated advertising cards invoked ethnic stereotypes, using black women as foils in order to appeal to white consumers.
Group photo in front of Clark University: Front row: Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, C. G. Jung; Back row: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi.

When Psychoanalysts Believed in Magic

Sigmund Freud told Carl Jung it was important to keep sexuality at the center of the human psyche, rather than anything spiritualist.
A map of lines and metallic circuit connections by the American Telephone and Telegraph Co., 1891

When the Weather Service Spied on Americans

The United States National Weather Service began as part of the military, with a mandate to serve the interests of federal officials and business owners.
Billy Sunday

Pop-Culture Preaching in the 1910s

Billy Sunday was a charismatic preacher who brought in thousands to his vaudeville-inspired church services.
Volunteer nurses tending to the sick and wounded.

When Death Was Women’s Business

In the 19th century, women called "watchers" tended to the dying and the dead.
Alan Watts

When Buddhism Came to America

Buddhism was embraced by the Beats of 1950s America. But some Buddhists felt these converts were engaging with the practice in a shallow way.
A classroom of white students in the 19th century

White Women’s Role in School Segregation

White American women have long played significant roles in maintaining racist practices. One sociologist calls the phenomenon "social mothering."
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.
Greta Garbo

Makeup in the Technicolor Age

When Technicolor changed the face of the film industry, it also altered the cosmetics industry, sparking the great Hollywood Powder Puff War of the 1930s.
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 pile of pink and blue sponges

Finding the Value of Housework

Can housework be anything other than drudgery? Maybe part of the problem is that we consistently devalue unpaid work.
Two champagne glasses toasting

Why Champagne?

We use champagne to celebrate New Year's Eve and other major events. But how did the sparkling wine get such cultural cachet? (Hint: marketing helped.)
Interior with breastfeeding woman

Breast Milk as Medicine

Human breast milk has been recommended as a cure-all since the 17th century.
Two young people reading together.

Is Fan Fiction a Helpful Literacy Tool?

Some teachers are adapting to the internet age by trying to understand the "new literacies" of today's students.
Illustration from "The Nights of Straparola" (1894)

The Invention of the Passive Fairy Tale Heroine

European fairy tales featured bold, independent female characters—until the Reformation forced shifts in cultural attitudes towards women.
Barbie dolls

Should We Really Stress Out about What Kids Play With?

Today's parents may feel concerned about their kids' obsession with electronic games, but adults have always been suspicious of new kinds of playthings.
The Feast of Achelous by Peter Paul Rubens, circa 1615

Feasting Tips From Ancient Greece

Many of us strive to avoid talking politics at a big holiday feasts. But in Homer's Greece, feasting was all about politics.
Triumph of St. Benedict

What Monks Can Teach us about Managing our Work Lives

Medieval monks used labor-saving innovations like the mill not to increase productivity, but to free up more time for what they wanted to do.
General Electric Mazda Lamps

Light Bulbs for Beauty

When electric lighting was first introduced to U.S. households, marketing departments tried to convince women that better lighting would be flattering.
Depiction of the financial panic of 1873

How Business Got Risky

The word “risk” took on new meaning in the 19th century, when it became a way of understanding the interactions between individuals and economic markets.
A hand holding a sandwich

Why Do Americans Eat Three Meals a Day?

A Curious Reader asks: What’s the origin of the familiar breakfast-lunch-dinner triad?
A classroom of bored children

Why School Is Boring

The average student is bored about 1/3 of the time. But that might have more to do with the kids' temperaments than with school itself.
A copy of The Whole Earth Catalog hovering over a circuit board

How Hacking Got Hacked

How the archetype of the quirky, brilliant tech entrepreneur whose ideas could change the world migrated from high-tech hacker culture to Wall Street.