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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 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.
The Eldorado Nightclub

Gender Identity in Weimar Germany

Remembering an early academic effort to define sexual orientation and gender identity as variable natural phenomena, rather than moral matters.
Building Colonies for WW1 Veterans

Building Colonies for WWI Veterans

After World War I, policymakers seriously considered the idea of setting up farming colonies for returning veterans.
Jenny Lind the Swedish Nightingale. Poster from the collection of the University of Sheffield.

Superfans in the Nineteenth Century

Americans have long obsessed over their favorite musicians.
Man cooking with his son

When Is Cooking Fun?

Is cooking a daily grind necessary to keep a family fed, or a fun hobby? The answers lies largely in how home cooks approach the tasks at hand.
Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai toast during Nixon's 1972 visit to China

How Nixon Paved the Way for Trump

Richard Nixon's voters had a lot in common with Trump's, especially in their idealization of the self-sufficient, independent American businessperson.
Chestnuts

When Chestnuts Were an Everyday Food

Even if you haven't actually roasted chestnuts on an open fire, you probably associate them with winter. But once they were a common year-round food.

Better Living Through Nudity

In England in the 1920s and ‘30s, nudism was ideological and utopian. Then the Nazis coopted the concept for their eugenicist Nacktkultur movement.
An ecstatic commune member

When Communes Don’t Fail

Communes have gotten a reputation for being flaky or cultish. But intentional communities have a long history, and many have been successful.
Side-by-side image of Dubai and Manhattan

The Key to Environmentally-Friendly Urban Planning

Manhattan and Dubai are both bustling, crowded cities with dense populations. So do Manhattanites have smaller ecological footprints?
"I Voted" stickers

How to Get People to Vote

In the United States midterm elections, it is common for as few as 40% of eligible adults to vote. Why it matters, and some possible solutions.
Portrait young couple at voter polling place

The Case for Lowering the Voting Age

If the standard we hold for who can vote is the consent of the governed, why shouldn’t children be included?