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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.

Quaker tobacco farmers in Barbados

The Invention of the “Healthy” Caribbean

Europeans used to believe that "bad air" caused diseases, so they distrusted the Caribbean's air quality and land features like swamps.
Anthony Benezet

The Undercover Abolitionists of the 18th Century

Since many people considered them an off-putting radical sect, some Quaker abolitionists worked behind the scenes to eradicate slavery.
"Spirit" photograph, supposedly taken during a seance, actually a double exposure or composite of superimposed cut-outs, showing woman with portraits of men and women around her head

How Spirit Photography Made Heaven Literal

Are the departed watching over us, and if so, what are they wearing? Victorian spiritualists believed that ghosts could be captured on film.
Karneval in Rom by Johannes Lingelbach

Is It Really Carnival if You’re Not Drunk?

Carnival is known for overturning the rules of society for a short time. But strangely, many scholars don't discuss what a big role alcohol plays in it.
Nicholas Black Elk

Wounded Knee and the Myth of the Vanished Indian

The story of the 1890 massacre was often about the end of Native American resistance to U.S. expansion. But that's not how everyone told it.
A Russian poster criticizing alcohol abuse.

The Politics of Drinking in Revolutionary Russia

To leaders, the ideal Soviet worker should be sober. Actual workers had other thoughts.
A moustachioed young man and a girl in long braids dance the 'original polka' on page one of 'Jullien's Celebrated Polkas', dedicated to Mr E Coulon.

The Rebellious, Scandalous Origins of Polka

The dance is often associated with the traditions of immigrant communities in America. But it emerged in Europe during a time of radicalism.
A man lying down on a couch in a psychiatrist office.

The Inner Life of Neoliberalism

Does it seem like left-wingers have a monopoly on therapeutic ideas? Not so fast.
An early 20th century drawing of different foods

A Brief History of the Calorie

The measure of thermal energy expended by exercise was adapted from the study of explosives and engines.
Tableau d'histoire naturelle Annelides, Crustaces, Arachnides, etc, 1834

Are Insects Capable of Moral Behavior?

Some 19th-century naturalists believed that bugs could think and should therefore definitely know that biting is out of line.
Pop art style comics panel angry woman grinding teeth with speech bubble and swear words symbols

The Theory of Cuss Word Relativity

Which words are considered taboo varies by place and time, scholars find.
Native Hawaiian schoolchildren around 1900.

How Public Schools “Americanized” Hawai’i

Colonial education administrators recruited teachers from the mainland, but soon realized another strategy was in order.

How Conservation Is Shaped by Settler Colonialism

The legal concept of "terra nullius"—meaning "no one's land"—influenced European colonialism and continues to shape the practice of conservation.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shakyamuni_Buddha_with_Avadana_Legend_Scenes_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

How Comparative Religion Took Root in the 19th Century

Many Americans considered faiths outside Christianity and Judaism to be "pagan." Unitarian minister James Freeman Clarke argued otherwise.
An advertisement for Schlitz Beer, 1967

Selling Hedonism in Postwar America

The hedonism of American consumer culture is the result of deliberate efforts by mid-twentieth century marketing experts.
A fallout shelter

The D-I-Y Fallout Shelter

In the 1950s and 1960s, families planning for the apocalypse often took a homespun approach.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Why Were There Still Stories of Blackface in 2019?

One of the minor themes of 2019 was the revelation that various prominent white politicians had once worn blackface. The question is: why?
Medieval depiction of Caesarian birth

How Medieval Surgeons Shaped Sex and Gender

Our ideas about surgically “correcting” intersex conditions go back to a shift in the profession of surgery seven centuries ago.
1971 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Ambulance

When Ambulances Were Hearses

The federal government pushed the improvement of emergency services from several directions in the 60s and 70s.
A women's hockey team, 1931

A Century Ago, Women Played Ice Hockey

Ice hockey came to the U.S. from Canada at the end of the nineteenth century. Women started playing immediately, forming their own clubs.
Scholars attending a lecture in the Ashmolean Museum

The Invention of the Archive

Seventeenth-century scholars were horrified by how much ancient knowledge had been lost when the monasteries dispersed.
Luther at the Diet of Worms by Anton von Werner

Ok papist

England faced a generational divide almost 500 years ago, as the Protestant Reformation split the nation apart.
Oil refinery

What Comes After Oil Culture?

Almost everything about our culture today is built on oil. Can we imagine a world built on a different energy infrastructure?
Elsie the Cow

Who Was Elsie, besides the World’s Most Famous Cow?

In the Great Depression, Borden sought a new spokescow to help preserve its traditional agrarian image.
Buster Keaton, Margaret Leahy and Wallace Beery in a scene from The Three Ages, 1923

The Truth about “Caveman Courtship”

Cartoon stories about early humans bear a striking resemblance to many popular uses of evolutionary psychology today.