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Black and white headshot of author Matthew Wills

Matthew Wills

Matthew Wills has advanced degrees in library science and film studies and is lapsed in both fields. He has published in Poetry, Huffington Post, and Nature Conservancy Magazine, among other places, and blogs regularly about urban natural history at matthewwills.com.

The dwarf Gimli from the film 'The Lord Of The Rings', 1978.

J. R. R. Tolkien’s Jewish Dwarves

The peoples of Middle Earth weren’t just a product of Tolkien’s creative mind; they were shaped by the anti-Jewish culture that surrounded him.
Royal Air Force bombers, 1938

The RAF on Speed: High-Flying or Flying High?

Drug use during World War II, especially by Nazis, was typically viewed as immoral. But what about when it was approved by leaders of the Royal Air Force?
The lid of K'inich Janaab' Pakal's sarcophagus

From Mud to the Sun: The World Tree of the Maya

Cosmic trees, found around the globe and throughout history, may represent a primeval fount of creation or a vegetal axis mundi that connects life and death.
A photograph of George Leslie Stout, Langdon Warner, and Japanese officials at Nishi Honganji temple in Kyoto, Japan, May 1946

The Other Monuments Men

The men and women who tracked down looted art after WWII didn’t just go after stuff stolen by the Nazis. They also searched for treasures stolen by the Japanese. Sort of.
Foundation of the American Government by Henry Hintermeister

A Colorblind Compromise?

“Colorblindness,” an ideology that denies that race is an organizing principle of the nation’s structural order, reaches back to the drafting of the US Constitution.
An illustration of a whale watch boat and a whale

Who Is Watching the Whale-watchers?

Whale-watching cruises can negatively affect the behavior of cetaceans, depending on species, environment, and population.
Photograph: Sojourner Truth, 1860s

The Truth About Isabella Van Wagenen

Sojourner Truth’s entanglement with a dubious cult leader in New York City steadied her steps on the path for women’s rights.
E.E. Cummings, 1920

Revisiting The Enormous Room

This year marks the centennial of the publication of E. E. Cummings’s novel based on his imprisonment in France during World War I. 
Eugene Debs speaking at Canton, Ohio, 1918

In The Debs Archive

The papers of American labor activist and socialist Eugene V. Debs (1855–1926) offer a snapshot of early twentieth-century politics.
A film title lantern slide for Broncho Billy

Whatever Happened To The Male Movie Fan?

In the early days of the film industry, the fanzone was full of men and boys. Then the studios chased them all away.
A yellow and purple button with "Fight AIDS, Not People with AIDS" in yellow and purple font.

Pro-Epidemic Stigmatization

Prejudice and moralism interferes with public health, aiding and abetting the spread of the HIV and monkeypox viruses.
An electron microscopic image depicting a monkeypox virion

The Monkeypox 411

Although it’s less fatal and less transmissible than the related smallpox, there’s still serious cause for concern with the most recent outbreak.
A Cane Toad is exhibited at Taronga Zoo August 9, 2005 in Sydney, Australia

Cane Toads, Dung Beetles, and Cork Hats

Predicting the effects of introducing a species into an ecosystem is difficult. Mitigating those effects later is even more so. Just ask Australia.
The Alamo by day with the Texas flag waving

How to Remember the Alamo?

A historian’s childhood visit to the Texas monument prompts questions about history, memory, and multiculturalism.
Voting Hands and Ballot Box

Happiness is a Warm Democracy

A greater exposure to democracy leads to a higher level of self-reported happiness.
A man sweeps cooked rice still in the husk into piles to dry at a rice mill July 18, 2008 in Srinigar, Bangladesh

Food Price Inflation and Health

Periods of concurrent economic downturn and high food price inflation can exacerbate health threats for infants and children in developing countries.
A North American Beaver - Castor Canadensis - sitting in the grass grooming itself

Beaver Politics in Oregon

Reintroduction of the beaver may help mitigate the effects of climate change, but the obstacles between these toothy rodents and their ponds are many.
A computer-generated image of the Project CyberSyn operations room

The Chilean Wide Web?

Salvador Allende’s attempt to network the national economy mirrored his government’s struggle to balance centralization and decentralization.
Germain soldiers holding the perimeter around a tank during a time of political unrest during the Weimar Era.

Democide: An Inside Job?

The biggest enemy of democracy? It may be democracy itself.
A climate change activist stands outside the home of Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) on June 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. Activist groups are holding a "Tour of Shame", or march to the homes of senators they consider most responsible for a reduction in climate change regulations.

A Return To Nineteenth-Century Style Regulation?

In an era of laissez-faire governance, a growing number of federal and state regulations were justified as necessary to protect public health and morality.
Male and female runners on a blue background

Gender Incommensurability In Sports

Cultural systems have historically defined sex segregation. The imperfect science has led to failures in policing gender in sports.
National Police Gazette

Policing Abortion

A study on the criminalization of abortion in the late 1800s through the 1940s reveals that the law was often used against working-class women.
Fetching water from a spigot which services many people who live in the huge slum area known as "El Fangitto" in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The New Deal Comes To Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was hit hard by the Great Depression. New Deal relief programs were often democratic and locally controlled.
From Sexualpathologie by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, 1921

Visualizing Trans Identities

Photography played an important role in determining gender categories and presentations for both scientists and trans individuals in interwar Germany.
Photograph: German strongman Eugene Sandow lifting weights and dumbbells, c. 1890

Buff Boys of America: Eugen Sandow and Jesus

Under the influence of Muscular Christianity, Jesus transformed into a muscle-bound Aryan, saving souls through strength and masculinity.