Skip to content

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.

A butcher processes some meat at Vincents Meat Market on April 17, 2020, in Bronx, New York City

Zombies of the Slaughterhouse

The oppressions of Homo sapiens and other species in the US livestock industry aren’t distinct from one another—they’re mutually constitutive.
The New India Museum, Whitehall-Yard. Illustration for The Illustrated London News, 3 August 1861.

Imperial Science and the Company’s Museum

The East India Company’s London museum stored the stuff of empire, feeding the growth of new collections-based disciplines and scientific societies.
At La Souris, Madame Palmyre, 1949 by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Palmyre’s Belle Époque Lesbian Bar

By providing sexualized entertainment to tourists, the bar owners of Montmartre made visible and even celebrated the quarter’s queer culture.
The New York American 1912 Headline for the sinking of the Titanic

Bodies of the Titanic: Found and Lost Again

Ideas about economic class informed decisions about which recovered bodies would be preserved for land burial and which would be returned to the icy seas.
Jeannace June Freeman

The Lesbian As Villain or Victim

In Oregon in the 1960s, the debate over capital punishment hinged on shifting interpretations of the gendered female body.
The January 1961 cover for Mad Magazine

Mad About Nixon

No other personality appeared more often on the cover of Mad during the first fifty years of the satirical magazine’s life.
Finland's President Sauli Niinisto (L) greets Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson as they are welcomed to the White House by U.S. President Joe Biden on May 19, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Neutrality: Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

While Sweden has claimed a position of neutrality for more than two centuries, its policy of non-alignment was somewhat ambiguous during the Cold War.
ADN-ZB / H‰fller 30.7.73 Together with Italian festival delegates, members of the National People's Army sing at Alexanderplatz, July 1973

The Red Woodstock: Not Quite According to Plan

The 1973 World Festival of Youth and Students highlighted the paradoxes inherent in the East German socialist project.
A couple holding hands

The Long History of Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex marriages, in all possible configurations and with all possible motivations, have taken place throughout the history of the United States.
Rosa Bonheur in her atelier (1893) by Georges Achille-Fould

Rosa Bonheur’s Permission to Wear Pants

One of the few women permitted to wear trousers during the Third Republic, the French artist developed a sense of self through her clothing choices.
An Chang Ho, Kap Suk Cho and other workers at Riverside orange orchard

The First Koreatown

Pachappa Camp, the first Korean-organized immigrant settlement in the United States, was established through the efforts of Ahn Chang Ho.
An illustration of a bathysphere, 1934

The New Oceanography: More Remote and More Inclusive

The days of celebrity oceanographers romancing the deep are gone, and maybe that’s a good thing.
Two men of the French Foreign Legion, 1955

OK Recruiter: The Legion is Coming

Anxieties over the abduction of young men into the French Foreign Legion after WWII reflected West Germany’s concerns about the state of their nation.
Ornament for title page of The Columbian Magazine for the year 1789

Reading Aloud in the Early Republic

Magazines of the freshly founded United States drew legitimacy and stability from the collective voice and sociability of their editors.
Plate 66 of Birds of America by John James Audubon depicting Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Is the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Still Around?

With the US government poised to declare the Ivory-billed Woodpecker extinct, scientists work to determine what counts as evidence of existence.
Exhuming the remains of President Monroe in the Second Street Cemetery

Fighting Over the Dead

There was more than one violent altercation at the cemetery when one side of the family wanted to move a dead relative, and the other didn’t.
The First "Computer Bug" Moth found trapped between points at Relay # 70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator at Harvard University, 9 September 1947.

The Bug in the Computer Bug Story

Soon after a team of engineers discovered a moth in a machine at Harvard, the word "bug" became a standard part of the programmer's lexicon. Or did it?
Ruins at end of Richmond and Petersburg Railroad Bridge, Richmond, between 1861 and 1865

Not Mathew Brady: The Civil War Photos of Andrew J. Russell

Will the real Civil War photographer please stand up?
News reporters mingle with members of the International Brigade, amongst them is Ernest Hemingway (with mustache and glasses), during the Spanish Civil War, c. 1937.

The International Brigades

Foreigners fighting for Ukraine may call to mind the International Brigades that fought in defense of the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War.
Women digging near damaged train tracks during the Battle of Stalingrad, USSR, during World War II.

Counting War’s Civilian Dead

Despite claims of precision strikes and the proliferation of smart bombs, the number of civilians killed in war appears staggeringly high.
Newsboys amusing themselves while waiting for morning papers, New York, 1908

Heroic Newsboy Funerals

These collective rituals of death brought meaning and identity to urban, working-class youth.
Episode of the Siege of Sebastopol During the Crimean War in 1855

Empire: The Russian Way

Russia's rise as an imperial power was built on intercontinental expansion, and a mission of "civilizing, protecting and educating" the conquered.
Mary R. Hyde, matron, and students at Carlisle Indian Training School

Mothers Against Mothers in the American West

The participation of white mothers in the "bitter robbery" of Indigenous children from their families was a cruel irony in the colonialist programs of the US and Australia.
Benito Mussolini meets an enthusiastic group of mothers and their babies in Turin, circa 1940.

Mussolini’s Motherhood Factories

In fascist Italy, childbirth, breastfeeding and motherhood were given a hybrid structure of industrial management and eugenicist biological essentialism.
A duel between Charles de Lameth and the Marquis de Castries,November 12, 1790

A Slap, Followed by a Duel

Dueling was a dangerous, ritualized response to a real (or perceived) slight. It may also have been a means of proving one's social and economic capital.