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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.

krazy kat comic

Krazy Kat’s Complex Relationship with Race

Behind the slapstick antics in this beloved comic strip simmered ambivalence about color and race.
Los Angeles concrete

The Lost Paradise of Los Angeles

Los Angeles's bountiful agricultural land was devoured by runaway suburbanization, a process which began long before the post-war era.
francis willughby crows

The First True Ornithologist

Though he was once dismissed as a dilettante, naturalist Francis Willughby was in fact part of the vanguard of observation-based modern science.
Neville Chamberlain holding the paper containing the resolution to commit to peaceful methods signed by both Hitler and himself on his return from Munich, 1938

Reconsidering Appeasement

After 1938's Munich Agreement, "appeasement" became a dirty word in international relations. But scholars argue that appeasement can be a useful tool.
puritan execution

Puritan True Crime

Cotton Mather and other 17th-century American writers created a genre all their own: Puritan gallows literature, which both terrified and edified.
Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein, Teacher

Leonard Bernstein was a famous composer, conductor, and pianist. But by some accounts, his favorite accomplishment was teaching children about music.
Empress Maria Theresia of Austria

When a Woman Was “King”

Maria Theresa, the King of Hungary, ruled over the "accidental" Austro-Hungarian Empire, overseeing social, administrative, fiscal, and religious reforms.
Oberlin College's Memorial Arch

A Progressive College’s Complicated Relationship with Race

Oberlin College was founded by religious idealists committed to abolitionism and integration. Then public attitudes began to shift.
Hannah Cullwick

The Bizarre Victorian Diaries of Cullwick and Munby

Arthur Munby was an upper-class man of letters who "collected" working class women, including his servant Hannah Cullwick, whom he married in 1873.
Pogo comic

The Most Controversial Comic Strip

In the 1950s, Walt Kelly's comic strip about a cute opossum named Pogo was syndicated by over 450 newspapers. It was also frequently censored.
Cropduster spraying field

War and Pest Control

Since World War I, the connections between pest control and war have been scientific, technological, institutional, and metaphorical.
Punch Jack the Ripper

How Jack the Ripper Became a Legend

In 1880s London, an anti-prostitution campaign, anti-immigration feelings, and a deep class divide set the scene for the Jack the Ripper media frenzy.
1968 DNC protests

The Dirtiest Piece of Writing in Print

The 1968 DNC was overshadowed by anti-war demonstrations. The Walker Report describing the events became controversial for the obscenities it contained.
Severely burnt forest after Grampians wildfire

How Eucalyptus Trees Stoke Wildfires

Eucalypts are now cosmopolitan, spread around the world through imperialism and globalization. Unfortunately, they're also highly flammable.
Abuelas Adriana

The Stolen Children of Argentina

Between 1976-1982 some 30,000 Argentines were "disappeared," their children seized by the junta. The Abuelas—the Grandmothers—of the Plaza refuse to forget.
Bisbee deportation

The Bisbee Deportations

According to one scholar, the 1917 deportation in Bisbee, AZ wasn't "about labor relations or race or gender: it was about all of them."
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The Return of Socialism

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has catapulted the term "Democratic socialist" back into the spotlight. What does it actually mean to be a socialist?
Birthright citizenship

Birthright Citizenship Basics

Birthright citizenship, which holds that individuals are citizens of the nation in which they are born, was codified with the 14th Amendment in 1868.
Double Indemnity

History’s Most Notorious True Crime Story

How New York City's tabloids sensationalized the murder case that inspired the classic film noir Double Indemnity.
Corsica/Ajaccio bay

The Real First Written Constitution

American often gets credit for having the first written constitution. But the constitution of the short-lived republic of Corsica preceded it by 30+ years.
Maria Mitchell

America’s First Woman Astronomer

Maria Mitchell became famous when she discovered a comet in 1847. She didn't stop there, fighting for education and equality for women in the sciences.
refrigerator

The Complicated Politics of… Refrigerators

When American kitchens started getting high-tech in the 1950s, the refrigerator seemed to alienate and frustrate many men.
James Tiptree, Jr Alice Sheldon

The Woman Behind James Tiptree, Jr.

James Tiptree, Jr., was a beloved sci-fi writer known for masculine prose and universal themes. Then her real identity was revealed: Alice Bradley Sheldon.

When FDR Tried to Pack the Courts

Pushing New Deal legislation, FDR proposed that extra justices should be added to the Supreme Court, one for every sitting justice over the age of seventy.
Iris Origo La Foce

Iris Origo’s Italian War Diary

The marchese's 1939-1940 diary, detailing the months before Italy's armed alliance with Nazi Germany, is now available as A Chill in the Air.