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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.

U.S.S. Pueblo, 1968

Can Thucydides Teach Us Why We Go to War?

A contemporary scholar uses the ancient Greek historian to explain the 1968 Pueblo Crisis in North Korea.
Lansquenets - mercenary soldiers under emperor Maximilian I, c. 1600. Lithograph, published in 1887.

Chivalric Romance, Meet Gunpowder Reality

The manly knight wouldn't have lasted a day in sixteenth-century combat. So why was he so popular as a literary figure at the time?
Thomas Mann

How Thomas Mann Turned against the German Right

The best-selling author supported the Kaiser during World War I. What made him change his mind about politics later?
Length of Brocaded Silk, Italy, 18th century

Eighteenth-Century Spies in the European Silk Industry

Curious about the advancing wonders of the age, savants traveled abroad to gather trade secrets for their homeland.
Two people walking towards Los Angeles, 1937

How the LAPD Guarded California’s Borders in the 1930s

Working well outside their jurisdiction, the officers patrolled their state's borders against white migrants.
Ernest Hemingway at the Finca Vigia, Cuba 1946

Ernest Hemingway and Gender Fluidity

Despite his reputation for hypermasculinity, the author was fascinated by different forms of gender expression.
An illustration from the Bantam edition of Graham Greene's The Quiet American

When the CIA Was Everywhere—Except on Screen

Hollywood was just fine avoiding all portrayals of the Central Intelligence Agency for years after the agency's founding in 1947.
Cover for A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear, c. 1875

There Once Was a Poem Called a Limerick

Whose history, they say, isn't quick. It's all such a muddle, it can leave you befuddled, whether you like the clean or the sick.
A mural in Paseo Boricua on Division Street in Chicago

Puerto Rican Domestic Workers and Citizenship in the 1940s

Recruited to work on the U.S. mainland for long hours at less than the prevailing rate, women migrants fought for dignity and recognition.
Pontiac, an Ottawa Indian, confronts Colonel Henry Bouquet who authorised his officers to spread smallpox amongst native Americans by deliberately infecting blankets after peace talks in 1764

How Commonly Was Smallpox Used as a Biological Weapon?

Once introduced into the Americas, smallpox spread everywhere. Is it possible to know how often that was done intentionally to kill people?
Rosie the Riveter

Does It Matter Who the Real Rosie the Riveter Was?

Many women have claimed to be the model behind the iconic poster.
At a self-defence demonstration a woman uses a judo heel and leg turnover against a kicking attacker.

How American Women First Learned Self-Defense

Jiu-jitsu, judo, boxing, and wrestling raised eyebrows. But physical strength and political empowerment went hand in hand.
Big Jim Colosimo by Pauline Boty and Portrait fragmenté by Evelyne Axell

The Women of Pop

In addition to bringing attention to overlooked artists, one scholar argues that art criticism has contributed to their obscurity.
This 1964 poster featured what at that time, was CDC’s national symbol of public health, the “Wellbee”, who here was reminding the public to get a booster vaccination.

How Three Women Led the Fight against Pertussis

As whooping cough killed thousands of kids annually, a trio of public health workers were deeply involved in the production and distribution of a vaccine.
Mary Ritter Beard

Mary Beard and the Beginning of Women’s History

She was one half of a powerhouse academic couple and an influential historian in her own right. But she's still often overlooked.
Cover illustration for "Female Convict" by Vincent E. Burns. Illustration by Robert Maguire, 1952

Lesbians in Prison: The Making of a Threat

A scandal at a Massachusetts women's prison marked a change in the construction of the "dangerous" female homosexual.
Martha Hughes Cannon

Suffrage and Polygamy in Utah

Women began voting legally in Utah Territory in 1870, only to have that right taken away from them later.
Photograph: Gloria Reynolds, a shop assistant in London's King's Road. 

Source: Graham Wood/Getty

Why Black Women Activists Started Wearing Denim

Members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee adopted denim clothing for activist work. This had special significance for Black women.
American feminist, abolitionist, journalist and writer Lydia Maria Child

Lydia Maria Child and the American Way of Censorship

Facing ostracism by literary elites and attacks from pro-slavery mobs, an abolitionist blunted her politics.
A man in a uniform holding a camel

The U.S. Army’s Remarkable Camel Corps of the 1850s

Imported from Mediterranean ports, the marvelous pack animals served to great acclaim in the military.
An African-American miner poses with a shovel in Auburn Ravine during the Gold Rush, California, 1852.

Slavery in a Free State: The Case of California

California came into the Union as a free state in 1850, but proslavery politicians held considerable sway there.
Photograph: Muhammad Ali, 1966

Source: Getty

How Muhammad Ali Prevailed as a Conscientious Objector

The heavyweight champion lost his title when he refused induction into the military during the Vietnam War.
Annie Lee Moss

How Annie Lee Moss Survived McCarthyism

Moss, a Black government employee with activist experience, was hauled in front of Congress on suspicion of being a Communist.
A cowgirl participates in the barrel race competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on April 1, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Black Cowboys and the History of the Rodeo

Long overlooked in histories of the West, African-American rodeo stars also faced discrimination and erasure in that sport, too.
Claude McKay, 1920

Black Caribbeans in the Harlem Renaissance

The "Capital of Black America" was also a world capital, thanks to the influence of West Indian–born artists and writers like Claude McKay.