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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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin attend an inauguration ceremony for Putin May 7, 2000 in the Kremlin in Moscow.

Was Russia Destined to Be an Autocracy?

The most important factors that steered Russia away from democracy, says one scholar, weren't inevitable.
A man with well-groomed hair

Why Some Men Go to Salons for Haircuts

The difference between a clipper cut at the barber shop and "pampering" at the salon has roots in gender ideology and class structure.
Casa Malaparte

Casa Malaparte Is a Strangely Awesome House

Built by a fascist-turned-communist writer in the 1940s, it belongs to no one architectural style. But the views!
The front and back cover of an edition of Miss MacIntosh, My Darling by Marguerite Young

Sick of Streaming? Try This Really Long Cult Novel

Marguerite Young's Miss MacIntosh, My Darling is a dense fusion of poetry and prose. One critic says it's unjustifiably forgotten.
A typist wearing an influenza mask in 1918

How Tucson Enforced Its 1918 Mask Requirement

During the influenza pandemic, the Arizona city's police force fined and arrested people for not wearing face masks.
A Pace College student in a gas mask "smells" a magnolia blossom in City Hall Park on Earth Day, April 22, 1970, in New York.

The First Earth Day, and the First Green Generation

The first Earth Day took place fifty years ago, so most people don't remember how it happened or what it accomplished. It's time for a look back.
Playwright Terrence McNally in 2010

How Terrence McNally Reimagined the Danse Macabre

The centerpiece of the prize-winning Love! Valor! Compassion! is a rehearsal for an affirming staging of Swan Lake—in drag.
A group of Royal Irish Constabulary officers

Britain’s World Police in Mandate Palestine

As colonized peoples challenged the imperial powers after World War I, British veterans were tapped to become a ruthless police force.
Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler, known as the the Ladies of Llangollen

Who Were the Ladies of Llangollen?

Top hat connoisseurs, friends of princesses and poets, tchotchke models, dog lovers, cottage keepers...lesbians?
A depiction of cholera by Robert Seymour

Disease Theory in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man

Shelley's third novel, about the sole survivor of a global plague, draws on the now-outdated miasma theory of disease.
Bison americanus

Where the Bison Roam—Again?

The American bison isn't extinct. But could it ever roam freely across North America, as it once did? Some scholars say it could happen.
Trinidad-born journalist and activist Claudia Jones at the offices of The West Indian Gazette in 1962. Jones joined the Communist Party in 1936

Why Black Women Joined the Communist Party

During the Great Depression, Communists took to the streets to fight racism, poverty, and injustice. Among them were Black women.
The Decameron by John William Waterhouse

Boccaccio’s Medicine

In the Decameron of Boccaccio, friends tell one another stories of love to while away the hours of quarantine.
A portrait of Emily Dickinson in front of an evolutionary illustration

How Emily Dickinson Wrestled with Darwinism

The current vogue for the Amherst poet needs to give credit to the way she readily examined her childhood ideas about fixed and immutable truth.
Pneumonia coronavirus

Are Viruses Alive? Define Life.

Scientists have different ideas about whether viruses are living beings. But they have solid advice on how to destroy them: wash up.
Voting stickers on a table

Would Formerly Incarcerated People Vote Democratic?

Conventional wisdom says that Republicans don't want to give ex-felons voting rights because they'll end up voting for Democrats. But is this true?
Women line up to vote in a municipal election, Boston, Massachusetts, December 11, 1888.

New Jersey Let (Some) Women Vote from 1776 to 1807

Historians Judith Apter Klinghoffer and Lois Elkis argue that this wasn't oversight. New Jersey legislators knew exactly what they were doing.
A Reading from Homer by Lawrence Alma Tadema, 1885

How Do We Know That Epic Poems Were Recited from Memory?

Scholars once doubted that pre-literate peoples could ever have composed and recited poems as long as the Odyssey. Milman Parry changed that.
George Washington's teeth

Were George Washington’s Teeth Taken from Enslaved People?

We know a surprising amount about the dental history of the nation’s first president.
A developing Gall on a Quercus pubescens caused by the insect Cynips quercusfolii.

Are Galls Miracle Cures or Just Weird Growths on Plants?

For millennia, humans have exploited galls for medicine, fuel, food, tanning, and dyeing. Some people have considered them miraculous.
Judi Bari speaks at an Earth First! forest rally in 1990 before she was bombed on the eve of Redwood Summer.

How Judi Bari Tried to Unite Loggers and Environmentalists

The radical environmentalist had a background in labor organizing and wanted to end the misogyny of the movement and the logging industry alike.
Vicente Guerrero

Black Mexico and the War of Independence

The president of Mexico who finally issued the decree ending slavery was of African descent himself.
Burning of an 80 ft. cross by the KKK, 1925

How 1920s Catholic Students Fought the Ku Klux Klan

There are few traces today of college students' resistance to anti-Catholic threats, but the ones that remain are powerful.
1881: Champion racehorse Iroquis, winner of the 1881 Derby under Fred Archer and property of P Lorillard.

The Myth of the Noble Racehorse

Despite all the whips and spurs involved, nineteenth-century Americans believed racehorses loved a little manly competition.
A protest of Gone With the Wind organized by the D.C. chapter of the National Negro Congress

White Hollywood’s Romance with the N-Word

It would have been easy for censors to just ban the racist epithet during the classical era of film. Here's why it didn't happen.