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social history



  • The Shift from Norms to Boundaries Explains the Problem of TMI

    "Too Much Information" is a social error that arises from the need for individuals to determine their own boundaries and match their expression to others'. But longing for firmer rules of etiquette should be tempered by understanding how those rules were based in ideas about whose voices should be heard. 



  • Have Children Changed in Modern America?

    by Steven Mintz

    A recent argument for the general stability of children over the last century and a half misses the key point that "childhood" has been a fluid concept, and changes in how childhood is understood has necessarily affected the experiences of children. 


  • The Gilded Age's Original "Galentine's Day"

    by Anya Jabour

    The search for alternatives to the compulsory heterosexual coupledom of Valentine's Day could learn from the example of the "Perfect Little Ladies" of 1890s Rochester, New York.



  • Manhood, Madness, and Moonshine

    by Dillon Carroll

    Today's concern for "deaths of despair" among white Americans isn't unprecedented; a wave of alcoholism and temperance advocacy after the Civil War highlighted the relationship between social unsettlement, substance abuse and social reformism.



  • Time to Stop Talking about "Generations"

    by Louis Menand

    By this light, generations are just a novel way of slicing up the space-time continuum, no more arbitrary. The question, therefore, is not “Are generations real?” The question is “Are they a helpful way to understand anything?”



  • Are you ready for the Roaring '20s?

    by Nicole Hemmer

    The end of the pandemic may portend a repeat of the "roaring 20s" a century later. But anyone anticipating a wild party should recall the nativism, racism, and rampant inequality of the era. Can the individual desire to live life to the fullest support a politics of inclusion and equality? 



  • The Life in "The Simpsons" Is No Longer Attainable

    In the 1990s, "The Simpsons" drew humor by putting bizarre dysfunction in the context of middle class suburban banality. Today it's the idea of homeownership paid for by a stable single income that seems outlandish.



  • The Struggle to Document COVID-19 for Future Generations

    by Pamela Ballinger

    Images of suffering have been powerful spurs to humanitarian action in history, but the process has the potential to reinforce messages of fault, blame, and separation. Assembling a visual archive of the age of COVID must avoid those traps to be useful in the future. 



  • How Can Local Government Address Systemic Racism?

    Peniel Joseph, one of the nation’s leading civil rights scholars, has studied and written about the history of race and democracy. He has some ideas on how cities and urban areas can begin to dismantle racism.