Benjamin Breen

Benjamin Breen is an associate professor of history at University of California Santa Cruz, where he works on the history of medicine and science in the early modern world. He is the author of the Substack Res Obscura.

Colorful, psychedelic illustration of three dolphins in the center with a rainbow in the sky above them and a pool, ocean, palm trees, and sky below them

Tripping on LSD at the Dolphin Research Lab

How a 1960s interspecies communication experiment went haywire.
Mead reading a book, against a psychedelic background.

One of Our Most Respected 20th-Century Scientists Was LSD-Curious. What Happened?

A document in her papers in the Library of Congress sheds new light on postwar research on psychedelics.
The cult-like aesthetic of technocracy, 1942.

Margaret Mead, Technocracy, and the Origins of AI's Ideological Divide

The anthropologist helped popularize both techno-optimism and the concept of existential risk.
painting of a monkey smoking a pipe

Our Strange Addiction

The transformation of tobacco and cannabis into early modern global obsessions.

The World According to the 1580s

A newly digitized map offers a rare glimpse at the way Europeans conceived of the Americas before British colonization.

How America Thought About Refugees 70 Years Ago

And other gleanings from the 1949 run of the Saturday Evening Post.

The Drunkard’s Progress

Two hundred years ago, it was hard for Americans to miss the message that they had a serious drinking problem.

Mum’s the Word

In the height of the Cold War, the NSA created a series of posters to keep its secrets from leaking. They're both wonderful and creepy.

Podcasting the Past

Why historians should stop worrying and embrace the rise of history podcasts by non-scholars.

When California Was the Bear Republic

The story behind the iconic flag.

The Greatest American Historian You've Never Heard Of

An appreciation of Alfred Crosby, who coined the term "Columbian exchange."

At Home With Ursula Le Guin

Her novels featured dragons and wizards, but they were also deeply grounded in indigenous American ways of thought.

Snails, Hedgehog Heads and Stale Beer

A peek inside premodern cookbooks.

A World in a Box

Harvard digitizes two centuries of colonial history.

A Refugee in Puerto Rico, 1942

Claude Lévi-Strauss and the burden of our personal archives.

Excremental Empire

John Gregory Bourke’s "Scatalogic Rites of All Nations" and the American West.
People standing in circles holding hands, near a teepee.

Will New Age Ideas Help us in The High-Tech Future?

From Stonehenge to Silicon Valley: how technology nurtured New Age ideas in a world supposedly stripped of its magic.

Painting the New World

Benjamin Breen examines the importance of John White's sketches of the Algonkin people and the art's relation to the Lost Colony.