White men strapping a Black man into an electric chair.

Matters of Life and Death

Systemic racism and capital punishment have long been intertwined in Virginia, the South, and the nation.

Best History Writing of 2023

We reviewed thousands of articles, essays, and blog posts last year. Here are some of our favorites.

The Era Without a Name

There’s no one place to learn about the early decades of the 19th century. So I set off to see how that history is being remembered in the places where it happened.

Remembering Slavery

At museums and historic sites throughout the American South, a fuller and more complex picture of slavery is finally taking shape.

Beyond Dispossession

For generations, depictions of Native Americans have reduced them to either aggressors or victims. But at many public history sites, that is starting to change.

Where Kansas Bled

How can one place represent the complexity of the Civil War’s beginnings?

Borderland Stories

What we remember when we remember the Alamo.

The Richest Square Mile on Earth

Almost by accident, we find ourselves at the epicenter of the Colorado Gold Rush, which attracted prospectors to the Rockies a decade after the famous bonanza of ‘49.

Oregon Trails

After navigating a minor hiccup in our own provisioning process, we set out for the West on what would be our longest trip yet.

Edgar Allan Poe’s America

Tracing the life of the author who seemed to be from both everywhere and nowhere.
View of Brooklyn from Trinity Church, 1853.

Mettlesome, Mad, Extravagant City

In the streets of New York, we try to imagine the city as Walt Whitman, and other artists of his time, experienced it.
Design drawing for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Competition, 1947.

A Gateway to the Past

The Arch in St. Louis stands as a monument to contradictory histories.
The Battle of Tippecanoe

Lost Prophets and Forgotten Heroes

Tracing the currents of American history that run through the Great Lakes region.
View from Nauvoo from across the Mississippi River

Community Ideal

Visiting the sites of two 19th-century utopian experiments in the American Midwest.

Reviewing the Oppenheimer Reviews

Christopher Nolan's blockbuster has generated a torrent of historical commentary about the birth of nuclear weapons. Is there something missing from the conversation?

Freedom By the Sea

On the trail of whales, Melville, and Douglass in New Bedford.
Cover image from the first edition of Thoreau’s Walden

The Book Read ‘Round the World

Literary history is packed into Concord’s “Old Manse,” but the tiny abode of Walden’s author proves the highlight of our New England trip.

Pieces of the Past

Dispatches from a spine-tingling day of visits to the places where James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, and Thomas Cole created their most famous works.
The angel Moroni delivering the plates of the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith.

Sacred Places

A visit to the site of Joseph Smith’s divine revelation makes for a different kind of public history experience.

No Better Soil

In the first half of the 19th century, upstate New York was a hotbed of movements for reform. How visible is that history today?

The Life of Song

What the surprising career of Bob McGrath teaches us about popular music.

Rainbows and Disappointments

There is a long and storied tradition of feeling underwhelmed by the natural spectacle of Niagara Falls. Still, the visitors keep coming.
1849 sketch of Pittsburgh from Coal Hill

Time for a Revolution

The economic transformations wrought by industrial capitalism in the 1820s and 30s look different when viewed up close.

Tidying Up the Past

A history tour at Harper’s Ferry suggests that “commemoration” and “desecration” might be two sides of the same coin.

Redlining is Only Part of the Story

An annotated collection of resources from the Bunk archive that help explain the long history of housing discrimination.
Timeline of the history of American political parties to 1880, depicting intertwined streams of Democrats, Whigs, and Republicans.

What is Political Realignment?

An annotated collection of resources from the Bunk archive that help explain the shifting sands of American politics.
Headstones in Mount Auburn cemetery. Photograph by Daderot at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18003519.

A Tour of Mount Auburn Cemetery

Two centuries of New England intellectual history through the lives and ideas of people who are memorialized there.

Our Flag Was Still There

How is the first half of the 19th century depicted in and around the nation’s capital? Ed Ayers hits the road to find out.

High Domes and Bottomless Pits

Exploring the homes of two presidents, the birthplace of another, and a natural wonder that once drew visitors from far and wide.

Native Trails

Ed Ayers travels back to his childhood stomping grounds in search of traces of the dispossession that took place there generations earlier.