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The historical Buddha, preaching on Vulture Peak. Japanese, Nara period, 8th century. Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Essay/
Religion
Who was the Buddha?

When we strip away the myths, such as his princely youth in a palace, a surprising picture of this enigmatic sage emerges

Alexander Wynne

Adoration of the Magi (1423) by Gentile da Fabriano. Courtesy Uffizi Gallery, Florence/Wikipedia

Essay/
History
Wonder works

History and philosophy should reveal to us the baffling, strange and wondrous qualities of other lives and other times

Marnie Hughes-Warrington

Lloyds Coffee House, which eventually became Lloyds of London. Photo by Bettmann/Getty

Essay/
Information and communication
Reddit, with wigs and ink

The first newspapers contained not high-minded journalism but hundreds of readers’ letters exchanging news with one another

Rachael Scarborough King

Detail from We Are Making a New World (1918) by Paul Nash. Courtesy the Imperial War Museum

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
The spirit of history

Hegel’s search for the universal patterns of history revealed a paradox: freedom is coming into being, but is never guaranteed

Terry Pinkard

Omar ibn Said c1850. Digitally colourised. Omar ibn Said’s autobiography is the only known extant autobiography of a slave written in Arabic in America. It was not edited by his owner, as those of other slaves written in English were, and is therefore surmised to be more authentic. It also attests to the high level of education that existed in Africa at the time and also reveals that many Africans who were brought to the United States as slaves were followers of Islam. Public domain via the Beinecke Library/Yale University

Essay/
History
Muslims of early America

Muslims came to America more than a century before Protestants, and in great numbers. How was their history forgotten?

Sam Haselby

Lice, or ‘worms with feet’, were a common cause for concern in the Middle Ages. From ‘The Golden Haggadah’ (c1320 CE), Spain. Manuscript courtesy of the Trustees of the British Library

Essay/
History
Medieval parasites

People in the Middle Ages took great care over cleanliness – except the clergy, who accepted filth as a sign of devotion

Katherine Harvey

Photo by Hugo Jaeger/Timepix/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Essay/
History
Swastikas on the Strand

The spectre of a Nazi Britain, successfully invaded in 1940, continues to haunt the British political imagination

Catherine Gallagher

Actor Mark Rylance in the all-male production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in New York. Photo by Walter McBride/Getty

Essay/
Stories and literature
Queering Shakespeare

So many arguments are given against Shakespeare being gay – yet his sonnets contain their own message, that love is love

Sandra Newman

Carvings thought to depict Terra Mater (Mother Earth) decorate the Ara Pacis Augustae, built in honour of the military successes and political reforms of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus. Photo by DeAgostini/Getty

Essay/
History
How the poor became blessed

Greco-Roman gods had no interest in the poor nor was organised charity a religious duty. How was Christianity different?

Pieter van der Horst

A mental patient is seen at a hospital for those suffering from mental illnesses in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, 6 October 2010. Photo by Jie Zhao/Corbis via Getty

Essay/
History
Collective psychiatry

Chinese psychiatry remains committed to the political ideal of mental hygiene, long after its discrediting in the West

Emily Baum