Sam Haselby
Senior Editor, Aeon+Psyche

Sam is a historian of early America with a particular interest in religion and politics. He was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and has been a faculty member at the American University of Beirut, the American University in Cairo and at Columbia University in New York City. He helped to launch Al Jazeera America and is the author of The Origins of American Religious Nationalism (paperback, 2016). He can be found on Twitter @HaselbySam.

Written by Sam Haselby

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

USA. Watertown, South Dakota. February 2008. Photo by Alec Soth/Magnum

Essay/
History
American secular

The founding moment of the United States brought a society newly freed from religion. What went wrong?

Sam Haselby

Edited by Sam Haselby

Photo by Wang Zheng/Getty

Essay/
Space exploration
Do we send the goo?

The ability to stir new life into being, all across the Universe, compels us to ask why life matters in the first place

Betül Kaçar

Bhima fighting with Jayadratha in a page from the Mahabharata (c1615), Popular Mughal School, probably done at Bikaner, India. Photo by Getty

Essay/
Stories and literature
The living Mahabharata

Immorality, sexism, politics, war: the polychromatic Indian epic pulses with relevance to the present day

Audrey Truschke

Survival Piece I: Hog Pasture (1970-71) by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, for the exhibition ‘Earth, Air, Fire and Water’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison/The Harrison Studio

Essay/
Art
The art of survival

The Harrisons’ eco-art told stories about the apocalypse, pointing to a future where we’d all have to be survival artists

W Patrick McCray

Mousehold Heath (1810) by John Sell Cotman. Drawing on paper. According to the UK Government, between 1604 and 1914 enclosure Bills enacted by Parliament restricted access to formerly open communal land comprising just over a fifth of the total area of England. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Museum

Essay/
Economic history
Economics for the people

Against the capitalist creeds of scarcity and self-interest, a plan for humanity’s shared flourishing is finally coming into view

Dirk Philipsen

Something for everyone. Workers at a Daimler-Benz car plant listen to a speech by a visiting dignitary in West Germany circa 1972. Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty

Essay/
Economic history
Thirty glorious years

Postwar prosperity depended on a truce between capitalist growth and democratic fairness. Is it possible to get it back?

Jonathan Hopkin

Photo by Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Essay/
Ethics
When to break a rule

A virtuous person respects the rules. So when should the same person make a judgment call and break or bend them instead?

Steven Nadler

Detail of ‘Siege of the City’ by Jean Charlot, watercolour of a fresco at Chichén Itzá. The Maya mural from the Las Monjas building clearly shows a ship with the distinct wooden planks of a Viking boat © Jean Charlot/Artists Rights Society [ARS]; Copyright Agency, 2020

Essay/
Global history
Vikings in America

Centuries before Columbus, Vikings came to the Western hemisphere. How far into the Americas did they travel?

Valerie Hansen

Photo by Corbis/Getty

Essay/
Language and linguistics
A history of punctuation

How we came to represent (through inky marks) the vagaries of the mind, inflections of the voice, and intensity of feeling

Florence Hazrat

Cologne Cathedral stands out from the rubble of a city destroyed during the Second World War. Photographed from a US spotter plane in September 1945. Photo by Bettmann/Getty

Essay/
History
Repetition and rupture

Reinhart Koselleck, the last great theorist of history, sought in the apparent chaos of events a science of experience

Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann

Detail from a manuscript painting from a set of annals written in Nahuatl called the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca (1545-1565) from Mexico. Courtesy the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris

Essay/
Global history
How Aztecs told history

For the warriors and wanderers who became the Aztec people, truth was not singular and history was braided from many voices

Camilla Townsend

US presidential advisor Ivanka Trump, managing director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde and German chancellor Angela Merkel share a laugh at the start of a panel discussion at the W20 summit in Berlin on 25 April 2017. Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Essay/
Knowledge
Confidence tricks

The ignorant pundit is absolutely certain; the true expert understands their own limits and how to ask the right questions

Andrew Little & Matthew Backus

An unknown male mummy found along with the mother and wife of Tutankhamun. Photo by Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic

Essay/
Archaeology
Mummies among us

Before death became a source of disgust and denial, Europeans cheerfully painted with – and ingested – human remains

Michael Press

Pakistani construction workers in the Business Bay area of Dubai, 2012. Photo by Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum

Essay/
Work
Universal unions

Being an employee is a threat to your liberty. But while firms exist, compulsory unions are a basic safeguard of freedom

Mark R Reiff

Guilin, China. 1979. Photo by Hiroji Kubota/Magnum

Essay/
Economic history
Counting China

By rejecting sampling in favour of exhaustive enumeration, communist China’s dream of total information became a nightmare

Arunabh Ghosh

Children playing in the remains of King Henry’s Sans-Souci Palace in Milot, Haiti, 8 September 2017. Photo by Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

Essay/
Nations and empires
The king of Haiti’s dream

How a utopian vision of Black freedom and self-government was undone in a world still in thrall to slavery and racism

Marlene L Daut

An Indian worker shows a European man a sample of opium taken from one of the large clay pots in the foreground. Photo by Bourne and Shepherd/British Library

Essay/
Global history
From vice to crime

European empires were addicted to opium smoking. Then their own agents launched a moral crusade to prohibit it

Diana S Kim

An Ashokan pillar at Vaishali, India. Photo by Rajeez Kumar/Wikipedia

Essay/
The ancient world
Ashoka’s moral empire

Being good is hard. How an ancient Indian emperor, horrified by the cruelty of war, created an infrastructure of goodness

Sonam Kachru

A hunting scene discovered painted in a cave in Sulawesi, Indonesia, is thought to be 44,000 years old. Photo courtesy Ratno Sardi/Griffith University

Essay/
Human evolution
Ancient yet cosmopolitan

Art, adornment and sophisticated hunting technologies flourished not only in prehistoric Europe but across the globe

Gaia Vince

Prisoner-patient William Porter, convicted of housebreaking and theft. From the Perth Criminal Lunatic Department Prison Register. December 1898. Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland, HH21/48/3

Essay/
Human rights and justice
Criminally insane

The insanity defence offends the conscience, has no basis in modern psychiatry, and penalises poor and black defendants

Susan Vinocour

Early Anglo-Saxon helmet (late-6th to early 7th century) made in either Scandinavia or England, and discovered at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, United Kingdom. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Museum

Essay/
Archaeology
The fight for ‘Anglo-Saxon’

Racists use it to bolster their ethnohistorical myths, but historians and archaeologists should not abandon the term

Howard Williams

‘Culling Tea’ (c1869), attributed to Lai Fong (or Afong, Chinese, 1839-90). Courtesy The Met Museum, New York

Essay/
Economic history
Tea and capitalism

The China tea trade was a paradox: a global, intensified industry without the usual spectacle of factories and technology

Andrew Liu

Abigail Mary Allen and James Allen (The Female Husband); a hand-coloured etching and aquatint by Thomas Howell Jones (c1829). Courtesy the National Portrait Gallery, London

Essay/
History
Female husbands

Far from being a recent or 21st-century phenomenon, people have chosen, courageously, to trans gender throughout history

Jen Manion

Kish-Kallo-Wa (Family Algonquian-Tribe Shawnee), by Henry Inman (1832-33). Oil on canvas. Courtesy the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Gerald and Kathleen Peters

Essay/
Nations and empires
Indian removal

One of the first mass deportations in the modern world, administered by state bureaucrats, took place on American soil

Claudio Saunt

Berlin, Potsdamer Platz (1932) by Carl Grossberg. Photo by AKG-Images

Essay/
Education
The scholar’s vocation

A century ago, Weber both diagnosed the ills of the corporatised, modern university, and pointed out the path beyond it

Chad Wellmon

Albert Einstein’s original passport. Photo by Jean-Pierre Clatot/AFP/Getty

Essay/
Race and ethnicity
Identifying Einstein

For Albert Einstein, being Jewish and German were not questions of identity but rather mutable matters of identification

Michael D Gordin

Former child soldiers forced to join the Lord’s Resistance Army, seen here at an army child protection unit following their rescue by the Uganda People’s Defence Force. Gulu, Uganda, September 2004. Photo by Vanessa Vick/Redux

Essay/
Human rights and justice
Against humanity

What the Lord’s Resistance Army can teach us about flaws in the ideal of human rights and the fight for justice

Sam Dubal

Recent comments