Why Monterey’s 250th Birthday Bodes Well for California’s Future

The Peninsula City Has Long Embodied the Golden State’s Ability to Be a Hideaway That Welcomes Both Immigrants and Ideas

Monterey turns 250 years old next month. And the rest of the state should claim the date as its birthday too.

California is an orphan of a state, and Monterey’s beginnings are the closest thing we have to a birth story. Admission Day—September 9, 1850, when California became an American state—doesn’t really amount to a birthday, since California was a province of two other countries, Spain and Mexico, long before that. Other birthday options are problematic, too. We can’t know the exact day, thousands of years ago, when …

Aztec Kings Had Rules for Plagues, Including ‘Do Not Be a Fool’ | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Aztec Kings Had Rules for Plagues, Including ‘Do Not Be a Fool’

But When Cortés’s Soldiers Arrived Carrying a Novel Virus, the Empire First Succumbed to Smallpox and Then Fell to Spain

Every civilization eventually faces a crisis that forces it to adapt or be destroyed. Few adapt.

On July 10, 1520, Aztec forces vanquished the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and his men, …

Historian William Sturkey Wins the 10th Annual Zócalo Book Prize  | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Historian William Sturkey Wins the 10th Annual Zócalo Book Prize 

Hattiesburg, an Intimate Look at a Segregated Southern City, Delivers a ‘Finely Woven Microcosm of American Society’

Since 2011, the Zócalo Public Square Book Prize has honored the author of the U.S. nonfiction book published in the previous year that best enhances our understanding of community and …

How Epidemics Shaped Modern Life | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How Epidemics Shaped Modern Life

Past Public Health Crises Inspired Innovations in Infrastructure, Education, Fundraising and Civic Debate—and Cleaned up Rotting Animal Carcasses From the Streets

At the end of the 19th century, one in seven people around the world had died of tuberculosis, and the disease ranked as the third leading cause of death in …

Atheism’s Long, Angry, Anxious History | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Atheism’s Long, Angry, Anxious History

Before There Was a Secular Argument Against Believing in God, There Was a Groundswell of Popular Distrust  

“God is dead,” Nietzsche claimed, “and we have killed him.”

Well, maybe. But who is the we here? Who did the dreadful deed, and when, and how?

The usual suspects include …

Religious Belief Was a 17th-Century Invention

Once Tightly Guarded by Church Authorities, John Locke Redefined Faith as Personal Choice

Until very recently, atheism was neither widespread nor respectable, but today 11 percent of Americans claim not to believe in God. Many people have speculated on where all these atheists …