Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Murder most foul?

By Elizabeth Knowles
David Bevington’s Murder Most Foul: Hamlet Through the Ages gives an engrossing account of Hamlet through the centuries, with delightful glimpses of great theatrical moments, and actors, of the past. We learn of the tragic actor John Philip Kemble that his Hamlet took twenty minutes longer than anyone else’s because of the pauses he inserted for emphasis (Bevington tells us that the wit and writer Richard Brinsley Sheridan suggested filling up the intervals with music).

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Soviet Union proclaimed… and dissolved

This Day in World History
“Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, December 20, 1922–December 31, 1991.” So might read the epitaph of one of the dominant political forces of the twentieth century, the world’s first communist state and, after World War II, one of two world superpowers.

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The Oxford English Dictionary: “my favorite book ever”

By Michael P. Adams
As the year draws to a close, we’ve been reflecting on all the wonderful books we’ve read in 2011, and in doing so, we’ve also realized there are some classics worth revisiting. The authors and friends of Oxford University Press are proud to present this series of essays, which will appear regularly until the New Year, drawing our attention to books both new and old. Here, Michael Adams, author of From Elvish to Klingon, writes about the 1961 print edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

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1850: David Copperfield and Pendennis

By Anatoly Liberman As the year draws to a close, we’ve been reflecting on all the wonderful books we’ve read in 2011, and in doing so, we’ve also realized there are some classics worth revisiting. The authors and friends of Oxford University Press are proud to present this series of essays, which will appear regularly […]

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Sun Yat-sen becomes first President of Republic of China

This Day in World History
Nearly four dozen delegates gathered in Nanjing, a city in east-central China. Representing seventeen Chinese provinces, they were supporters of the Wuhan Revolution against the Qing dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China. On December 25, Sun Yat-sen, the spearhead behind the revolution, returned to China after sixteen years of exile to join the meetings. Four days later, he was elected the provisional president of the Republic of China.

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My 9 favorite bars in America

By Christine Sismondo
1. Marie’s Crisis – 59 Grove St, West Village, Manhattan.
Located in the basement of the building that Thomas Paine died in, patrons keep liberty alive by singing show tunes around a piano bar `til all hours of the night at Marie’s. Not to put too fine a point on this, but this place is a dive. That said, it’s been named “best bar in the world” by everyone I’ve ever taken there.

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Meditations in the process of Winter Gleanings

By Anatoly Liberman
Last Wednesday, in anticipation of the inevitable calendar leap, I discussed the origin of the word end. The end has come. This post happens to be the last in 2011 — not really a rite of passage, for a week from now another Wednesday will bring the world another post, dated January 4, 2012. As announced, it will be devoted to the verb begin. One should not take December or oneself too seriously, but I am pleased to say that this blog is read and quoted by many and that I continue to receive letters and comments from all over the world.

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Who brews your beer?

By Johan F. M. Swinnen
After two centuries of consolidation and closing down of small breweries, a counter-revolution is under way. Fed up with the lack of variety and the control of large brewing holdings over their favorite drinks, beer lovers have taken their beverage back into their own hands. All over the world, new beers and breweries are emerging every day. What started as the micro-brewery movement in the USA has spread to other countries and created a remarkable turnaround in convention.

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Hagia Sophia consecrated

This Day in World History
Impatient, the Emperor Justinian did not wait for the arrival of Menas, the patriarch of the Orthodox Church. Rather than entering the new cathedral jointly with the religious leader, he went in alone. Dazzled by the beauty of his structure, particularly its massive dome with a 105-foot diameter—meant to echo the vault of heaven—circled by forty windows at the base, the emperor is said to have proclaimed that he had outdone Solomon, builder of the famous temple of Jerusalem more than a thousand years before.

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What is Boxing Day?

In the UK and some other parts of the English-speaking world December 26th is known as Boxing Day, while in other places it is also called St. Stephen’s Day. But what’s the history behind it? I turned to the Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore to find out.

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Linked Up: holiday special

If you’ve got a few hours to while away in the office before you head off on your holidays, here’s a festive treat for you: a veritable selection of merry internet treasures. Season’s greetings to one and all!

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Madam C. J. Walker born

This Day in World History
Madam C. J. Walker tells her own story: “I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparation… I have built my own factory on my own ground.”

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Anne of Green Gables, the Spirit of 1783, and World War I

By Thomas Weber
Canada’s almost complete absence of the drama, disasters, and revolutions that have been the hallmark of much of European and Asian history makes Canadian history a tough sell. And yet one of the greatest and most successful reads of the last century was a Canadian story, the one of young freckled Anne Shirley, immortalized by Lucy Maud Montgomery in her Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908.

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No one Tebows after Bucknering

By Mark Peters
Tebow is one of the most successful words of 2011, referring mainly to the post-touchdown pose of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow: just as people plank, they Tebow too. However, the verbing of Tebow’s name is just one example of the popular sport of eponymization. Sports fans love turning athletes into eponyms: words derived from names, like boycott and shrapnel.

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Home for the holidays

By Susan J. Matt
It’s that time of year again, the season when It’s A Wonderful Life pops up on every single television channel. Viewers seem not to tire of watching the story of George Bailey, the man who never left home but still managed to find meaning and a measure of success among friends and family in Bedford Falls. For Americans, known for their restlessness, George Bailey seems an improbable hero, and It’s a Wonderful Life an unlikely hit.

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