Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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All’s well that ends well

By Anatoly Liberman
The year 2011 is coming to an end. Strange that we say “come to an end,” even though a year, unlike a rope, a street, and even life, in which it is hard to make ends (or both ends) meet, can have only one end, but such are the caprices of usage. In any case, the end of the year is close at hand. Those interested in such tricks may recollect that year sometimes needs neither the definite nor the indefinite article when we speak about this time of year, and so it has been for centuries.

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Curies discover radium

This Day in World History
Working in an old shed on a sample of pitchblende, or uraninite, using chemical processes to separate different elements, the wife and husband team finally reached their breakthrough. They isolated a new element more radioactive than the uranium studied two years before and called it radium.

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Born to be a sacred midwife

Born with the destiny of becoming a Mayan sacred midwife, Chona Perez has carried on centuries-old traditional Indigenous American birth and healing practices over her 85 years. At the same time, Chona developed new approaches to the care of pregnancy, newborns, and mothers based on her own experience and ideas. In this way, Chona has contributed to both the cultural continuities and cultural changes of her town over the decades.

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Occupy Wall Street, Adam Smith, and the Wealth of Nations

By Louis René Beres
“Eat the rich.” This palpably unappetizing sign can still be seen at certain Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Although obviously silly at a literally gastronomic level, the uncompromising message’s sub-text remains deeply serious. Above all, it reaffirms the steadily hardening polarities of growing class warfare in the United States. Plainly, America’s Edenic myth of “equality” continues to unravel before the sobering and relentless statistics of a continuously-entrenched plutocracy.

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Our Antonia

By Edward Zelinsky
The first time I read My Antonia, I hated it. That was to be expected: It was required reading in my sophomore English course at Omaha Central High. This was during the Sixties. In the Age of Aquarius, no one was supposed to like assigned reading. That’s why it had to be assigned.

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Dickens publishes A Christmas Carol

This Day in World History
“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it.” So begins a staple of Christmas celebrations, Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol.

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Verily, this tomfoolery must be quashed!

By Catherine Soanes
‘Cripes! What bally tomfoolery are those diabolical cads in the media coming up with now?’ I asked my betrothed, when confronted with a spate of recent news reports. ‘Verily, I must quash this balderdash forthwith.’

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America’s next frontier: Burma

It all began in November of 2010 when the military regime decided to release opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi who, since 1989, had been on house arrest under charges of attempting to divide the military.

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Persian Sufi poet Rumi dies

This Day in World History
As the poet and mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi lay on his deathbed, his wife pleaded with him not to die. “Am I a thief?” he replied. “Have I stolen someone’s goods? Is this why you would confine me here and keep me from being rejoined with my Love?” The love that Rumi sought was for Allah; the poet, a Sufi, or mystic, yearned to achieve union with Allah.

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Nothing says ‘holidays’ like beer & cheese

You’ve heard of the ever-popular wine and cheese pairing – perhaps you’re even a big fan. But you may not know that even wine experts says you haven’t tried a good pairing until you’ve had cheese and beer. While the combinations of beers and cheese are seemingly infinite, Garrett Oliver points us in the right directions with a few suggestions. The pairings listed below were excerpted from The Oxford Companion to Beer.

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Justinian launches second section of Code

This Day in World History
One of the great projects of the Byzantine Empire was the creation of a revised law code during the rule of the Emperor Justinian. The emperor ordered the creation of this Code soon after taking the throne and entrusted the first task to Tribonian, a court official.

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Women, sex, and the anonymous changers of history

Women were not liberated in legislatures, claims Leif Jerram, but liberated themselves in factories, homes, nightclubs, and shops. Lenin, Hitler, and Mussolini made themselves powerful by making cities ungovernable with riots rampaging through streets, bars occupied one-by-one. New forms of privacy and isolation were not simply a by-product of prosperity, but because people planned new ways of living, new forms of housing in suburbs and estates across the continent. Our proudest cultural achievements lie not in our galleries or state theatres, but in our suburban TV sets, the dance halls, pop music played in garages, and hip hop sung on our estates.

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Brian Epstein transforms the Beatles, December 1961

By Gordon Thompson
Fifty years ago in December 1961, Brian Epstein made a leap of faith that he could change his life and the lives of four young musicians. He could not foresee that he would change Western civilization. A few weeks earlier, the Liverpool businessman had heard the din of the Beatles in a claustrophobic former vegetable cellar and had seized upon the idea of transforming the band into something the world could embrace. He seems to have had few second thoughts about his decision, even as he allowed that he might fail.

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Rotten Row

By Anatoly Liberman
Some time ago, a colleague asked me what materials I have on the place name Rotten Row; she was going to write an article on this subject. But her plans changed, and the article did not appear. My folders contain a sizable batch of letters to Notes and Queries and essays from other popular sources dealing with Rotten Row. I am not a specialist in onomastics, and, if I am not mistaken, the question about the etymology of Rotten Row has never been answered to everybody’s satisfaction.

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The UK Bribery Act 2010 and its impact on Mergers & Aquisitions transactions

By Nigel Boardman
An organisation should also be alert to the increased risk of bribery in deals which involve any form of competitive process (such as the auction of a business) and those in which completion depends on obtaining governmental or administrative consents. In this regard, it is important to note that, while corporate hospitality which seeks to improve the image of a business does not necessarily attract liability, “facilitation payments” are an offence under the Bribery Act.

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Five myths about church and state in America

By David Sehat
Liberals claim that the founding fathers separated church and state, while conservatives argue that the founders made faith a foundation of our government. Both sides argue that America once enjoyed a freedom to worship that they seek to preserve. Yet neither side gets it right.

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