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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • History


Why Henry George matters

What value does the story of Henry George, a self-taught economist from the late nineteenth century, hold for Americans living in the early 21st century? Quite a lot, if we stop to consider the ways in which contemporary American society has come to resemble America in the late-nineteenth century, a period popularly known as the Gilded Age. As in our times, that era was marked by a dramatic increase in income inequality. It also witnessed a sharp and disturbing rise in the numbers of Americans living in poverty, even as Wall Street boomed and overall productivity soared.

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Suicide in Nazi Germany in 1945

When the US Army took the Saxon city of Leipzig in April 1945, a gruelling scene was revealed inside the town hall. The Nazi treasurer of the city, his wife, and his daughter had all committed suicide. But these suicides were not isolated cases. In the spring of 1945, Nazi Germany went to its end in an unprecedented wave of suicides.

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9780199397020 - Savoring Gotham

To Savor Gotham: book launch

Food lovers with a soft spot for New York City gastronomy congregated to celebrate the upcoming book Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City, edited by Andrew F. Smith.

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Time and tide (and mammoths)

In July 1867 the British historian Edward Augustus Freeman was in the thick of writing his epic History of the Norman Conquest. Ever a stickler for detail, he wrote to the geologist William Boyd Dawkins asking for help establishing where exactly in Pevensey soon-to-be King Harold disembarked in 1052.

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9780195396577 (2)

The phosphene dreams of a young Christian soldier

On a blustery St. Martin’s Eve in 1619, a twenty-three year old French gentleman soldier in the service of Maximilian of Bavaria was billeted near Ulm, Germany. Having recently quit his military service under Maurice of Nassau, he was new to the Bavarian army and a stranger to the area.

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Spain 40 years after General Franco

Forty years ago today (20 November), General Franco, the chief protagonist of nearly half a century of Spanish history, died. ‘Caudillo by the grace of God’, as his coins proclaimed after he won the 1936-39 Civil War, Generalissimo of the armed forces, and head of state and head of government (the latter until 1973), Franco was buried at the colossal mausoleum partly built by political prisoners at the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) in the Guadarrama mountains near Madrid.

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What history can tell us about food allergy

What can the history of medicine tell us about food allergy and other medical conditions? An awful lot. History is essentially about why things change over time. None of our ideas about health or medicine simply spring out of the ground. They evolve over time, adapting to various social, political, economic, technological, and cultural factors. If we want to know anything about the health issues that face us today and will face us in future, the very first thing we should do is turn to the history of such issues.

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Einstein’s mysterious genius

Albert Einstein’s greatest achievement, the general theory of relativity, was announced by him exactly a century ago, in a series of four papers read to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin in November 1915, during the turmoil of the First World War. For many years, hardly any physicist—let alone any other type of scientist—could understand it.

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The meaning of “terrorism”

Anyone who saw the terror on the faces of the people fleeing the attacks in Paris last week will agree that terrorism is the right word to describe the barbaric suicide bombings and the shooting of civilians that awful Friday night. The term terrorism, though once rare, has become tragically common in the twenty-first century.

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The origins of the Religious Right: a Q & A with Neil Young

Neil J. Young traces the interactions among evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons from the 1950s to the present day to recast the story of the emergence of the Religious Right. We sat down with him to find out a bit more about his process researching the book, what role Mormons have in the rise of the Religious Right, and what the Religious Right’s relationship with Ronald Reagan was.

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How and why are scientific theories accepted?

November 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. This theory is one of many pivotal scientific discoveries that would drastically influence our understanding of the world around us.

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Marie-Antoinette and the French Revolution

Although most historians of the French Revolution assign the French queen Marie-Antoinette a minor role in bringing about that great event, a good case can be made for her importance if we look more deeply into her politics than most scholars have.

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Booker T. Washington’s undervalued legacy

When Booker T. Washington died on this day in 1915, he was widely regarded not just as “the most famous black man in the world” but also “the most admired American of his time.” In the one hundred years since his death, he and his legacy have lost much of their luster in the eyes of the public, even though he, no less than Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King, Jr., is one of the foremost figures in the history of the American civil rights movement.

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