Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

American History

The impact of the press on the American Revolution

Issues of the press seem increasingly relevant in light of the recent U.S. presidential election. At its best, the press can play a critical role in informing, educating, and shaping the public’s thoughts—just as it did at the time of the nation’s founding. In fact, the press was so crucial in those early days that David Ramsay, one of the first historians of the American Revolution, wrote that: “In establishing American independence, the pen and press had merit equal to that of the sword.”

Read More

A literary Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has many historical roots in American culture. While it is typically a day spent surrounded by family and showing appreciation for what we are thankful for, we would all be lying if we did not admit that our favorite part is consuming an abundance of delicious food until we slip into a food coma.

Read More

Hillary Clinton and the “women’s vote”

One hundred years ago, in 1916, Montana elected the first woman to serve in Congress: Jeannette Rankin. On Tuesday, the US did not elect its first woman president. Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Donald Trump won the Electoral College. The expectation of a Clinton victory led many to reflect on the long history of women’s quest for the right to vote.

Read More

The life of Guglielmo Marconi [infographic]

Guglielmo Marconi was the man who networked the world. He was the first global figure in modern communications, popularizing as well as patenting the use of radio waves. Decorated by the Czar of Russia, named an Italian Senator, knighted by King George V, and awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, Marconi accomplished more before the age of forty than many people do in a lifetime.

Read More
Baylis 7e

When white men rule the world

If Hillary Rodham Clinton had triumphed in Tuesday’s presidential election, it would have been a milestone for women’s political representation: a shattering of the hardest glass ceiling, as her supporters liked to say. Clinton’s defeat in the electoral college (but not the popular vote) is also the failure of a certain feminist stratagem. But the victory of Donald Trump tells us just as much about the global politics of gender, and how it is being remade.

Read More

Were farmers America’s first high tech information workers?

Settlers in North America during the 1600s and 1700s grew and raised all their own food, with tiny exceptions, such as importing tea. In the nineteenth century, well over 80 percent of the American public either lived at one time on a farm or made their living farming. Today, just over 1 percent does that in the United States, even though there is a surge going on in small organic family farming.

Read More
American History

Why were the Salem witch trials so significant?

Religious fanaticism, power-hungry individuals, local disputes, misogyny, anxiety, political turmoil, psychological distress, and mass hysteria all contributed to the atmosphere surrounding the infamous Salem witch trials. These factors converged in 1692 to “produce what was by far the largest and most lethal outbreak of witchcraft in American history … threaten[ing] to bring down the newly formed Massachusetts Bay government of Sir William Phips.”

Read More


At the intersection of State and Washington Streets in the Warehouse District of downtown Peoria, a city of about 116,000 that sits halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, stands a nine-foot-tall bronze likeness of the city’s most infamous native son. If you were a visitor, in town to hang out along the up-and-coming riverfront or to visit Caterpillar, the only Fortune 500 company headquartered in the city, you would be forgiven for thinking this makes sense, that of course Peoria would memorialize Richard Pryor arguably the most culturally significant Peorian of all time, and inarguably one of the most significant figures in African American cultural history of the twentieth century.

Read More

Translating Hobson City

Crossing the train track from the predominantly white Anniston into the historically black Hobson City, Alabama, I immediately noticed the significant changes in environment and people. It was not until I exited my car and physically inserted myself into the Hobson City community that I learned that there was much more to this small town than what initially met my eyes.

Read More

Why didn’t more women vote for Hillary Clinton?

Hillary Clinton was confidently predicted to ‘crack the country’s highest glass ceiling once and for all.’ In Rochester, New York women queued up to put tokens on the grave of Susan B Anthony the nineteenth century suffragist and architect of the 19th amendment to the US constitution which gave federal voting rights to woman in 1920 (they had been voting in territories and states since 1869).

Read More
The American Presidency VSI

Three centuries of the American presidency

The United States and its Constitution are now in their third century. The passage from each century to the next has been eventful. This review suggests an important lesson in considering the presidency in the twenty-first century: Events, the issues they generate, and the people who serve are normally more important than reforms in explaining change. Neustadt again: “The presidency nowadays [has] a different look.”

Read More

The economic effect of “Trumpism”

On winning the US Presidential election, Trump’s victory speech confirmed that he would put America first in his policies. That pursuit of America’s interests will permeate US economic and other policies in the years to come. US President Donald Trump’s effect on the economy is hard to discern due to a lack of policy detail.

Read More

On the cliché trail

The election campaign season licenses two cohorts—politicians and journalists—to take up an even greater share of public discourse than is normally allotted to them. Both of these groups have a demonstrable and statistically verifiable tendency towards cliché, and so it is to be expected that in what’s left of the run-up to the US elections, the public forum will be awash in clichés. And so it is!

Read More

Washington, Gates, and a battle for power in the young United States

Conspiracies are seldom what they are cracked up to be. It is in their nature for people to gossip and complain. Through it all they sometimes agree with each other, or pretend to for other reasons. Thus eavesdroppers looking for conspiracy can imagine plenty of it in almost any gathering, particularly if alcohol is lubricating and amplifying the discussions. So it was that in the winter of 1777-78 that some commonplace military griping got elevated to the level of conspiracy, at the center of which were a few hapless men later referred to as the “Conway Cabal.”

Read More

The founding of the Electoral College

Every four years, the debate over the United States’ continued use of its Electoral College reemerges. The following excerpt from Michael Klarman’s The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution discusses the political interests that shaped the Electoral College and American presidential politics as a whole.

Read More