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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The Paradoxical Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali’s funeral and memorial service brought together a seemingly incongruous cast of characters, once again spotlighting the many contradictions that have made it so difficult for commentators and biographers to extract a realistic assessment of his life. Even with a staggering amount written about him, Ali leaves behind a contested image largely characterized by misinterpretation.

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Benjamin Franklin Says “WE ARE ONE”

A year before signing the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin wrote to Jonathan Shipley, one of his closest English friends, about American congressional affairs. He told of his day-long meetings (he worked from 9 AM often until 9 PM) in Congress. Despite his physical exhaustion, Franklin was impressed with his colleagues. Members of Congress, he wrote, attend “closely” to congressional affairs, “without being bribed to it, by either Salary, Place or Pension, or the hopes of any.”

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Liking Ike: Eisenhower, Advertising, and the Rise of Celebrity Politics

The Broadway song that nominated a president

The astounding success of Hamilton, its capacity to engage audiences from third graders to the president and first lady, reminds us that Broadway musicals have a healthy tradition of mining political history. From 1776 to Evita, songwriters have been fascinated by political power. What drives people to become leaders? How do they rally supporters around them? What reservations do they have about their failures and successes?

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The profanity of disease

Over spring break, I spent a day in Tombstone, Arizona. This is the town where, if you don’t know the story, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, accompanied by their friend Doc Holliday, had a shootout with a group of cattle rustlers at the OK Corral. Though the Earp brothers wore the badges, when the tale is told the hero is usually Doc Holliday—noted gambler, crack shot, prodigious drinker

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Diplomatic History

17 US foreign relations must-reads

The annual meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) begins this week in San Diego. Are you caught up on your reading? If not, have no fear! We’ve put together a list of your SHAFR “must-reads,” including Diplomatic History’s most popular articles from the past year and a selection of recent books and blog posts on US foreign relations.

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Finkelman

The Brandeis confirmation a century later

June 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the confirmation of Louis D. Brandeis to the U.S. Supreme Court. The first Jew to serve on the court and one of the most respected and revered justices in our history, his opinions on free speech, due process, and fundamental liberty are still widely quoted and cited. Before going […]

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James Madison and Tiberius Gracchus on representative government

In Federalist 63, Madison pointed out that the principle of representation was not exclusive to modern republics. In the Roman Republic, Madison thought, the Tribunes of the plebs were “annually elected by the whole body of the people, and considered the representatives of the people, almost in their plenipotentiary capacity.” Representation was not unknown to the ancients.

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A tradition of classical architecture in California

Today, most people associate Southern California with images of palm trees, beaches, swimming pools, and the entertainment industry. If pressed to imagine an earlier era they might come up with “old” Hollywood, the Gold Rush, or even the mission era. But how much of the Golden State can be attributed to the ancient Greeks and Romans?

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Can nineteenth-century literature explain the rise of Donald Trump?

Historians and political scientists have quite the task ahead in making sense of the bizarre 2016 presidential race. Fissures in both major parties betray pervasive hostilities. The rise of Donald Trump from investment mogul to television personality to presidential candidate—a process that once horrified GOP insiders—has produced one kind of theater: the spectacle of anger and resentment.

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Father and son, inspired: Joshua and Paul Laurence Dunbar

Despite the biographical clues that historical fact and fiction may afford in excavating Joshua’s life, the investigation itself rests on a set of assumptions that implicate literary studies of slavery and, in particular, the social and intellectual historiography by which we delineate the agency of slaves themselves. The attractive notion that we can access the life of Joshua by way of the literature of Paul betrays the complexity of that actual investigation.

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Labour and the legacy of antisemitism

We are currently living through a period when “antisemitism” seems to be on the rise in Europe, and is now a hot topic of debate in Britain, because of a few clumsy statements by some prominent Labour politicians (along with a very few statements that do appear to have an actual antisemitic animus).

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Executing the Rosenbergs:  Death and Diplomacy in a Cold War World

Reflecting on notable female historians, in celebration of Mother’s Day

A 2010 report by the American Historical Association showed that women comprised 35% of all history faculty, mirroring similar trends in gender disparity across academia. While the academic history field has traditionally been male-dominated, Mother’s Day serves as a day to celebrate significant women in our lives. In tribute to this year’s Mother’s Day, we wish to acknowledge and celebrate the many contributions by women to the field.

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Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places

Jane Jacobs, even better at 100

The fourth of May marks the centenary of the birth of Jane Jacobs, patron saint of contemporary urbanism, at least for most urban planners, architects and local political officials in the US and for many of us who live in cities as well. Both by her writing and her activism, Jacobs promoted livable cities—walkable, enjoyable, sociable places where communities provide distinctive experiences and locals have a say in determining what goes on.

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9780199777563 - American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division by Michael Cohen

Nelson Rockefeller enters presidential race

On 30 April 1968 Nelson Rockefeller, the moderate Republican governor of New York, stepped before a podium in the state capitol of Albany and announced that he was throwing his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential nomination. The announcement, however, came a mere six weeks after Rockefeller had announced in midtown Manhattan, after a “realistic appraisal” of his standing within the Republican Party, that he would not be running for president in 1968.

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