Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The Oxford DNB at 10: new perspectives on medieval biography

Today’s publication of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s September 2014 update—marking the Dictionary’s tenth anniversary—contains a chronological bombshell. The ODNB covers the history of Britons worldwide ‘from the earliest times’, a phrase which until now has meant since the fourth century BC, as represented by Pytheas, the Marseilles merchant whose account of the British Isles is the earliest known to survive

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A visual history of the Roosevelts

The Roosevelts: Two exceptionally influential Presidents of the United States; 5th cousins from two different political parties; and key players in the United States’ involvement in both World Wars. Theodore Roosevelt negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War and won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.

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Eight myths about Fair Rosamund

Most of what we hear and read about twelfth-century hottie Rosamund Clifford, aka “Fair Rosamund,” just wasn’t so. True, she was Henry II’s mistress. But that’s about it. Like so many other medieval myths, Rosamund’s legendary life and death are a later invention.

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Paul Otlet, Google, Wikipedia, and cataloging the world

As soon as humanity began its quest for knowledge, people have also attempted to organize that knowledge. From the invention of writing to the abacus, from medieval manuscripts to modern paperbacks, from microfiche to the Internet, our attempt to understand the world — and catalog it in an orderly fashion with dictionaries, encyclopedias, libraries, and databases — has evolved with new technologies.

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The Queen whose Soul was Harmony

In 1701, one year before Princess Anne succeeded to the throne, musicians from London traveled to Windsor to perform a special ode composed for her birthday by the gifted young composer Jeremiah Clarke. The anonymous poet addressed part of his poem to the performers, taking note of Anne’s keen interest in music.

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How much do you know about early Hollywood’s leading ladies?

By Sarah Rahman
Clara Bow, whose birthday falls on 29 July, was the “it” girl of her time, making fifty-two films between 1922 and 1930. “Of all the lovely young ladies I’ve met in Hollywood, Clara Bow has ‘It,'” noted novelist Elinor Glyn. According to her entry in American National Biography, “With Cupid’s bow lips, a hoydenish red bob, and nervous, speedy movement, Bow became a national rage, America’s flapper. At the end of 1927 she was making $250,000 a year.”

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Akbar Jehan and the dialectic of resistance and accommodation

By Nyla Ali Khan
To analyze the personal, political, and intellectual trajectory of Akbar Jehan—the woman, the wife, the mother, and the Kashmiri nationalist, not simply an iconic and often misunderstood political figure—has been an emotionally tempestuous journey for me. The Kashmiri political and social activist is my maternal grandmother.

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Daniel Mendoza: born on the 4th of July (249 years ago)

By Ronald Schechter
This past 5 July was Daniel Mendoza’s 250th birthday. Or was it? Most biographical sources say that Mendoza was born in 1764. The Encyclopedia Britannica, the Encyclopedia Judaica, Chambers Biographical Dictionary, and the Encyclopedia of World Biography all give 1764 for Mendoza’s year of birth, as do the the websites of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Hall of Fame, WorldCat, and Wikipedia.

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Songs for the Games

By Mark Curthoys
Behind the victory anthems to be used by the competing teams at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, which open on 23 July, lie stories both of nationality and authorship. The coronation of Edward VII in 1902 prompted the music antiquary William Hayman Cummings (1831-1915) to investigate the origin and history of ‘God Save the King’.

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Margot Asquith’s Great War diary

Margot Asquith was the opinionated and irrepressible wife of Herbert Henry Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister who led Britain into war on 4 August 1914. With the airs, if not the lineage, of an aristocrat, Margot knew everyone, and spoke as if she knew everything, and with her sharp tongue and strong views could be a political asset, or a liability, almost in the same breath.

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How much do you know about the First World War?

From Haig to Kitchener, and Vera Lynn to Wilfred Owen, how well you know the figures of the First World War? Who’s Who highlights the individuals who had an impact on the events of the Great War. Looking through Who’s Who, we are able to gain a snapshot of the talents and achievements of these individuals, and how they went on to influence World War One history.

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English convent lives in exile, 1540-1800

By Victoria Van Hyning
In the two and a half centuries following the dissolution of the monasteries in England in the 1530s, women who wanted to become nuns first needed to become exiles. The practice of Catholicism in England was illegal, as was undertaking exile for the sake of religious freedom.

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“Stretch” Johnson, my father

By Wendy Johnson
In the grim period of McCarthyism during the 50s, Howard “Stretch” Johnson, my father, fought for freedom of thought and speech, protesting the persecution of artists and intellectuals. Despite the fact that he had grown away from the Communist Party, with the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party and the revelations of Stalin’s bloody deeds, Stretch stood trial and refused to denounce his comrades.

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Mary Lou Williams, jazz legend

Wednesday, 28 May marks the 33rd anniversary of Mary Lou William’s death. Mary Lou Williams, an African-American keyboardist, composer, arranger, and contemporary of both Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne, is often overlooked as a key contributor to the jazz movement of the 20th century.

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Unknown facts about five great Hollywood directors

Today, 11 May, marks the anniversary of the founding of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927. It wouldn’t be until 1928 until the award selection and nomination process was established, but this elite group of actors, directors, writers, technicians, and producers were leaders in the early film industry.

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