Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

9780190264796

A tragic necessity? The Reformation approaches 500

Pope Francis recently visited Lund, Sweden to acknowledge with Lutherans the religious significance of the coming year leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on 31 October 2017. This is the customary date given when Martin Luther placed his 95 Theses on the Castle Church door of Wittenberg, Saxony. A plethora of events across the globe are in the works to commemorate the epochal event.

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The end of the Cold War and the End of History?

Twenty-five years ago today, the Soviet Union of Socialist Republics collapsed, effectively ending the Cold War that had defined the latter half of the twentieth century and had spanned the globe. The previous day, 25 December 1991, General Secretary of the Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned, transferring the Soviet nuclear codes to Russian president Boris Yeltsin.

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Passenger lists and their uses: the example of Anglo-American marriages

On 27 April 1885, Alice Brereton (née Fairchild) returned to America with her family. The Aurania’s passenger list includes her British-born husband and their three children. From information contained in the list – name, age, citizenship, and occupation – we can reconstruct aspects of the family’s history revealed in other public documents.

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British and Irish family names [infographic]

As the population of Britain and Ireland grows, some surnames are becoming even more common and widespread, alongside a steady continuation of uncommon surnames; but how many of us know anything about our family names’ origins – where it comes from, what it means today, and exactly how long it has actually been around for? Names derive from the diverse language and cultural movement of people who have settled in Britain and Ireland over history

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Dystopian times: that sinking feeling

Notwithstanding a few near misses (the Austrian presidential election), many more liberally-minded readers will probably reflect back on 2016 as a year of loss and anxiety. Two significant shocks—Brexit and the election as US President of a reality TV star billionaire with neither political experience or knowledge—have severely dented our sense of the logical progression of our times.

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Ten tips on how to succeed as a woman: lessons from the past

An unexpected figure lurks in the pages of Wonder Woman (no. 48) from 1951 — the 17th-century French Classicist Anne Dacier. She’s there as part of the ‘Wonder Women of History’ feature which promoted historical figures as positive role models for its readership. Her inspirational story tells of her success in overcoming gender prejudice to become a respected translator of Classical texts.

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The history behind selected family names in Britain and Ireland [map]

We all have a surname, but how many of us know anything about its roots – origin, history, and what it means today? Family names are evidence of the diverse language and cultural movement of people who have settled in Britain and Ireland over history. Surnames can be varied, but not uncommon – for example there a large amount of occupational names like Smith and Baker.

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Italy and the UK decision to expand Heathrow

As Graham Ruddick put it in the Guardian on 26 October, ‘One by one, Theresa May’s government is giving the go-ahead to major infrastructure projects that will cost taxpayers billions of pounds’. By doing so, she signalled her determination to promote growth and the creation of new jobs, as well as to offset the oft predicted economic downturn following Brexit.

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Jacob Tonson the elder, international spy and businessman

Few have heard of him today, but Jacob Tonson the Elder (1656?-1736) was undoubtedly one of the most important booksellers in the history of English literature. He numbered Addison, Behn, Congreve, Dryden, Echard, Oldmixon, Prior, Steele, and Vanbrugh among those canonical authors whom he published. His reputation was international, and the quality and range of his classical editions remained a benchmark throughout the eighteenth century.

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The life and times of Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys penned his famous diaries between January 1660, and May of 1669. During the course of this nine year period, England witnessed some of the most important events in its political and social history. The diaries are over a million words long and recount in minute and often incredibly personal detail, events such as the restoration of the monarchy, the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Great Fire, and Great Plague of London.

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Voltaire’s love letters

Voltaire had numerous passionate affairs, and engaged in an enormous amount of private correspondence with his lovers, much of which has been kept for posterity. Providing a fascinating insight into Voltaire’s inner-most emotions, his letters give a glimpse of his friendships, sorrows, joys, and passionate desires…

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Tracing viking travellers

The medieval Norse were far travellers: not only raiders but also traders, explorers, colonisers, pilgrims, and crusaders (to name a few). Traces of their adventures survive across the world, including ruined buildings and burials, runic graffiti, contemporary accounts written by Christian chroniclers and Arab diplomats, and later sagas recorded in Iceland.

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9780190616816

The Reformation: a conversation about death

After studying the Reformation for over four decades, I’ve found myself alongside many other historians in pulling down one great Protestant myth: all you needed to do was put a little finger on the structure of the medieval Western Church, and it would fall over and collapse. Not so: the old religion satisfied most people and satisfied consumer demand.

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A question of public influence: the case of Einstein

Einstein’s scientific achievements are well known even if not widely understood by non-scientists. He bestrode the twentieth century like a colossus and physicists are still working through his legacy. Besides, the theory of relativity penetrated far beyond science into many areas of literature and the arts. If hard to measure, evidence of his cultural influence is unmistakable.

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Is there a war on Christmas? [excerpt]

Is there a war on Christmas? Historian Gerry Bowler argues yes—and that it’s been going on for over 2000 years. The following excerpt from Christmas in the Crosshairs discusses recent incidences of Christmas-time political correctness in America, while highlighting examples of “Merry Christmas legislation.”

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