Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Is Islamic history in danger of becoming irrelevant?

Recently the jihadist insurgent group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) underwent a re-branding of sorts when one of its leaders, known by the sobriquet Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was proclaimed caliph by the group’s members. In keeping with the horizonless pretentions that such a title theoretically conveys, the group dropped their geographical focus and embraced a more universalist outlook, settling for the name of the ‘Islamic State’.

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Celebrating Women’s History Month

This March we celebrate Women’s History Month, commemorating the lives, legacies, and contributions of women around the world. We’ve compiled a brief reading list that demonstrates the diversity of women’s lives and achievements.

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A goddess’s long life

By Amanda Podany
As an undergraduate, long before I chose to become an ancient historian, I took a course on ancient art history. I remember sitting in the darkened auditorium in the first weeks of the term, looking at images of prehistoric art and scribbling down notes as the professor paced the stage and pointed out features of each slide. Then came an image that took my breath away: a white marble face of a woman, almost life-size (though blown up to about six feet tall on the screen).

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Syria’s civil war: historical forces behind regional realities

By Michael Hunt
Critics of the Obama administration’s Syrian policy have lamented its failure to take into account regional realities. With surprising speed those realities have put the brakes on US intervention. The anti-regime forces in Syria have remained deeply divided — indeed turned violently against each other — and resistant to outside guidance.

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Ancient Syria: trouble-prone and politically volatile

By Trevor Bryce
I have long been fascinated with Syria. Like other Middle Eastern regions, it has many layers of civilization and has seen many conquerors and raiders tramp and gallop through its lands over the centuries. That of course has been the fate of lots of countries, ancient and modern.

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Q&A with T.V. Paul on the 25th anniversary of Benazir Bhutto’s election

Twenty-five years ago today, Benazir Bhutto became the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first female head of government in a Muslim country. T.V. Paul, author of The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, joins us to discuss her legacy, the role of women in Pakistani politics today, and the changing shape of political parties in Pakistan.

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An interview with Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid is the author of the novels Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. His award-winning fiction has been featured on bestseller lists, adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and translated into over 30 languages.

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In the wake of the uprisings

By Jan Wouters and Sanderijn Duquet
In early 2011, a series of revolutionary chain reactions against uncompromising and authoritarian regimes set the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) in motion. The popular uprisings spread quickly across the Arab world and their effects continue today.

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What should we do about Syria?

By Nigel Biggar
It could well be that current negotiations between the United States, France, and Russia will lead to the Assad regime’s surrender of its chemical weapons. Everyone — bar the regime itself — has a legitimate interest in seeing that happen. Meanwhile, the civil war in Syria drags on, in which far more people have been killed — and will yet be killed — by conventional weapons than by chemical ones. What stance should we take toward this complex conflict, morally speaking?

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Middle East food security after the Arab Spring

By Eckart Woertz
Syria and Egypt paradigmatically highlight the perils of food security in the Middle East. Oil exports of Egypt, the largest wheat importer of the world, ceased at the end of the 2000’s. Generating enough foreign exchange for food procurement became more difficult and plans for more self-sufficiency have failed in the face of limited water and land resources.

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Give peace a chance in Syria

By John Gittings
When Ban Ki-moon, speaking in The Hague, called recently on member countries to “give peace a chance” in Syria, and condemned the supply of weapons to both sides, he was taking part in a ceremony at the Peace Palace to mark the centennial of its foundation (a result of the Hague Peace Conference in 1899) which otherwise was ignored by the media.

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The two-state solution and the Obama administration: elusive or illusive?

The likelihood of a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians has always been negligible in the absence of a determined outside mediator. Indeed, the recent resumption of direct negotiations that have been suspended for almost three years is due solely to the determined efforts of the U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry. So, why has the Obama administration chosen to dig in now? And so what?

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What were the Red Sea Wars?

An inscribed marble throne at the Ethiopian port of Adulis offers us a rare window into the fateful events comprising what has come to be known as the “Red Sea Wars.”

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‘Yesterday I lost a country’

By Kathleen Cavanaugh
Since 2003, Iraq has experienced significant political unrest and the emergence of ethno-religious divisions.  That there is a sectarian complexion to emerging socio-political movements in Iraq (religious, ethno-political) is not in question. The ‘fear of sectarianism’ has undoubtedly shaped and formed how protest movements in Iraq (and indeed regionally) are constituted.

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