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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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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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Valuing sadness, past and present

In September 2013, the American comedian Louis C.K. talked to chat-show host Conan O’Brien about the value of sadness. His comments grew out of a discussion about mobile phones, and the way they may distract us from the reality of our emotions.

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What does Brexit have to do with human rights?

The economy and sovereignty are the two main themes dominating the political campaign preceding the EU Referendum that is taking place on 23 June. The sovereignty argument revolves around the notion of “taking back control from Brussels” and human rights are amongst the examples of control lost to the EU cited by leave campaigners.

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Illuminating Shakespeare

Shakespeare: living in a world of witches

Since he was born a year after the Witchcraft and Conjuration Act of 1563 brought about the era of the witch trials in England, it is hardly a surprise that witches and witchcraft would come to feature in Shakespeare’s work.

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Revealing lives of women in science and technology: the case of Sarah Guppy

Guppy, as a patent-holding female inventor, is a rare type for the early 19th century but one that we are clearly eager to hear about today. It is the kind of life that (mostly women) historians have been researching since the 1970s and, more recently, has been transformed into popular role model: the archetypical example is Ada Lovelace, whose name has been adopted for a day celebrating and encouraging women in science and technology.

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Observing Ramadan at the Qatar National Library

Every year, we welcome June with dreams of beaches, warm sunshine and a well-deserved vacation. This year, for over 1 billion Muslims across the globe, June represents something more spiritual as it marks the holy month of Ramadan.

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The forgotten history of piracy in the Indian Ocean

Strangely enough, in this contest between sovereignty and piracy, law played a minor role. European sovereigns periodically made ritual invocations of the natural law that held pirates as enemies of all mankind, but in reality, the seas remained an unbounded realm. Thus, in the context of India’s western seaboard, piracy happened more in the littoral than on the high seas.

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The mysterious search for the Cardinal’s girlfriend

From the goosebump-producing thrills of Wilkie Collins’s fiction and the melodramas on offer at the Royal Princess’ Theatre to the headlines blaring in the Illustrated Police News, the Victorians savoured the sensational. The attention-seeking title above is patently untrue, yet, for more than five decades, John Henry Newman (the Cardinal) was emotionally, spiritually, and textually connected with Maria Rosina Giberne, a wholly intriguing figure.

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Joan of Arc’s heresy

A month before Joan of Arc’s heresy was cleansed by fire on this day in 1431 CE, a spokesman for her Burgundian accusers railed against her: “O Royal House of France! You have never known a monster until now! But now behold yourself dishonored in placing your trust in this woman, this magician, heretical and superstitious.”

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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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The “Silk Road Spirit” in a time of globalization

In September 2013, during a visit to Central and Southeast Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping first proposed the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. Consequently, the Collaborative Innovation Centre of Silk Road Economic Belt Studies has been established in Xi’an, China, which was the eastern starting point of the ancient road.

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The future of libraries and the cultural history of Prague

Inforum, one of the largest librarian conferences in Eastern Europe, rolls into the Czech capital next week. Once again taking place at the University of Economics in Prague, Inforum 2016 promises to be a lively and thought-provoking look at some of the issues facing librarians in the Czech Republic and beyond.

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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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Globalization in India

For many others, globalization has dangerous repercussions in terms of entry of foreign direct investment, and foreign corporations into national markets, thus eroding and eradicating indigenous business—for example, think of the street protest among small traders of Delhi against the entry of retail giant WalMart in India. My frustration with globalization is that the narratives I discovered were too fragmented.

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