Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Cervantes’s pen silenced today

His words still shape our consciousness, even if we fail to read him. This is not due to some hackneyed idealism (“tilting at windmills”), but rather to his pervasive impact on the genre that taught us to think like moderns: the novel. He pioneered the representation of individual subjectivity and aspiration, which today undergirds the construction of agency in any narrative, whether in novels, films, television, or the daily self-fashioning by millions of users of social media.

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9780199965038

Science informed by affection and ethics

“We may, without knowing it, be writing a new definition of what science is for,” said Aldo Leopold to the Wildlife Society in 1940. A moderate but still crisp April breeze was playing in my hair as the sun worked to melt the last bits of frost in the silt. Shoots of prairie grasses were popping up through the mud, past shell skeletons of river mussels and clams.

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9780199937776

President William Henry Harrison’s fatal “pneumonia”

William Henry Harrison was 68 years old when he became the ninth president of the United States and the oldest US president until Ronald Reagan was elected nearly a century and a half later. He was sworn into office on 4 March 1841. Exactly one month later, he was dead.

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

Eugene McCarthy and the 1968 US presidential election

Eugene McCarthy made first stop in New Hampshire on January 25, 1968, only six weeks before the state’s March 12 primary. When he did arrive, his presence sparked little excitement. He cancelled dawn appearances at factory gates to meet voters because, as he told staffers, he wasn’t really a “morning person.” A photographer hired to take pictures of the candidate quit after five days because the only people in the shots were out-of-state volunteers.

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Galileo’s legacy: Catholicism, Copernicanism, and conflict resolution

In Rome on 22 June 1633 an elderly man was found guilty by the Catholic Inquisition of rendering himself “vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having held and believed a doctrine which is false and contrary to the divine and Holy Scripture”. The doctrine in question was that “the sun is the centre of the world and does not move from east to west, that the earth moves and is not the centre of the world.

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9780199937776

Saladin’s Islamic State

Aleppo, Mosul, Tikrit, Acre… Until just a few years ago, these names meant little to the average American. Now they are all too familiar, as are the atrocities being committed there in the name of religion. Eight hundred years ago the situation in that region was much the same, except then, Christians were committing acts of cruelty no less numerous or shocking than Muslims.

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Will we ever know for certain what killed Simón Bolívar?

When Simón Bolívar died on this day 185 years ago, tuberculosis was thought to have been the disease that killed him. An autopsy showing tubercles of different sizes in his lungs seemed to confirm the diagnosis, though neither microscopic examination nor bacterial cultures of his tissues were performed.

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9780199945115

Birthday letters from Jane Austen

Happy 240th birthday, Jane Austen! Jane Austen was born 16 December 1775 in Hampshire, England. Birthdays were important events in Jane Austen’s life – those of others perhaps more so than her own.

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9780190267315

What are human rights?

On this anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is worth reflecting on the nature of human rights and what functions they perform in moral, political and legal discourse and practice. For moral theorists, the dominant approach to the normative foundations of international human rights conceives of human rights as moral entitlements that all human beings possess by virtue of our common humanity.

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Spain 40 years after General Franco

Forty years ago today (20 November), General Franco, the chief protagonist of nearly half a century of Spanish history, died. ‘Caudillo by the grace of God’, as his coins proclaimed after he won the 1936-39 Civil War, Generalissimo of the armed forces, and head of state and head of government (the latter until 1973), Franco was buried at the colossal mausoleum partly built by political prisoners at the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) in the Guadarrama mountains near Madrid.

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9780199937776

Booker T. Washington’s undervalued legacy

When Booker T. Washington died on this day in 1915, he was widely regarded not just as “the most famous black man in the world” but also “the most admired American of his time.” In the one hundred years since his death, he and his legacy have lost much of their luster in the eyes of the public, even though he, no less than Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King, Jr., is one of the foremost figures in the history of the American civil rights movement.

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9780199890347 - A Storm of Witchcraft

Who was Giles Cory?

“Monday, Sept. 19, 1692. About noon, at Salem, Giles Cory was press’d to death for standing Mute; much pains was used with him two days, one after another, by the Court and Capt. Gardner of Nantucket who had been of his acquaintance: but all in vain.” Thus reads Judge Samuel Sewall’s terse account of one of the most gruesome incidents in early American history, one that continues to horrify yet fascinate. Who was Giles Cory? Why was he accused of witchcraft? And how did he come to such a horrible fate?

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