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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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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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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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Florence Nightingale’s syphilis that wasn’t

Nursing lore has long maintained that the mysterious illness that sent Florence Nightingale to bed for 30 years after her return from the Crimea was syphilis. At least that’s what many nursing students were told in the 1960s, when my wife was working on her BSN. Syphilis, however, would be difficult to reconcile with the fact that Nightingale was likely celibate her entire life and had not a single sign or symptom typical of that venereal infection.

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Celebrating 50 years of the Voting Rights Act

On 6 August 2015, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) will be turning 50 years old. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson approved this groundbreaking legislation to eliminate discriminatory barriers to voting. The Civil Rights Movement played a notable role in pushing the VRA to become law. In honor of the law’s birthday, Oxford University Press has put together a quiz to test how much you know about its background, including a major factor in its success, Section 5.

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Medicare and Medicaid myths: setting the 50-year record straight

Over the past half-century, Medicare and Medicaid have constituted the bedrock of American healthcare, together providing insurance coverage for more than 100 million people. Yet these programs remain controversial: clashes endure between opponents who criticize costly, “big government” programs and supporters who see such programs as essential to the nation’s commitment to protect the vulnerable.

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10 moments in the life of Vincent van Gogh

Today, 29 July 2015 marks the 125th anniversary of the death of Vincent Willem van Gogh, the legendary Dutch post-impressionist painter behind Starry Night and Café Terrace at Night. His talents went widely unrecognized until after his death. Van Gogh was a brilliant artist with a tormented soul suffering from a mental illness.

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The belated autopsy of a forgotten Revolutionary War hero

John Paul Jones died in Paris on this day in 1792, lonely and forgotten by the country he helped bring into existence. Shortly before his death, he began to lose his appetite. Then his legs began to swell, and then his abdomen, making it difficult for him to button his waistcoat and to breath.

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Braddocks Defeat

Ten questions about Braddock’s Defeat

On 9 July 1755, British troops under the command of General Edward Braddock suffered one of the greatest disasters of military history. Braddock’s Defeat, or the Battle of the Monongahela, was the most important battle prior to the American Revolution, carrying with it enormous consequences for the British, French, and Native American peoples of North America.

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Prince Charles, George Peele, and the theatrics of monarchical ceremony

Today marks the forty-sixth anniversary of Prince Charles’s formal investiture as Prince of Wales. At the time of this investiture, Charles himself was just shy of his twenty-first birthday, and in a video clip from that year, the young prince looks lean and fresh-faced in his suit, his elbows resting on his knees, his hands clasping and unclasping as he speaks to the importance of the investiture.

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Hart-Celler and a watershed in American immigration

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the congressional passage of the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. It was the culmination of a trend toward reforming immigrant admissions and naturalization policies that had gathered momentum in the early years of the Cold War era.

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Murders in rural Mississippi: remembering tragedies of the Civil Rights Movement

On June 21, Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi will hold its fifty-first memorial service for three young civil rights workers murdered by the Ku Klux Klan at the start of the Freedom Summer. Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner were activists who planned to create a voting rights school at the church, located in rural Neshoba County.

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Exploring the final frontier

On this day in 1953, the New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary and Nepali-Indian Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest. In the following excerpt from his book, Exploration: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2015), Stewart A. Weaver discusses why we, as humans, want to explore and discover. For all the different forms it takes in different historical periods, for all the worthy and unworthy motives that lie behind it, exploration, travel for the sake of discovery and adventure, seems to be a human compulsion.

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