Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World


When to talk and when to walk

In the spring of 2014, after Russia annexed the Crimea, the German chancellor Angela Merkel took to the air. She jetted some 20,000 kms around the globe, visiting nine cities in seven days – from Washington to Moscow, from Paris to Kiev – holding one meeting after another with key world leaders in the hope of brokering a peace-deal. Haunted by the centenary of 1914, Merkel saw summitry as the only way to stop Europe from ‘sleepwalking’ into another great war.

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Facing the Führer: Jesse Owens and the history of the modern Olympic games

Enjoying Rio 2016? This extract from Sport: A Very Short Introduction by Mike Cronin gives a history of the modern Olympic games; from its inspiration in the British Public school system, to the role it played in promoting Nazi propaganda. The modern Olympic Games, and their governing body, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), came into being in 1894 and were the brainchild of Pierre de Coubertin. A Frenchman with a passionate interest in education, de Coubertin had visited England.

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How long was my century?

In 2002 I faced a dilemma relating to an editorial project that perhaps only another historian can appreciate. Scrambling to complete the Introduction to Twentieth-Century China: New Approaches, I had to figure out how long to say the eponymous period had lasted.

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Book of the century: The Subjection of Women

In a dynamic demonstration of the motivating power of the written word, a ladies’ literary discussion group read The Subjection of Women in 1883. As soon as they had closed the book, they set up the Finnish Women’s Association to campaign for women in public life. It is not coincidental that in 1906 Finland became the first European country where women had the vote. J.S.Mill’s book is, with Marx’s Capital, one of the two most important political books written in Britain in the nineteenth century.

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A timeline of the dinosaurs [infographic]

Dinosaurs, literally meaning ‘terrible lizards’, were first recognized by science, and named by Sir Richard Owen (who preferred the translation ‘fearfully great’), in the 1840’s. In the intervening 170 years our knowledge of dinosaurs, including whether they all really died out 65 million years ago, has changed dramatically. Take a crash course on the history of the dinosaurs with our infographic.

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A tale of two cities: Anzac Day and the Easter Rising

On 25 April 1916, 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through London towards a service at Westminster Abbey attended by the King and Queen. One of the soldiers later recalled the celebratory atmosphere of the day. This was the first Anzac Day. A year earlier, Australian soldiers had been the first to land on the Gallipoli peninsula as part of an attempt by the combined forces of the British and French empires to invade the Ottoman Empire.

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Anzac Legend

Ever since news of the landing at Gallipoli first reached Australia via the reporting of the British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, the achievements of the AIF have become embedded in Australian national consciousness. By the end of the war the AIF had come to be regarded as one of the premier Allied fighting forces, and [General Sir John] Monash as one of their most successful generals.

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Addressing Japanese atrocities

After decades of tension over Japan’s failure to address atrocities that it perpetrated before and during World War II, the island nation’s relations with its regional neighbors, China and South Korea, are improving. Six weeks ago, for the first time in years, representatives of Japan’s Upper House resumed exchanges with Chinese parliamentarians.

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Copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio around the world [map]

The first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays printed in 1623 – known as the First Folio – has a rich history. It is estimated that around 700 or 750 copies were printed, and today we know the whereabouts of over 230. They exist in some form or another, often incomplete or a combination of different copies melded together, in libraries and personal collections all over the world.

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Commemorating Shakespeare in 1916

Easter was late in 1916, falling on 23 April, St George’s Day. This coincidence of faith and patriotism was inevitably both heightened and tempered by the ongoing struggles of the First World War. April 1916 came amidst the protracted fighting of the Battle of Verdun, a long and bloody conflict yet one which was only a foretaste of the horrors to come at the Somme the summer following. It also happened to mark the Tercentenary of the death of William Shakespeare.

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Illuminating Shakespeare

Translating Shakespeare

Translation of Shakespeare’s works is almost as old as Shakespeare himself; the first German adaptations date from the early 17th century. And within Shakespeare’s plays, moments of translation create comic relief and heighten the awareness that communication is not a given. Translation also served as a metaphor for physical transformation or transportation.

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Constructing race in world history

Racism is alive and kicking. We see it in the news; we see it in our lives. And yet our modern concept (and practice) that involves notions of “race”—on which racism rests—is a recent invention. While people and their societies have long distinguished among themselves—Romans distinguished between “citizens” and “barbarians.”

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Who owns culture?

The quiet corridors of great public museums have witnessed revolutionary breakthroughs in the understanding of the past, such as when scholars at the British Museum cracked the Rosetta Stone and no longer had to rely on classical writers to find out about ancient Egyptian civilisation. But museums’ quest for knowledge is today under strain, amid angry debates over who owns culture.

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Oxford Classical Dictionary

Ancient Rome vs. North Korea: spectacular ‘executions’ then and now

Reports over recent months from South Korea’s Yonhap news agency have suggested that two prominent North Korean politicians have been executed this year on the orders of Kim Jong-un. These reports evoke some interesting parallels from the darker side of the history of ancient Rome, or at least from the more colourful stories told about it by Roman historians.

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Another unpleasant infection: Zika virus

Over two years ago I wrote that “new viruses are constantly being discovered… Then something comes out of the woodwork like SARS which causes widespread panic.” Zika virus infection bids fair to repeat the torment. On 28 January 2016 the BBC reported that the World Health Organization had set up a Zika “emergency team” as a result of the current explosive pandemic.

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