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Misunderstanding World War II

The Second World War affected me quite directly, when along with the other students of the boarding school in Swanage on the south coast of England I spent lots of time in the air raid shelter in the summer of 1940. A large German bomb dropped into the school grounds fortunately did not explode so that we survived.

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Climate shocks, dynastic cycles, and nomadic conquests

Nomadic conquests have helped shape world history. We may indulge ourselves for a moment to imagine the following counterfactuals: What if Western Europe did not fall to seminomadic Germanic tribes, or Western Europe was conquered by the Huns, Arabs, or Mongols, or Kievan Rus did not succumb to Mongolian invaders, or Ming China did not give way to the Manchu Qing?

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The Battle of the Bulge

Each year on 16 December, in the little Belgian town of Bastogne, a celebrity arrives to throw bags of nuts at the townsfolk. This year, it will be Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde who observe the tradition. It dates from Christmas 1944, when attacking Germans overwhelmed and surrounded the small town and demanded that the US forces defending Bastogne to surrender.

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Fire and Movement

The Christmas truce: A sentimental dream

By December 1914 the Great War had been raging for nearly five months. If anyone had really believed that it would be ‘all over by Christmas’ then it was clear that they had been cruelly mistaken. Soldiers in the trenches had gained a grudging respect for their opposite numbers, after all, they had managed to fight each other to a standstill.

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1914: The Battle for Basra

The centenary of the capture of Basra offers an opportunity to reflect on the nature and impact of the first Western military intervention in Iraq, nine decades before the city once again became the focal point of British activity in the country between 2003 and 2009.

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The hand and the machine

Two hundred years ago last Friday the owner of the London Times, John Walter II, is said to have surprised a room full of printers who were preparing hand presses for the production of that day’s paper. He showed them an already completed copy of the paper and announced, “The Times is already printed – by steam.”

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How has World War I impacted United States immigration trends?

Where did the first Chinatown originate, and how many exist across the country? Where do the majority of the country’s immigrant populations currently reside? Andrew Beveridge, Co-Founder and CEO of census data mapping program Social Explorer, discusses the effects of the First World War on American nativity demographics.

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InAllRespectsReady

Lest we forget

One hundred years ago, in September 1914, Australia began its first ever joint military operation. The occupation of German New Guinea, taking place more than seven months before the Anzac landings, will always be overshadowed by the larger and more violent event at Gallipoli, but in its own regional context it was at least equally significant.

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Armistice Day: an interactive bibliography

Today is Armistice Day, which commemorates the ceasefire between the Allies and Germany on the Western Front during the First World War. Though battle continued on other fronts after the armistice was signed “on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, we remember 11 November as the official end of “the war to end all wars.”

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Jawaharlal Nehru and his troubled legacy

From breaking the Congress organization in 1969, to the declaration of Emergency, to the initiation of caste wars, to the encouragement of Sikh militancy, to the decision on Shah Bano, to the opening of the Babri Masjid, and the list goes on, it was Nehru’s bloodline that most effectively downgraded his memory.

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Furphies and Whizz-bangs

In 2015, Australia will mark the centenary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand soldiers at what came to be known as Anzac Cove (Gaba Tepe). For Australia, this event has been a significant marker of nationhood, and the legacy of Anzac plays an important role in Australian cultural and political life.

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Looking for Tutankhamun

Poor old king Tut has made the news again – for all the wrong reasons, again. In a documentary that aired on the BBC two weeks ago, scientists based at the EURAC-Institute for Mummies and the Iceman unveiled a frankly hideous reconstruction of Tutankhamun’s mummy, complete with buck teeth, a sway back, Kardashian-style hips, and a club foot.

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The Road to Ypres

Time passes quickly. As we track the progression of events hundred years ago on the Western Front, the dramas flash by. In the time it takes to answer an e-mail the anniversary of another battle has come and gone.

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Ripe for retirement?

In 1958, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., the US ambassador to the United Nations, summarized the role of the world organization: “The primary, the fundamental, the essential purpose of the United Nations is to keep peace. Everything which does not further that goal, either directly or indirectly, is at best superfluous.” Some 30 years later another ambassador expressed a different view

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World War I in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

Coverage of the centenary of the outbreak of World War One has made us freshly familiar with many memorable sayings, from Edward Grey’s ‘The lamps are going out all over Europe’, to Wilfred Owen’s ‘My subject is War, and the pity of war/ The Poetry is in the pity’, and Lena Guilbert Horne’s exhortation to ‘Keep the Home-fires burning’.

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