Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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What is English?

What is English? Ask any speaker of English, and the answer you get may be “it’s what the dictionary says it is.” Or, “it’s what I speak.” Answers like these work well enough up to a point, but the words that make it in the dictionary are not always the words we hear being used around us.

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Verdun: the longest battle of the Great War

The battle of Verdun began on 21 February 1916. It did not end until December of that year. It was a place of no advance and no retreat, where national resources continued to pour in, extending the slaughter indefinitely. Paul Jankowski, leading French historian and author of Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War, examines Verdun in a new, unique way, using both French and German sources with equal weight.

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Reflections on World War I

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, we’re taking a look back at the momentous event that forever changed the course of world history. Here Sir Hew Strachan, editor of The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, examines the various important issues we can learn from commemorating the Great War and how perspectives on the war have shifted and changed over the last 100 years.

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Is the planet full?

Is the planet full? Can the world continue to support a growing population estimated to reach 10 billion people by the middle of the century? And how can we harness the benefits of a healthier, wealthier and longer-living population?

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The viability of Transcendence: the science behind the film

In the trailer of Transcendence, an authoritative professor embodied by Johnny Depp says that “the path to building superintelligence requires us to unlock the most fundamental secrets of the universe.” It’s difficult to wrap our minds around the possibility of artificial intelligence and how it will affect society. 

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What’s the secret to high scores on video games?

When playing video games, do you play better with the sound on or off? Every gamer may have an opinion—but what has research shown? Some studies suggest that music and sound effects enhance performance. For instance, Tafalla (2007) found that male gamers scored almost twice as many points while playing the first-person shooter game DOOM with the sound on (chilling music, weaponfire, screams, and labored breathing) compared to those playing with the sound off.

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A publisher before wartime

This year marks the centenary of the start of the First World War. This cataclysmic event in world history has been examined by many scholars with different angles over the intervening years, but the academic community hopes to gain fresh insight into the struggles of war on this anniversary.

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Is our language too masculine?

As Women’s History month comes to a close, we wanted to share an important debate that Simon Blackburn, author of Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, participated in for IAITV. Joined by Scottish feminist linguist Deborah Cameron and feminist psychologist Carol Gilligan, they look at what we can do to build a more feminist language.

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Expressing ourselves about expressiveness in music

Picture the scene. You’re sitting in a box at the Royal Albert Hall, or the Vienna Musikverein. You have purchased tickets to hear Beethoven’s Ninth symphony performed by an internationally renowned orchestra, and they are playing it in a way that sounds wonderful. But what makes this such a powerful performance?

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35 years: the best of C-SPAN

By Kate Pais
The Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, better known as C-SPAN, has been airing the day-to-day activities of Congress since 1979, for thirty-five years as of this week. Now across three different channels, C-SPAN has provided the American public easy access to politics in action, and created a new level of transparency in public life.

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Britain, France, and their roads from empire

After the Second World War ended in 1945, Britain and France still controlled the world’s two largest colonial empires, even after the destruction of the war. Their imperial territories extended over four continents. And what’s more, both countries seemed to be absolutely determined to hold on their empires: the roll-call of British and French politicians, soldiers, settlers and writers who promised to defend their colonial possessions at all costs is a long one. But despite that, within just twenty years, both empires had vanished.

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Female artists and politics in the civil rights movement

In the battle for equal rights, many Americans who supported the civil rights movement did not march or publicly protest. They instead engaged with the debates of the day through art and culture. Ruth Feldstein, author of How it Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement, joined us in our New York offices to discuss the ways in which culture became a battleground and to share the stories of the female performers who played important but sometimes subtle roles in the civil rights movement.

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A record-breaking lunar impact

On 11 September 2013, an unusually long and bright impact flash was observed on the Moon. Its peak luminosity was equivalent to a stellar magnitude of around 2.9. What happened? A meteorite with a mass of around 400 kg hit the lunar surface at a speed of over 61,000 kilometres per hour.

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