Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

sorry about that

Ryan Lochte’s “over-exaggerating”

If there were an Olympics for making an apology, swimmer Ryan Lochte wouldn’t qualify. After being outed for his fake claim that he was robbed by men identifying themselves as Brazilian police officers, he took to social media for damage control. His Instragram apology on August 19 went this way

Read More
9780198742999

Quantum mechanics – a new lease of life

“It’s not quantum mechanics” may often be heard, a remark informing the listener that whatever they are concerned about is nowhere near as difficult, as abstruse, as complicated as quantum mechanics. Indeed to non-physicists or non-mathematicians quantum mechanics must seem virtually impossible to appreciate – pages of incomprehensible algebra buttressed by obscure or frankly paradoxical “explanations”.

Read More
Baylis 7e

Saying “Black lives matter”

As the political season in the United States heats up, it has become controversial in certain circles to say “Black Lives Matter.” A few (perhaps even many) object because they don’t believe that black lives matter equally. Most, however, it seems to me, are responding out of fundamental misunderstandings of what “Black Lives Matter” means in the USA in 2016. (I will set aside crude partisanship as an explanation that, to the extent that it is true, does not require further comment.)

Read More
9780198778592

Just because all philosophers are on Twitter…

Just because everyone is on Twitter doesn’t mean they’ve all got interesting things to say. I vaguely recall reading that late 19th-century curmudgeons expressed similar scepticism about the then much-hyped technology of the telephone.

Read More
9780191838453

Is Shakespeare racist?

Just as there were no real women on Shakespeare’s stage, there were no Jews, Africans, Muslims, or Hispanics either. Even Harold Bloom, who praises Shakespeare as ‘the greatest Western poet’ in The Western Canon, and who rages against academic political correctness, regards The Merchant of Venice as antisemitic. In 2014 the satirist Jon Stewart responded to Shakespeare’s ‘stereotypically, grotesquely greedy Jewish money lender’ more bluntly.

Read More
9780198784234

What do we talk about when we talk about ‘religion’?

Let us start at the Vatican in Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica has a strict dress code: no skirts above the knee, no shorts, no bare shoulders, and you must wear shoes. At the entrance there are signs picturing these instructions. To some visitors this comes somewhat as a surprise. Becky Haskin, age 44, from Fort Worth, Texas, said: “The information we got was that the dress code only applied when the pope was there.”

Read More
9780198707196

Rebuilding the Houses of Parliament: Victorian lessons learned

“What a chance for an architect!” Charles Barry exclaimed as he watched the old Palace of Westminster burning down in 1834. When he then went on to win the competition to design the new Houses of Parliament he thought it was the chance of a lifetime. Instead it turned into the most nightmarish building project of the nineteenth century. What ‘lessons learned’ might the brilliant classical architect draw up today based on his experiences?

Read More
9780199467228

Rethinking human-elephant relations in South Asia

Throughout history and across cultures elephants have amazed and perplexed us, acquiring a plethora of meanings and purposes as our interactions have developed. They have been feared and hunted as wild animals, attacked and killed as dangerous pests, while also laboring for humans as vehicles, engineering devices, and weapons of war. Elephants have also been exploited for the luxury commodity of ivory.

Read More
9780195387070

Our habitat: booth

This post has been written in response to a query from our correspondent. An answer would have taken up the entire space of my next “gleanings,” and I decided not to wait a whole month.

Read More
wrong

Hamilton’s descendants

Inspired by the 11 Tony awards won by the smash Broadway hit Hamilton, last month I wrote about Alexander Hamilton as the father of the US national debt and discussed the huge benefit the United States derives from having paid its debts promptly for more than two hundred years. Despite that post, no complementary tickets to Hamilton have arrived in my mailbox. And so this month, I will discuss Hamilton’s role as the founding father of American central banking.

Read More
9780190499006

Christmas in Nazi Germany

Christmas is the most widely celebrated festival in the world but in few countries is it valued as deeply as in Germany. The country has given the world a number of important elements of the season, including the Christmas tree, the Advent calendar and wreath, gingerbread cookies, and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, “Es ist ein Ros` entsprungen,” or “Vom Himmel Hoch.”

Read More
9780190460679

Why are Americans addicted to polls?

Before going into battle, Roman generals would donate a goat to their favorite god and ask their neighborhood temple priest to interpret a pile of pigeon poop to predict if they would take down the Greeks over on the next island. Americans in the nineteenth century had fortune tellers read their hands read and phrenologists check out the bumps on their heads. Statistics came along by the late 1800s, then “scientific polls” which did something similar.

Read More
9780199914081

Why does the Democratic Party want the Cadillac tax abolished?

Democratic Party platform for 2016 repudiates a major provision of Obamacare – but no one has said this out loud. In particular, the Democratic Party has now officially called for abolition of the “Cadillac tax,” the Obamacare levy designed to control health care costs by taxing expensive employer health plans. Tucked away on page 35 of the Democratic platform is this enigmatic sentence: We will repeal the excise tax on high-cost health insurance and find revenue to offset it because we need to contain the long-term growth of health care costs.”

Read More
oup int law

How does international law work in times of crisis?

In preparation for the European Society of International Law (ESIL) 12th Annual Conference, we asked some of our authors to reflect on this year’s conference theme ‘How International Law Works in Times of Crisis’. What are the major challenges facing the field, and is international law effective in addressing these issues? What role do international lawyers play in confronting crises, both old and new?

Read More
9780199669042_450

The body politic: art, pain, and Putin

The phrase ‘scrotum artist’ was never going to be easy to ignore when it appeared in a newspaper headline. It is also a phrase that has made me reflect upon the nature of politics, the issue of public expectations, and even the role of a university professor of politics. In a previous blog I reflected on the experience of running a citizens’ assembly and how the emotional demands and rewards of the experience had been quite unexpected.

Read More
9780190612726

A look at historical multiracial families through the House of Medici

The Medici, rulers of Renaissance Florence, are not the most obvious example of a multiracial family. They’ve always been part of the historical canon of “western civilization,” the world of dead white men. Perhaps we should think again. A tradition dating back to the sixteenth century suggests that Alessandro de’ Medici, an illegitimate child of the Florentine banking family who in 1532 became duke of Florence, was the son of an Afro-European woman.

Read More