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Early Bird Archives | OUPblog

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China: Behind the bamboo curtain

By Patrick Wright
On 1 October 1954, Sir Hugh Casson, the urbane professor of interior design who had been director of architecture at the Festival of Britain, found himself standing by the Tiananmen Gate in the ancient and still walled city of Peking. In China to present a statement of friendship signed by nearly 700 British scientists and artists, he was watching a parade that the reporter James Cameron reckoned to be “the greatest show on earth”.

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After Yemen, what now for al-Qaeda?

2010 Place of the Year

By Alia Brahimi
“The air freight bomb plot should be understood as part of al-Qaeda’s pervasive weakness rather than its strength. The intended targets, either a synagogue in Chicago and/or a UPS plane which would explode over a western city, were chosen as part of the attempt to re-focus al-Qaeda’s violence back towards western targets and pull the jihad away from the brink.”

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How to Read a Word

By Elizabeth Knowles
When I began working for Oxford Dictionaries over thirty years ago, it was as a library researcher for the Supplement to OED. Volume 3, O–Scz, was then in preparation, and the key part of my job was to find earlier examples of the words and phrases for which entries were being written. Armed with a degree in English (Old Norse and Old English a speciality) and a diploma in librarianship, I was one of a group of privileged people given access to the closed stacks of the Bodleian Library.

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London Labour and the London Poor

By Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
It was an ordinary enough London winter’s evening: chilly, damp, and churning with crowds. I’d arranged to meet a friend at the Curzon Mayfair cinema, and after my packed tube had been held up between stations – ten sweaty minutes during which my fellow passengers had fumed silently, tutted audibly, and in one or two cases struck up tentative conversations with the person whose shopping was digging into their shins – I was late.

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What’s the Problem with Maths?

By David Acheson
For what it’s worth, my own big picture of mathematics can be summed up in just six words: (i) surprising theorems, (ii) beautiful proofs and (iii) great applications.

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Dressing Up, Then and Now

By Ulinka Rublack
I will never forget the day when a friend’s husband returned home to Paris from one of his business trips. She and I were having coffee in the huge sun-light living-room overlooking the Seine. We heard his key turn the big iron door. Next a pair of beautiful, shiny black shoes flew through the long corridor with its beautiful parquet floor. Finally the man himself appeared. “My feet are killing me!”, he exclaimed with a veritable sense of pain. The shoes were by Gucci.

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War and Peace Part Three: Deprivation

By Amy Mandelker
I am proofing the galleys for this new edition of the Maude translation of War and Peace when a freak storm with gale force winds takes out three towering pines on my neighbor’s property, topples a venerable oak crushing a friend’s roof, and downs trees and power lines all over Princeton township and beyond, leaving the southern part of the state deprived of electricity for several days.

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Questioning Alternative Medicine

By Roberta Bivins
As a historian who writes about the controversial topic of ‘alternative medicine’, I get a lot of questions about whether this or that therapy ‘works’. Sometimes, these questions are a test of my objectivity as a researcher.

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War and Peace Part Two: Earthquakes

By Amy Mandelker
The earthquake in China. The school that collapsed, crushing students and teachers, was established and funded by the charitable organization for which my ex-husband works. He is a conservationist and social activist, and for several days following the first shocks, he is only able to contact one of his co-workers at the scene, who digs alone at the site of the school with his chilled, bare hands for an entire day. By evening he uncovers the dead body of a teacher.

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How do you write a Very Short Introduction to English Literature?

By Jonathan Bate
My last three books have been a 670 page life of the agricultural labouring poet John Clare, a two and half thousand page edition of the complete works of Shakespeare, and a 500 page “intellectual biography” of Shakespeare in the context of his age. So how could I resist an invitation from OUP to write a VERY SHORT book!

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War and Peace Part One: Tolstoy and Moscow

By Amy Mandelker
Moscow is choked with smoke from surrounding fires. I follow developments online, reading over the weekend that they have been digging trenches to cut off the path of the blaze before it detonates nuclear stockpiles.

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Science, religion, and magic

By Alec Ryrie
My book started out as a bit of fun, trying to tell a rollicking good story. I did that, I hope, but I also ended up somewhere more controversial than I expected: caught in the ongoing crossfire between science and religion. What I realised is that you can’t make sense of their relationship without inviting a third ugly sister to the party: magic.

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What is the point of agnosticism?

By Robin Le Poidevin
Do we really need agnosticism nowadays? The inventor of the name ‘agnosticism’, the Victorian evolutionist Thomas Henry Huxley, certainly found it useful to have a word describing his lack of certainty when he was surrounded by those who seemed to have no such doubt. But then he lived in a period of transition.

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Celebrating the King James Bible

By Gordon Campbell
Why all the fuss about an old translation of an ancient book? There are two reasons: first, it is the founding text of the British Empire (including breakaway colonies such as the United States), and was carried to every corner of the English-speaking world by migrants and missionaries; second, it matters now, both as a religious text and as the finest embodiment of English prose. Its history in the intervening centuries has been complex. The text has evolved…

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