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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Ethiopia Since Live Aid, Part I: An Excerpt

Kicking off three great OUPblog posts on Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid is a short excerpt from the first chapter. Come back tomorrow for an exclusive Q&A with Peter Gill, followed by an original post by him on Thursday.

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King Arthur: Most Successful Brand in English Literature?

King Arthur has some claim to be the most successful commercial brand in the history of English literature, ahead even of Shakespeare. He has certainly been famous for much longer: his reputation has been growing for some fifteen centuries, against Shakespeare’s mere four.

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What Makes Civilization?

In What Makes Civilization?, archaeologist David Wengrow provides a vivid new account of the ‘birth of civilization’ in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq). These two regions, where many foundations of modern life were laid, are usually treated in isolation. This book aims to bring them together within a unified history of how people first created cities, kingdoms, and monumental temples to the gods. In the original blog post below, David Wengrow writes about that isolated view of the Near and Middle East.

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‘Worst is beginning': Reading Ulysses

Wednesday 16 June was Bloomsday, when fans of James Joyce’s seminal 1922 novel Ulysses celebrate the author’s work. In Ulysses, the action takes place within a single day – 16 June 1904 – in Dublin. As my own nod to Bloomsday, I’m bringing you a short excerpt from Jeri Johnson‘s Introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Ulysses, in which she talks about the novel’s formidable reputation and the intimidation readers coming to the novel for the first time might feel.

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On Eavesdropping

Eavesdropping has a bad name. It is a form of human communication in which the information gained is stolen, and where such words as cheating and spying come into play. But eavesdropping may also be an attempt to understand what goes on in the lives of others so as to know better how to live one’s own. John L. Locke’s entertaining and disturbing new book, Eavesdropping: An Intimate History, explores everything from sixteenth-century voyeurism to Facebook and Twitter. Below is a short excerpt from the book’s prologue, explaining why he finds eavesdropping so fascinating.

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Parliament and Congress in 2010

William McKay and Charles W. Johnson discuss procedural and institutional developments in the UK and the US over the last few months: in the UK, the new Parliament and coalition government, and in the US, the procedural complexities of the heath care reform bill.

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The Other Side of Hay

It would be easy to make a list of the stars that I have spotted here at the Hay Festival since I arrived, or indeed the past colleagues I have worked with, but actually what strikes me more, on this visit, is what is going on outside the boundaries of the festival.

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What Makes a Hero?

The latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, published on 27 May, includes a special focus on people remembered for acts of civilian heroism. Here, Philip Carter, one of the ODNB’s editors, considers what these and other lives tell us about changing attitudes to popular heroism over the last 250 years.

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The Cameron-Clegg Coalition: Day One

It’s the morning of Wednesday 12 May, and I’m in London to be interviewed by Laurie Taylor on the Radio 4 programme ‘Thinking Allowed’. Selina Todd, from Manchester University, has been asked to contribute her assessment of my book, and so will also be on the show. I know of her work, but haven’t met her previously. The researchers have assured me that Selina likes the book, but she has a formidable reputation, and I worry what she might say.

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The Sand Man

The journey of a sand grain tumbling in the wind is a complex one, and while many of the aspects of that journey are understood, there is much, again, that is not. The foundation of what we do know, and of the research desert landscapes that continues today, is entirely the result of the pioneering work of one man (of whom we have already heard)—Ralph Bagnold. Today’s academic textbooks on sand transport often include advice along the lines of ‘for inspiration, read Bagnold (1941)’.

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Jack and Jill… by Walt Whitman?

Well, I don’t know about any of the other Brits in the audience, but I could do with some light relief after a week of political intrigue! Hopefully this will be the very thing to cheer us up. From the Oxford Book of Parodies, edited by John Gross, here is the nursey rhyme Jack and Jill, as Walt Whitman might have written it.

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What does ‘hung parliament’ mean?

For the first time in over 30 years, the British general election last week resulted in a hung parliament. The news is full of the latest rounds of negotiations between the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats, and at the time of writing, we still don’t know who will form the next government. But what does ‘hung parliament’ actually mean? I turned to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics to find out.

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Walter Bagehot on the English Constituition

Written in 1867, The English Constitution is generally accepted to be the best account of the history and working of the British political system ever written. As arguments raged in mid-Victorian Britain about giving the working man the vote, and democracies overseas were pitched into despotism and civil war, Bagehot took a long, cool look at the ‘dignified’ and ‘efficient’ elements which made the English system the envy of the world.

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