Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Leonardo da Vinci myths, explained

By Kandice Rawlings
Leonardo da Vinci was born 562 years ago today, and we’re still fascinated with his life and work. It’s no real mystery why – he was an extraordinary person, a genius and a celebrity in his own lifetime. He left behind some remarkable artifacts in the form of paintings and writings and drawings on all manner of subjects.

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The early history of the guitar

By Christopher Page
I am struck by the way the recent issue of Early Music devoted to the early romantic guitar provides a timely reminder of how little is known about even the recent history of what is to day today the most popular musical instrument in existence.

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Roberto Bolaño and the New York School of poetry

By Andrew Epstein
The late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño is of course best-known as a novelist, the author of ambitious, sprawling novels like The Savage Detectives and 2666. But before turning to prose, Bolaño started out as a poet; in fact, he often said he valued poetry more highly than fiction and sometimes claimed he was a better poet than novelist. 

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Philosophy and its history

By Graham Priest
If you go into a mathematics class of any university, it’s unlikely that you will find students reading Euclid. If you go into any physics class, it’s unlikely you’ll find students reading Newton. If you go into any economics class, you will probably not find students reading Keynes. But if you go a philosophy class, it is not unusual to find students reading Plato, Kant, or Wittgenstein. Why?

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Western (and other) perspectives on Ukraine

By Robert Pyrah
Untangling recent and still-unfolding events in Ukraine is not a simple task. The western news media has been reasonably successful in acquainting its consumers with events, from the fall of Yanukovich on the back of intensive protests in Kiev, by those angry at his venality and signing a pact with Russia over one with the EU, to the very recent moves by Russia to annex Crimea.

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Plausible fictions and irrational coherence

By Joseph Harris
One of the most intriguing developments in recent psychology, I feel, has been the recognition of the role played by irrationality in human thought. Recent works by Richard Wiseman, Dan Ariely, Daniel Kahneman, and others have highlighted the irrationality that can inform and shape our judgements, decision-making, and thought more generally. But, as the title of Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational reminds us, our ‘irrationality’ is not necessarily random for all that.

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What Coke’s cocaine problem can tell us about Coca-Cola Capitalism

By Bart Elmore
In the 1960s, Coca-Cola had a cocaine problem. This might seem odd, since the company removed cocaine from its formula around 1903, bowing to Jim Crow fears that the drug was contributing to black crime in the South. But even though Coke went cocaine-free in the Progressive Era, it continued to purchase coca leaves from Peru, removing the cocaine from the leaves but keeping what was left over as a flavoring extract.

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Bumblebees in English gardens

By Michael Hanley
Urban gardens are increasingly recognised for their potential to maintain or even enhance biodiversity. In particular the presence of large densities and varieties of flowering plants is thought to support a number of pollinating insects whose range and abundance has declined as a consequence of agricultural intensification and habitat loss.

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Beggars, buggers, and bigots, part 4

By Anatoly Liberman
Apart from realizing that each of the three words in question (beggar, bugger, and bigot) needs an individual etymology, we should keep in mind that all of them arose as terms of abuse and sound somewhat alike. The Beguines,Beghards, and Albigensians have already been dealt with.

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Colorful spiders?

By Rainer Foelix
Spiders are not exactly renowned for being colorful animals. Admittedly, most of the more than 40,000 spider species are rather drab looking. However, there are certainly several hundred species which are lively colored, e. g. bright red or bright green, and some are very colorful indeed.

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Changes in the DSM-5: what social workers need to know

By Cynthia Franklin
Social workers that provide therapeutic and other services to children and adolescents can expect to find some major changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition: in their placement within the DSM-5, the conceptualization of the disorders, the criteria for the disorders, the elimination of disorders, and the inclusion of some new diagnoses.

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Jane Austen and the art of letter writing

By Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade
Letter writing manuals were popular throughout Jane Austen’s lifetime, and it’s possible then that Jane Austen might have had access to one. Letter writing manuals contained “familiar letters on the most common occasions in life”, and showed examples of what a letter might look like to people who needed to learn the art of letter writing.

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International Women’s Day: a time for action

By Janet Veitch
On Saturday, 8 March, we celebrate International Women’s Day. But is there really anything to celebrate? Last year, the United Nations declared its theme for International Women’s Day to be: “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”

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