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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Correspondence of colonial & revolutionary America

The idea of social networks is not new, nor is their range of importance: from shared intimacy, to commercial nicety, to revolutionary provocation. At no time do we see more of their range and variety and importance than in the letters of Colonial and Revolutionary America. Letters connected families and friends, facilitated commerce and legal disputes, and turned all of these into a porridge of political transformation. Not only can we read history as part of everyday life, we can see it expressed in language of considerable beauty, grace and virtue.

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Pluto and its underworld minions

Early this week the spacecraft New Horizons began its flyby of Pluto, sending a wealth of information to back to Earth about Pluto and its moons. It’s an exciting time for astronomers and those intrigued by the dark dwarf planet. Pluto has special significance because it is the only planet in our solar system to have its status as a planet stripped and downgraded to a dwarf planet.

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What’s your go-to summer concert?

It’s that time of year again! Summer concerts are warming up and festivals are in full swing. Cities around the world are putting on some of the best shows for locals and tourists to enjoy. Check out what concerts Oxford University Press employees love attending every year. You just might stumble upon your new favorite band.

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Devising data structures for scholarly works

For over 100 years, Oxford University Press has been publishing scholarly editions of major works. Prominent scholars reviewed and delivered authoritative versions of authors’ work with notes on citations, textual variations, references, and commentary added line by line—from alternate titles for John Donne’s poetry to biographical information on recipients of Adam Smith’s correspondence.

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Contemporary Muslims and the challenge of modernity

In my 22 years of teaching and writing about Arabic and Islamic Studies, I have probably heard every kind of naive and uninformed comment that can possibly be made in the West about Islam and Muslims. Such remarks are not necessarily all due to ill will; most of the time, they express bewilderment and stem from an inability to find accessible, informed sources that might begin to address such widespread public incomprehension. Add that to the almost daily barrage of news and media commentary concerning violence in the Middle East and South Asia, two regions viscerally connected with Islam and Muslims.

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War: a legacy of innovation and trauma

War. Of all human endeavours, perhaps none demonstrates the extremes of ingenuity and barbarity of which humanity is capable. The 21st century may be the century in which the threat of perpetual war is realised. Although many innovations have been brought about as a bi-product of the challenges war presents, the psychological and physical trauma wrought on the human body may prove too high a cost.

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Insights into traditionalist Catholicism in Africa

Since the promulgation of the revised missal, popularly known as the Novus Ordo by Pope Paul VI, with the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanun in 1969, a growing call for either a return to the Tridentine Mass or recognition of the legitimate place of such a rite alongside the Novus Ordo has gained an international status.

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Swear words, etymology, and the history of English

Have you ever noticed that many of our swear words sound very much like German ones and not at all like French ones? From vulgar words for body parts (a German Arsch is easy to identify, but not so much the French cul), to scatological and sexual verbs (doubtless you can spot what scheissen and ficken mean, English and German clearly draw their swear words from a shared stock in a way that English and French do not.

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How much do you know about Ramadan?

Every day during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan observers spend their daylight hours fasting. During Ramadan, a sense of belonging, social cohesion, and togetherness is reinforced among community members. There is no eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. Observers also abstain from sexual activity. At the end of the fast, delicious meals are shared with family and friends. Eid al-Fitr, a three-day festival, awaits observers at the end of Ramadan.

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Happy 120th birthday BBC Proms

In celebration of The BBC Proms 120th anniversary we have created a comprehensive reading list of books, journals, and online resources that celebrate the eight- week British summer season of orchestral music, live performances, and late-night music and poetry.

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Prince Charles, George Peele, and the theatrics of monarchical ceremony

Today marks the forty-sixth anniversary of Prince Charles’s formal investiture as Prince of Wales. At the time of this investiture, Charles himself was just shy of his twenty-first birthday, and in a video clip from that year, the young prince looks lean and fresh-faced in his suit, his elbows resting on his knees, his hands clasping and unclasping as he speaks to the importance of the investiture.

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100 years of black music

Celebrate the end of Black Music Month with this timeline highlighting over 100 years of music created and produced by influential African-Americans. Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams developed the idea for Black Music Month back in 1979 as a way to annually show appreciate for black music icons. After lobbying, President Jimmy Carter hosted a reception to formally recognize the month.

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Foods and festivals of Ramadan around the world

On 17 June, the new moon signaled the start of Ramadan (or Ramzan as it’s called throughout South Asia), the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar in which observant Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sex during daylight hours. Increased religious devotion sets the tone for the month as Muslims gather for special prayers, acts of charity, and Qur’anic recitations in gratitude and devotion to God.

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The criminal enterprise of stealing history

After illegal drugs, illicit arms and human trafficking, art theft is one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world. According to the FBI Art Crime Team (ACT), stolen art is a lucrative billion dollar industry. The team has already made 11,800 recoveries totaling $160 million in losses.

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Psychological deterioration in solitary confinement

It is difficult to imagine a more disempowering place than a solitary confinement cell in a maximum security prison. When opportunities for meaningful human engagement are removed, mental health difficulties arise with disturbing regularity. In the United States, where prisoners can be held in administrative segregation for years on end, stories of psychological disintegration are common.

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