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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

UPSO

Reading up on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

On 9 November 1989, at midnight, the East German government opened its borders to West Germany for the first time in almost thirty years: a city divided, families and friends separated for a generation, reunited again. For much of its existence, attempting to cross the wall meant almost certain death, and around 80 East Germans were killed in the attempt, shot down by the border guards as they tried to make their escape. With this announcement, however, the gates were thrown open.

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Salamone Rossi as a Jew among Jews

By introducing “art music” into the synagogue Rossi was asking for trouble. He is said by Leon Modena (d. 1648), the person who encouraged him to write his Hebrew songs, to have “worked and labored to add from his secular to his sacred works”; “secular” meaning Gentile compositions.

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A history of Bonfire Night and the Gunpowder Plot

The fifth of November is not just an excuse to marvel at sparklers, fireworks, and effigies; it is part of a national tradition that is based on one of the most famous moments in British political history. The Gunpowder Plot itself was actually foiled on the night of Monday 4 November, 1605. However, throughout the following day, Londoners were asked to light bonfires in order to celebrate the failure of the assassination attempt on King James I of England.

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Nuclear strategy and proliferation after the Cold War

On 4 November 1994, the United Nations Security Council formally endorsed the so-called “Agreed Framework,” a nuclear accord discussed for years but negotiated intensively from September to October 1994 between The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) and the United States.

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Of wing dams, tyrannous bureaucrats, and the rule of law

But just when I was ready to conclude that the Tea Party movement had run its course, another candidate, who identified himself as a lawyer and an expert in constitutional history, used his time to develop the claim that bureaucracy was unAmerican and that as it grew so did liberty diminish. I may have seen fewer approving nods than followed the other candidate’s tale of the wing dam, but most in the audience appeared to agree with him. Several historians have already engaged the popular antistatism I encountered that evening.

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Eight facts about the waterphone

What in this galaxy is waterphone? You’ve might have not seen one, but if you’ve watched a horror or science fiction movie, chances are you’ve heard the eerie sounds of the waterphone. With Halloween around the corner and a spooky soundtrack required, I toured through Grove Music Online to learn more about the monolithic, acoustic instrument.

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Celebrating Dylan Thomas’s centenary

Today, 27 October sees the centenary of the birth of the poet, Dylan Marlais Thomas. Born on Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea, and brought up in the genteel district of Uplands, Thomas’s childhood was suburban and orthodox — his father an aspirational but disappointed English teacher at the local grammar school.

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Religious organizations in the public health paradigm

If you think about big public health challenges of our day — the Ebola virus in Africa, the rising rates of suicide among the middle-aged in the United States, the HIV epidemic everywhere — religions are playing a role. When I speak, I ask audiences, “What was the first thing you heard about the Ebola crisis?”, and they always say “The missionaries who got it were taken to Emory.”

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Coded letters reveal an illicit affair and a woman of substance

When an old friend told me he had saved the former Edward Everett Hale house in Matunuck, Rhode Island, from demolition and gifted it to a local historical society, I remembered there was a significant collection of E. E. Hale letters at the Library of Congress that might throw light on the house.

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Rita Angus in Grove Art Online

Angus studied at the Canterbury School of Art, Christchurch (1927–33). In 1930 she married the artist Alfred Cook (1907–70) and used the signature Rita Cook until 1946; they had separated in 1934. Her painting Cass (1936; Christchurch, NZ, A.G.) is representative of the regionalist school that emerged in Canterbury during the late 1920s, with the small railway station visualizing both the isolation and the sense of human progress in rural New Zealand.

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An inside look at music therapy

We have all experienced the effect music can have on our emotions and state of mind. We have felt our spirit lift when a happy song comes on the radio, or a pinging sense of nostalgia when we hear the songs of our childhood. While this link between music and emotion has long been a part of human life, only in recent decades have we had the technology and foundational knowledge to understand music’s effect on our brains in concrete terms.

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What we’ve learned and what we missed

A ten-year anniversary seems an opportune time to take stock. Much has been said already about Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) as it moves into its second decade, and let’s cast the net a bit wider and focus not on OSO, per se, but on what the academic publishing industry has gotten right and what we’ve missed since OSO was in its infancy.

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Biologists that changed the world

Biology Week is an annual celebration of the biological sciences that aims to inspire and engage the public in the wonders of biology. The Society of Biology created this awareness day in 2012 to give everyone the chance to learn and appreciate biology, the science of the 21st century, through varied, nationwide events. Our belief that access to education and research changes lives for the better naturally supports the values behind Biology Week, and we are excited to be involved in it year on year.

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The Oxford DNB at 10: biography and contemporary history

When it was first published in September 2004, the Oxford DNB included biographies of people who had died (all in the ODNB are deceased) on or before 31 December 2001. In the subsequent ten years we have continued to extend the Dictionary’s coverage into the twenty-first century—with regular updates recording those who have died since 2001. Of the 4300 people whose biographies have been added to the online ODNB in this decade, 2172 died between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2010.

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A conversation with Dr. Steven Nelson, Grove Art Online guest editor

As an undergraduate at Yale, after flirting with theater, music, and sociology, I majored in studio art and focused on bookmaking, graphic design, printmaking, and photography. Majors were required to take three art history classes. By the end of my college career, I had taken eight and had seriously thought about changing my major.

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The Oxford DNB at 10: what we know now

When it was first published in September 2004, the Oxford DNB brought together the work of more than 10,000 humanities scholars charting the lives of nearly 55,000 historical individuals. Collectively it captured a generation’s understanding and perception of the British past and Britons’ reach worldwide.

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