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Academic Insights for the Thinking World


Is there a war on Christmas?

Is there a War on Christmas? Of course there is. Donald Trump is sure of it, Bill O’Reilly says so, and John Gibson agrees. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights declares it to be true and the American Family Association does too. It is a calculated and pernicious attack not only on the holiday but on Christianity itself.

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Developing the virtues

Helicopter parenting is denounced by onlookers (e.g., David Brooks) as babying children who should be self-reliant, a highly valued characteristic in the USA. Children should not need parents but should use their own capacities to get through the day.

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Oxford Bibliographies International Relations

The Cuban missile crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a six-day public confrontation in October 1962 between the United States and the Soviet Union over the presence of Soviet strategic nuclear missiles in Cuba. It ended when the Soviets agreed to remove the weapons in return for a US agreement not to invade Cuba and a secret assurance that American missiles in Turkey would be withdrawn. The confrontation stemmed from the ideological rivalries of the Cold War.

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Wrongful Allegations

What if they are innocent? Justice for people accused of sexual and child abuse

Many people watching UK television drama National Treasure will have made their minds up about the guilt or innocence of the protagonist well before the end of the series. In episode one we learn that this aging celebrity has ‘slept around’ throughout his long marriage but when an allegation of non-recent sexual assault is made he strenuously denies it.

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The irony of gunpowder

Few inventions have shaped history as powerfully as gunpowder. It significantly altered the human narrative in at least nine significant ways. The most important and enduring of those changes is the triumph of civilization over the “barbarians.” That last term rings discordant in the modern ear, but I use it in the original Greek sense to mean “not Greek” or “not civilized.” The irony, however, is not that gunpowder reduced violence.

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Learning about lexicography: A Q&A with Peter Gilliver (Part 1)

Peter Gilliver has been an editor of the Oxford English Dictionary since 1987, and is now one of the Dictionary’s most experienced lexicographers; he has also contributed to several other dictionaries published by OUP. In addition to his lexicographical work, he has been writing and speaking about the history of the OED for over fifteen years. In this two part Q&A, we learn more about how his passion for lexicography inspired him.

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In conversation with cellist Evangeline Benedetti

What was it like as one of the few female performers in the New York Philharmonic in the 1960s? We sat down with cellist and author Evangeline Benedetti to hear the answer to this and other questions about performance and teaching careers, favorite composers, and life behind the doors of Lincoln Center.

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10 myths about the vikings

The viking image has changed dramatically over the centuries, romanticized in the 18th and 19 century, they are now alternatively portrayed as savage and violent heathens or adventurous explorers. Stereotypes and clichés are rampant in popular culture and vikings and their influence appear to various extents, from Wagner’s Ring Cycle to the comic Hägar the Horrible, and J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Marvel’s Thor. But what is actually true? Eleanor Barraclough lifts the lid on ten common viking myths.

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Blessing and cursing part 2: curse

Curse is a much more complicated concept than blessing, because there are numerous ways to wish someone bad luck. Oral tradition (“folklore”) has retained countless examples of imprecations. Someone might want a neighbor’s cow to stop giving milk or another neighbor’s wife to become barren.

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Coleman-only in australia..

Australia in three words, part 3 — “Public servant”

‘Public Servant’ — in the sense of ‘government employee’ — is a term that originated in the earliest days of the European settlement of Australia. This coinage is surely emblematic of how large bureaucracy looms in Australia. Bureaucracy, it has been well said, is Australia’s great ‘talent,’ and “the gift is exercised on a massive scale” (Australian Democracy, A.F. Davies 1958). This may surprise you. It surprises visitors, and excruciates them.

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American History

The French Victory at Yorktown: 19 October 1781

The surrender of Lord Cornwallis’s British army at Yorktown, Virginia, on 19 October 1781 marked the effective end of the War of American Independence, at least in North America. The victory is usually assumed to have been Washington’s; he led the army that besieged Cornwallis, marching a powerful force of 16,000 troops down from near New York City to oppose the British. Charles O’Hara, The presence of the young Alexander Hamilton, one of Washington’s aides-de-camp, who led a light infantry unit in the final stages of the siege, adds to the sense of its being a great American triumph.

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Holy crap: toilet found in an Iron Age shrine in Lachish

In September, the Israel Antiquities Authority made a stunning announcement: at the ancient Judean city of Lachish, second only to Jerusalem in importance, archaeologists have uncovered a shrine in the city’s gate complex with two vandalized altars and a stone toilet in its holiest section. “Holy crap!” I said to a friend when I first read the news.

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Why is the world changing so fast?

Over the past 30 years, I have worked on many reference books, and so am no stranger to recording change. However, the pace of change seems to have become more frantic in the second decade of this century. Why might this be? One reason, of course, is that, with 24-hour news and the internet, information is transmitted at great speed. Nearly every country has online news sites which give an indication of the issues of political importance.

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