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What’s on your sesquicentennial playlist?

Looking for something good to put on your iPod for the next four years?  When Louis Masur stopped by I learned that in addition to being able to summarize the entire Civil War in less than 100 pages (see: The Civil War: A Concise History), he also happens to be a huge music buff, having written his previous book on some guy called The Boss. I asked if he wouldn’t mind making us something special for the big 1-5-0 and he kindly obliged. Enjoy!

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What might be a constructive vision for the US?

By Ervin Staub

In difficult times like today, people need a vision or ideology that gives them hope for the future. Unfortunately, groups often adopt destructive visions, which identify other groups as enemies who supposedly stand in the way of creating a better future. A constructive, shared vision, which joins groups, reduces the chance of hostility and violence in a society.

A serious failure of the Obama administration has been not to offer, and help people embrace, such a vision. Policies by themselves, such as health care and limited regulation of

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Happy 100th Birthday, Ronald Reagan!

During his eight years as president, and especially after, supporters praised Reagan as a transformative leader who, like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, used his power to alter fundamentally the nation’s direction. Even many Americans who disliked Reagan’s policies agreed that he might well be the most influential president since Roosevelt, turning the nation away from many of the “big government” programs initiated during the New Deal. Reagan received widespread praise for restoring national pride and an unembarrassed muscular patriotism that had lapsed after the debacles of the Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandals, and the economic reversals of the 1970s.

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Martin Luther King Jr., Standing with Lincoln

Martin Luther King, Jr., had helped organize the SCLC (the Southern Christian Leadership Conference). Its appeal was to the mass of moderate churchgoing blacks; most of its leaders were ministers. But many young people were impatient with both of these approaches, which seemed too slow-moving. They formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), known as SNICK. SNCC and the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) organized many of the sit-ins in college communities. Some black groups wanted to fight with fists, weapons, and anger. Everyone knew that if they got their way, much of the high purpose of the civil rights movement would be lost. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., had made civil rights a cause for all Americans. It was about quality. It was about justice and freedom for all. It wasn’t just for blacks—although most of the leadership was black.

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4 Lessons from the Legacies of Washington & Lincoln

Tweet As the year draws to a close, we’ve been reflecting on all the wonderful books published in 2010, and in doing so, we’ve also realized there are some classics worth revisiting. The authors and friends of Oxford University Press are proud to present this series of essays, which will appear regularly until the New […]

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Thanksgiving: Behind the Pilgrim Myth

Young children in the US are often taught that the tradition of Thanksgiving began with a friendly meal between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. In school, they make buckle hats out of construction paper and trace their hands to make turkey drawings, all in anticipation of the great Thursday feast. If asked, I’m sure most Americans wouldn’t actually know the origins of the Thanksgiving tradition as we practice it today. Below is an excerpt from The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (edited by renowned food historian Andrew F. Smith) which explains just how the modern holiday came to be. Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Obama’s Leadership Gap

By Elvin Lim
For after endorsing the idea of the mosque near Ground Zero and resisting the path of least resistance, a day later, the President back-tracked, saying, “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding.” (As Kerry was for the Iraq war before he was against it.) Well done, Polonius.

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Politics & Paine: Part 4

Welcome to the final installment the Politics & Paine series. Harvey Kaye and Elvin Lim are corresponding about Thomas Paine, American politics, and beyond. Read the first post here, and the second post here, and the third post here. Kaye is the author of the award-winning book, Thomas Paine: Firebrand of Revolution, as well as […]

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Racism, the NAACP and the Tea Party Movement

The NAACP was doing its job when it accused the Tea Party movement of harboring “racist elements,” but it didn’t necessarily go about it in the most productive way. All it took was for supporters of the Tea Party movement like Sarah Palin to write, “All decent Americans abhor racism,” and that with the election of Barack Obama we became a “post-racial” society, and the NAACP’s charge was soundly “refudiated.” Or, as Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell put it to Candy Crowley on CNN on Sunday, he’s “got better things to do” than weigh in on the debate. He was elected to deal with real problems, not problems made up in people’s heads. Case closed.

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