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The best of a decade on the OUPblog

Wednesday, 22 July 2015, marks the tenth anniversary of the OUPblog. In one decade our authors, staff, and friends have contributed over 8,000 blog posts, from articles and opinion pieces to Q&As in writing and on video, from quizzes and polls to podcasts and playlists, from infographics and slideshows to maps and timelines. Anatoly Liberman alone has written over 490 articles on etymology. Sorting through the finest writing and the most intriguing topics over the years seems a rather impossible task.

Yet this was my charge as editor as we planned our anniversary celebrations. Fortunately, I was able to call on our former blog editors, a host of editors across the Press, and a number of our regular contributors to make their own choices. The blog posts selected have been compiled below, along with commentary, and they have also been made into a free e-book, The OUPblog Tenth Anniversary Book: Ten Years of Academic Insights for the Thinking World, available in PDF, Scribd, Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo.

“The fall of Rome—An author dialogue” (Part 1; Part 2) with Bryan Ward-Perkins and Peter Heather

“One of the most memorable pieces for me was the dialogue I facilitated between Bryan Ward-Perkins and Peter Heather. Somehow we had two books on the fall of the Roman Empire coming out the same time. Fortunately, the authors were also colleagues at Oxford (or friendly rivals if you ask the right one). The resulting two-post epic was a delightfully easy and open exchange that generated a considerable number of comments (at least for those early days) that ranged all the way to the American Civil War and the Sherman tank. Clearly, the readers loved it and I think the authors did, too.”
—Matt Sollars, OUPblog Founding Editor (2005–2006)

“Lincoln’s finest hour” by James M. McPherson

“To say it was hard to pick one favorite post is an understatement. Even five years after leaving OUP, I remain honored and amazed by all the incredible authors who contributed to the blog during my tenure. One post that stands out in my mind as an irrefutable favorite is James McPherson’s essay, ‘Lincoln’s finest hour.’ McPherson’s post is a strong reminder that politicians once valued the American people more than they valued campaigning for their jobs.”
—Rebecca (Ford) Bernstein, OUPblog Editor (2006–2010)

“A mystery-y-ish-y word trend: The –y suffix has gone bananas” by Mark Peters

“Though I generally prefer to write humorously, this post feels like the closest I’ve come in the blog to writing something that could be in a linguistics journal. Recording the existence of unlikely, preposterous words such as secret identity-y and mystery-y-ish-y feels like I made a nice contribution to the literature on slang morphology. I was psyched to build on the great stuff Michael Adams has done and document some seriously whacked-out words.”
—Mark Peters, OUPblog contributor

“John Lennon and Jesus, 4 March 1966” by Gordon R. Thompson

“Blogging can generate informative reader feedback, especially when some of the readers prove to have played a role in the narrative. Such was the case with “John Lennon and Jesus,” not to suggest that either the Beatle or the religious figure necessarily had access, nor that they contacted me. However, the relevant managing editor of Datebook did take umbrage after my suggestion that the reprinting and the repackaging of Maureen Cleve’s 1966 interview had partially motivated Lennon’s assassin. Of course, causal explanations often prove to be undependable, but humans do live in and react to a symbolic world with its multivariate interpretations, and one deranged individual did come to believe that a Beatle had put himself above Christianity. One consequence of the modern globalization of telecommunications and transportation has been an ongoing debate about society and religion. Revisiting how a casual comment by John Lennon about history developed into a confrontation between cultures offers a brief glimpse into the origins of the world we now inhabit.”
—Gordon R. Thompson, OUPblog contributor and author of Please Please Me

“The teal before the pink: Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month” by Gayle Sulik

“We would be hard-pressed to find anyone living in America who was not familiar with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, much less the flood of pink ribbons that descend upon us across the web, on our doorsteps, and in stores each October. Yet, for the millions of donors and race participates that Komen has amassed, few seem to know much about what the organization actually does, or where exactly the money goes. I’ve chosen to highlight the work of Gayle Sulik because she has been instrumental in bringing to light the controversies surrounding Komen and how the commercialization of breast cancer has actually helped companies profit from the disease. Her work sends the necessary message that cause marketing is not philanthropy, and not every so-called charitable organization is particularly charitable. She has challenged us to rethink the marketing campaigns that tug at our heart strings, and moreover, whether we as individuals are actually supporting the causes we have been led to believe are important.”
—Lauren Appelwick, OUPblog Editor (2010–2011)

“Nobody wants to be called a bigot” by Anatoly Liberman

“Writing a post every week for so many years, summer or winter, rain or shine, requires a lot of work, but, as I now know, the effort is worth the trouble. People respond from all over the world, ask questions, disagree, point out mistakes (catching a blogger’s errors is everybody’s favorite occupation), and occasionally praise. In etymology, good solutions published in fugitive journals and rarely read reviews often get lost: the truth has been unearthed but remains hidden and unappreciated. Dictionaries keep saying that bigot is a word of unknown origin, but I encountered an old explanation that seemed excellent to me and was happy to advertise the discovery. Also, while working on the history of bigot, I realized that beggar and bugger belong to the same “nest” and later wrote about both. And last but not least, the post has been noticed. Nowadays, to be noticed even for a brief moment is no mean feat.”
—Anatoly Liberman, OUPblog columnist and author of Word Origins and How We Know Them

“Our Antonia” by Edward A. Zelinsky

“Writing regularly for the OUPblog has been an excellent experience for me, a monthly opportunity to address pending issues of law and public policy in an increasingly important forum. However, the post I enjoyed writing most was my book review of the novel My Antonia by Willa Cather. My Antonia is a story of family, personal identity, and first love set in my home state of Nebraska. The chance to reflect on these themes makes this my favorite effort.”
—Edward A. Zelinsky, OUPblog columnist and author of The Origins of the Ownership Society

“Mars, grubby hands, and international law” by Gérardine Goh Escolar

“Wrapping up my first year as blog editor, there was a great deal of excitement around the red planet. After the phenomenal landing of Mars Curiosity in August, the initial results were eagerly anticipated. As the staff searched for people to comment, we were surprised to find an international law angle to our astronomical concerns. I couldn’t be more pleased when Gérardine Goh Escolar delivered a blog post combining such specialist knowledge with a sense of humor: the perfect combination for academic blogging.”
—Alice Northover, OUPblog Editor (2012–present)

“The dire offences of Alexander Pope” by Pat Rogers

“Pat Rogers’s post on Alexander Pope is entertaining, informative, and instructive in equal measure. Pope isn’t a popular poet in the manner of William Wordsworth, yet he’s responsible for some of the most famous phrases in the English language. In a short space Rogers tells us why The Rape of the Lock is such a brilliant poem, how Pope creates his effects, why he is such an important and influential poet and satirist, and how his targets have so many parallels in the modern world. Above all, Rogers’s enthusiasm, his combination of broad description with close reading, his erudition and ease of communication encapsulate the essence of Oxford World’s Classics—and he makes you want to read Pope!”
-—Judith Luna, Senior Commissioning Editor for Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford University Press

“A flag of one’s own? Aimé Césaire between poetry and politics” by Gregson Davis

“Davis ties together literature and politics to explore the complexities of Aimé Césaire’s thought. The post is appropriately international in scope, and Davis effortlessly integrates a brief history of postcolonial history into his account. Davis’s recollection of his personal encounters with Césaire only serves to underscore the author’s deep engagement with the issues surrounding negritude and the legacy of colonialism.”
—Timothy Allen, Associate Editor, Reference, Oxford University Press

“The G20: Policies, politics, and power” by Mike Berry

“The idea of revisiting a ‘classic’ with a mind to understanding the work in current context appeals. Published in 1958, John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society stayed on the bestseller list for six months and has never been out of print since. As with many iconic books that transcend the disciplinary boundaries of their author, it stimulated widespread interest and heated debate, but is now more often referred to rather than read. However Galbraith’s critique of the orthodox economics of his day is, I believe, of continuing relevance, and such understandings are especially important in today’s economic climate. Mike Berry looks back from the vantage point of the present to see how well Galbraith’s analysis of affluence has fared in the intervening half-century. For the record, and as you’d expect, it covers inequality, insecurity, inflation, debt, consumer behaviour, financialization, the economic role of government (‘social balance’), the power of ideas, the role of power in the economy, and the nature of the good society.”
—Adam Swallow, Commissioning Editor, Economics and Finance, Oxford University Press

“Q&A with Claire Payton on Haiti, spirituality, and oral history” by Caitlin Tyler-Richards

“In this piece, Claire Payton discusses the problems and possibilities of her oral history work in Haiti. She raises important issues concerning doing oral history outside of her native language, and the possibility of using oral history to give voice to the voiceless. The piece also touches on the ethics and responsibilities of doing oral history in the aftermath of disaster.”
—Troy Reeves, OUPblog contributor and Managing Editor of the Oral History Review

“Lucy in the scientific method” by Tim Kasser

“I love working with psychology content because it can take you in so many surprising directions. There’s so much more to psychology than the proverbial couch! Take Tim Kasser, a professor of psychology at Knox College who studies materialism and consumer culture, among other things. Since Kasser was a teenager, he had dreamed of writing a biography of John Lennon, but it wasn’t until two decades later that he was able to apply his expertise as a research psychologist and scientist—and shed his outlook as “fan”—towards a systematic investigation into understanding Lennon through his lyrics. In this piece, Kasser outlines his three-step process for understanding the meaning behind a song. His method is rigorous, but those who, like me, remember poring over liner notes in high school will appreciate the pursuit of interpreting the language of a beloved song.”
—Abby Gross, Senior Editor, Psychology, Oxford University Press

“Neanderthals may have helped East Asians adapting to sunlight” by Qiliang Ding and Ya Hu

“This article in Molecular Biology and Evolution highlights how advances in genome sequencing, as well the analysis of ancient DNA, is helping to enhance our understanding not only of evolution but of our human history. The authors present evidence that the co-existence of Neanderthals with early humans during their migration out of Africa may have helped East Asian populations adapt to sunlight exposure. Where we come from and how we’ve developed as a species is a truly fascinating field of study, and as the science becomes more sophisticated we can uncover insights such as this which give an incredibly evocative peek into our past. “
—Jennifer Boyd, Publisher, Journals, Oxford University Press

“Thinking more about our teeth” by Peter S. Ungar

“Being in the Pam Ayres school of dental hygiene, I often find myself thinking of teeth. This is a lovely little piece that covers a great deal (as do all the VSIs) (slugs have teeth?!) and made me want to read the whole book, so I can appreciate the small miracle of those (in my case) much neglected molars and canines.”
—Luciana O’Flaherty, Publisher, Global Academic Business, and Very Short Introductions series editor, Oxford University Press

“Kathleen J. Pottick on Superstorm Sandy and social work resources”

“This brief interview encapsulates, in so many different ways, what we are all about. Here we have a social work professor who was herself impacted directly by Hurricane Sandy, forming a university-community-agency initiative designed to ensure that practitioners in the field had the information they needed in order to effectively serve their clients and communities. The product itself, the Encyclopedia of Social Work (ESW), is intended to do just that—to provide authoritative, up-to-date information to scholars, students, and practitioners where they are, and Prof. Pottick worked with partners at OUP, Rutgers, and local agencies to make this happen. It’s just a great story that shows what social workers do, how an online encyclopedia can provide a valuable service in the age of Wikipedia, and the real impact that a scholarly press can have on people in need within our own community.”
—Dana Bliss, Senior Editor, Social Work, Oxford University Press

“‘You can’t wear that here’” by Andrew Hambler and Ian Leigh

“Legal topics are often a little inaccessible, meaning that a blog post uses up several paragraphs just explaining what the problem is. Here, the title (‘You can’t wear that here’) and the first sentence (‘When a religious believer wears a religious symbol to work can their employer object?’) immediately locate the issue for the reader, leaving the rest of the article to explain the state of play and future direction of the law on wearing religious symbols in the workplace. At the time of the legal judgment that this post examines, newspapers had to try and summarise the case in terms of somebody winning or losing, while specialist legal blogs debated the judgment’s significance for specific Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. The OUPblog piece managed to provide an accessible but nuanced explanation of the legal principles and findings yet also set out the judgment’s significance in one pithy sentence: ‘The idea that employees must leave their religion at the door has been dealt a decisive blow.’”
—John Louth, Editor-in-Chief, Academic Law Books, Journals, and Online, Oxford University Press

“Does the ‘serving-first advantage’ actually exist?” by Franc Klaassen and Jan R. Magnus

“As a fan of both sport and statistics, this post drew me in from the start. The Moneyball phenomenon is yet to hit tennis in force, and this post hints at the potential that lies within the incredible dataset the authors created for their book. However, the post equally highlights how statistics can be misrepresentative and the dangers faced when they are interrogated closely. I hope Andy Murray has read this blog!”
—Christopher Reid, Editor, Medical Books and Journals, Oxford University Press

“Transparency at the Fed” by Richard S. Grossman

“I like this post because the writing is punchy, in contrast to a lot of academic writing—including my own—that is ponderous. It is also timely, as central bank behavior and practices are—and will continue to be—a hot topic in the coming months. Finally, I like it because it uses history to illuminate an issue of contemporary policy, one of my favorite approaches.”
—Richard S. Grossman, OUPblog columnist and the author of Wrong

“Publishing tips from a journal editor: selecting the right journal” by R. Michael Alvarez

“Of the various blog posts I’ve done, I think this one is the most generally interesting. It provides some much-needed advice from the perspective of a journal editor about the matching problem that plagues many academic writers (not just in political science, but across the humanities and sciences). I also have found that authors hunger for honest guidelines about how to try to publish their material, and I believe that this post provides that perspective.”
—R. Michael Alvarez, OUPblog contributor and Co-Editor of Political Analysis

“United Airlines and Rhapsody in Blue” by Ryan Raul Bañagale

“Ryan’s blog post is a microcosm of his book Arranging Gershwin, which explores ways in which arrangements of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue define and redefine nationalist associations, taking it from a New York soundscape to an American icon to a corporate logo to an international anthem. Like most of my favorite posts on the OUPblog, Ryan discusses a work familiar to many and points out aspects you might not have noticed, broadening your interpretation and enriching your experience of the work.”
—Anna-Lise Santella, Senior Editor, Music Reference, Oxford University Press

“Why study paradoxes?” by Roy T. Cook

“My favourite thing about the OUPblog is the diversity of the content we publish. Working on the blog every day means I get to read about fascinating subjects I know very little about. For example, articles like ‘Why study paradoxes?’ by Roy T. Cook introduced me to the concept of mathematical paradoxes. Mathematics was far from my favourite subject in school, but this article makes a very complex mathematical concept easy to understand as well as engaging and entertaining. In fact, this article captivated me to such an extent that I researched other mathematical paradoxes when I went home after work. Something I never thought I’d do!”
—Daniel Parker, OUPblog Deputy Editor (2014–present)

“Scots wha play: An English Shakespikedian Scottish independence referendum mashup” by Robert Crawford

“Shakespeare’s plays have been endlessly adapted. When done well, these adaptations can be wonderful, but rewriting and re-interpreting Shakespeare is no simple feat. Robert Crawford so brilliantly dramatized the Scottish Referendum and set it against the backdrop of arguably one of the most important works of literature that takes place in Scotland, Macbeth. It’s undeniably comedic, but there is also something somber about dramatizing one of the most important events in recent British history and relating it to a classic tale of power, ambition, and corruption.”
—Julia Callaway, OUPblog Deputy Editor (2013–2015)

“The Oxford DNB at 10: New research opportunities in the humanities” by David Hill Radcliffe

“One of the pleasures of the OUPblog is the space it offers for free thinking and for looking ahead. Here Professor David Hill Radcliffe of Virginia Tech University ponders the future for humanities research as large digital works—including the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography—are reconfigured to cast new light on the past. The potential to interconnect millions of people, events, and artefacts presents opportunities of which we’re only now becoming aware.”
—Philip Carter, Publication Editor, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press

“Facebook, the gender binary, and third-person pronouns” by Lal Zimman

“Gender and sexual identity have been powerful catalysts for change in the English lexicon in recent decades. In this post, Lal Zillman explores how new ways of thinking about gender are challenging one of the most fundamental parts of the English vocabulary: pronouns.”
—Katherine Martin, Head of US Dictionaries, Oxford University Press

“In defence of horror” by Darryl Jones

“This post by Professor Darryl Jones is, I think, an excellent example of what a blog post is capable of doing. It’s intelligently written and draws insightful parallels between the gory horror films we have watched at home or in the cinema and classical literature, where there is more gore than could potentially be shown on celluloid. Cannibal Holocaust may shock with its graphic scenes, but Euripides had a mother parading about with her son’s head on a stick thousands of years before. Professor Jones’s post is also entertaining, showing that the blog is an ideal forum for the most academic ideas to be conveyed in an engaging manner. It’s one of my favourite blog posts for all of these reasons.”
—Kirsty Doole, OUPblog Deputy Editor (2010–2014) and Publicity Manager, Oxford University Press

“Race relations in America and the case of Ferguson” by Arne L. Kalleberg

“How did a tragedy in a nondescript suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, bring race relations to the fore of American consciousness? In an interview with Arne L. Kalleberg, editor of Social Forces, Wayne Santoro and Lisa Broidy develop a framework for understanding the shooting that shook a nation, blending statistical objectivity with human nuance. Memorializing Michael Brown, they examine the intersection of policymakers, protesters, and public, uncovering not only a local but nationwide pattern of structural violence that makes ‘Ferguson more typical than atypical.’”
—Sonia Tsuruoka, OUPblog Deputy Editor (2015–present)

“The origin of work-hour regulations for house officers” by Kenneth M. Ludmerer

“The issue of work-hour regulations for house officers is the most contentious and emotional issue in medical education since the Flexner Report of 1910. The subject involves some timeless concerns in medical education—namely, the ultimate responsibility of medical education to the public, and the fact that cultural forces as well as scientific and professional developments shape the evolution of medical education and practice.”
—Kenneth M. Ludmerer, OUPblog contributor and author of Let Me Heal

“Eleanor Roosevelt’s last days” by Philip A. Mackowiak

“This blog post initially grabbed me because, though I knew how Franklin Roosevelt died (of a stroke, shortly after Yalta in 1945), I could not say the same about Eleanor Roosevelt. I was unaware of the painful, prolonged, and cruel circumstances of her death in 1962, of a bone marrow disease that was aggressively treated past the point of any hope, and contrary to her own wishes to end treatment. Here we have a case study of a famous patient’s last days, but also an introduction to changing medical views on end-of-life care. Reading how celebrities and public figures choose to die—or are denied the choice—made me think about what control ordinary people have over their treatment and care in the face of terminal illness, and sent me back to excellent recent discourse such as Dr. Ken Murray’s article in the Wall Street Journal, ‘Why Doctors Die Differently.’”
—Maxwell Sinsheimer, Editor, Reference, Oxford University Press

“Jawaharlal Nehru, moral intellectual” by Mushirul Hasan

“Mushirul Hasan’s article reflects a crucial moment for Indian scholarship. As India transforms, how does the legacy of our greatest intellectuals inform our future? And the new, global scale of our academic publishing, including scholarly blogs such as this, allows us to have this debate more openly within South Asia and beyond.”
—Sugata Ghosh, Director, Global Academic Publishing, India, Oxford University Press

“Vampires and life decisions” by L.A. Paul

“Academic philosophy has sometimes been criticized for becoming detached from ‘the real world.’ I think this is unfair: the abstract and the general are just as much part of our world as the concrete and the particular. But in recent years philosophers have increasingly focused on topics which everyone thinks about, to do with the human condition—such as emotion, happiness, the self, and the meaning of life. Laurie Paul has come up with an original approach to a practical problem which we all face: how to make big decisions about our lives, decisions that will themselves transform who we are, making us different people from the people who did the deciding. Her blog post ‘Vampires and Life Decisions’ is a vivid expression of this key idea.”
—Peter Momtchiloff, Commissioning Editor, Philosophy, Oxford University Press

“Rip it up and start again” by Matthew Flinders

“This was a piece written in a burst of New Year energy. I wanted to make a provocative argument and to say something that I thought really mattered and where there were still opportunities for change. As soon as the piece went live there was an instant online explosion of support for what I was saying. Then a senior political correspondent with the BBC penned a strong rebuttal of my argument that only served to throw petrol on the fire of a debate that was already well alight. What next? A phone call from a group of Northern MPs telling me that my piece had inspired them to start a campaign for a ‘Parliament of the North.’ Private investors, think tanks, a media launch, a national competition . . . the power of the blog.”
—Matthew Flinders, OUPblog columnist and author of Defending Politics

“Oppress Muslims in the West. Extremists are counting on it.” by Justin Gest

“The beauty of the OUPblog is its versatility. Some posts act like a flare: they burn bright for a brief spell, achieving their purpose by illuminating the landscape, but not lingering long. Others remain relevant for years after their debut, such as the numerous postings on paradoxes. To demonstrate the depth and breadth of OUP’s publishing, however, a post should meet a number of criteria. It should have a strong argument. It should stand up long after its initial posting. It should be clear, crisp, and compelling. It should be based on empirical research. And it should ideally shed light on an important issue of the day by enlisting the tools and perspectives of the academy to educate those who may not have access to long-form scholarship. Justin Gest’s piece on the self-defeating perils of Islamophobia checks all those boxes, and more.”
—Niko Pfund, President of OUP USA and Academic Publisher, Oxford University Press

“Does philosophy matter?” by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

“This blog post was refreshing and timely—two things that I’m usually hoping for in things that I choose to read in my spare time. Sinnott-Armstrong calls out a couple important trends in philosophy that, while maybe particularly egregious in this argument-based, oftentimes macho discipline, are certain to plague others as well: the contempt for people who can’t keep up with scholarly arguments or even specific ‘in’ language and the snobbery towards authors who choose to address the wider public in books written for general readers instead of focusing on super-specialized journal articles. As someone who encounters a lot of dense philosophical prose, I hope that readers cherish what Sinnott-Armstrong says here, in practice and in spirit.”
—Lucy Randall, Editor, Philosophy, Oxford University Press

Do you have any personal favorites? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Featured image: Home office. CC0 via Pixabay.

Recent Comments

  1. […] a wide variety of topics. The OUP has chosen some of the best to celebrate the anniversary and is making them available at their website and free as a PDF file, a Kindle book, a Nook book, and more. You can read and/or […]

  2. […] One of my blog posts made OUP’s  “best of a decade” of blog posts. Only 34 posts were chosen out of more than 8000. Check it out here. […]

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