Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Amelia Carruthers

What is Thanksgiving? A Brit’s guide to the holiday

Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays in the US calendar. However for those who have never lived in America, the celebration can seem perplexing and often down-right bewildering. Here in the Oxford offices at Oxford University Press, we thought we may have understood the basics, but on researching more into the holiday, we have been left with many more questions than answers. For instance, what is a “Turkey Trot” or sweet potato pie, and if television is to be believed – do people actually go around the table saying what they’re thankful for?

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World Mental Health Day 2017: History of the treatment of mental illness

The tenth of October marks World Mental Health Day. Organized by the World Health Organization, the day works toward “raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.” Mental health has been a concern for thousands of years, but different cultures have treated mental illnesses very differently throughout time.

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The history of the library

Our love of libraries is nothing new, and history records famous libraries as far back as those of Ashurbanipal (in 7th-century BCE Assyria) and Ancient Greek Alexandria. As society and culture have progressed, so too have our libraries. Even epochs such as the Middle Ages (known erroneously as the “Dark Ages” for its lack of […]

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David Hume: friendships, feuds, and faith

Who exactly was David Hume? He was a Scottish historian and philosopher (best known today for his radical empiricism), who prided himself on his reputation as a man of the utmost moral character.

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Why do we love our pets so much?

Since time immemorial, humans have kept animals for companions. Pets are known to provide physical and emotional benefits, not only in terms of companionship, but also in terms of outdoor adventure, exercise, and socializing with other pet owners. As Sigmund Feud once said, “Time spent with cats is never wasted.” Dogs and cats have been particular favourites throughout the ages, with cats commonly thought to have been domesticated in ancient Egypt, and dogs from the time of the hunter-gatherers.

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Women of letters

During the Enlightenment era, the term “man of letters” (deriving from the French term belletrist) was used to distinguish true scholars—independent thinkers who relished debate, conversation and learning. In an age when literacy was a distinct form of cultural capital, it served to identify the literati, often the French members of the “Republic of Letters,” who met in “salons” designed for the elevation, education, and cultural sophistication of the participants.

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A library in letters: the Bodleian

Libraries by their very nature are keepers and extollers of the written word. They contain books, letters, and manuscripts, signifying unending possibilities and limitless stores of knowledge waiting to be explored. But aside from the texts and stories kept within libraries’ walls, they also have a long and fascinating story in their own right.

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The life and times of Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys penned his famous diaries between January 1660, and May of 1669. During the course of this nine year period, England witnessed some of the most important events in its political and social history. The diaries are over a million words long and recount in minute and often incredibly personal detail, events such as the restoration of the monarchy, the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Great Fire, and Great Plague of London.

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Voltaire’s love letters

Voltaire had numerous passionate affairs, and engaged in an enormous amount of private correspondence with his lovers, much of which has been kept for posterity. Providing a fascinating insight into Voltaire’s inner-most emotions, his letters give a glimpse of his friendships, sorrows, joys, and passionate desires…

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What exactly is ‘contract theory’?

At first glance, it may seem a dizzyingly impenetrable subject matter, but Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström’s contributions to ‘contract theory’ have revolutionized the study of economics. They have recently been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, with the presentation committee noting how their pioneering analysis laid the “intellectual foundation for designing policies and institutions in many areas, from bankruptcy legislation to political constitutions.”

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World Cancer Day – a reading list

Every year, World Cancer Day aims to save millions of preventable deaths, by raising awareness and education about the disease. Whether you are a health professional, a carer, patient, policy-maker, or simply looking to get involved – we can all to our bit to help reduce the global burden of cancer.

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Landmarks in the study of rheumatology

From experiments with steroids, to placebos, and genome-wide studies, we take a look back at over two centuries of rheumatology studies. Rheumatology involves the study of any disorders of the joints, muscles, and ligaments – including such debilitating conditions as rheumatism and arthritis.

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World Anaesthesia Day: Key events in the history of anaesthesia

Today (Friday 16 October) is World Anaesthesia Day. To mark this occasion, we have selected ten of the most interesting events in the history of anaesthesia. From the discovery of diethyl ether by Paracelsus in 1525, to James Young Simpson’s first use of chloroform in 1847, and the creation of the first specialist anaesthetic society in 1992 – anaesthesia is a medical discipline with a fascinating past.

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