Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Eastern Medieval Architecture

The reconversion of Hagia Sophia in perspective

At the beginning of January 1921, a special service was held in the cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, with Orthodox and Episcopal clergy offering prayers in six languages—Hungarian, Greek, Arabic, Russian, Serbian, and English—for the restoration of Hagia Sophia as a Christian sanctuary. As reported in the New York Times, the […]

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How germs (or the fear of them) spawned Modernism

The world’s attention has been fully trained for many months on detecting a microbe that, inevitably, most people will never see for themselves: SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. We take for granted the invisibility of this new enemy. But when scientists first ventured the hypothesis that germs were the cause of many virulent diseases, […]

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A visual history of skyscrapers [infographic]

Where did the structural capability for skyscrapers come from? The 1860s saw the refinement of the Bessamer process, or a steel-making process, now largely superseded, in which carbon, silicon, and other impurities are removed from molten pig iron by oxidation in a blast of air in a special tilting retort, pushing skyscraper construction into unstoppable […]

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Making Shakespeare a classic

Despite his foundational status in today’s academy, William Shakespeare was not particularly welcome in the early modern English universities. In the 1570s and 1580s, just as the commercial playhouses were gaining steam in London, the authorities of both Oxford and Cambridge Universities enacted statutes banning “common stage players” from performing within university precincts. Chancellors lacked the […]

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How pictures can lie

On 9 August 1997, The Mirror printed an edited photo of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed on its front page. The edited photo shows Diana and Fayed facing each other and about to kiss, although the unedited photo reveals that at that point Fayed was facing an entirely different direction. Did The Mirror lie to its readers?

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Ten Facts about World Peace

The United Nations’ International Day of Peace is celebrated on 21 September each year, marking efforts to bring the world closer to a state of harmony and further away from violence. Here are some surprising facts about peace and the quest to achieve it:

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Friedrich Schiller on Beauty and Aesthetics – Philosopher of the Month

German poet and playwright, Friedrich Schiller is considered a profound and influential philosopher. His philosophical-aesthetic writings played an important role in shaping the development of German idealism and Romanticism in one of the most prolific periods of German philosophy and literature. Those writings are primarily concerned with the redemptive value of the arts and beauty […]

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Did Caravaggio paint Judith Beheading Holofernes?

A disconcerting exclusion of alternative views and scholarship has marked the very carefully choreographed two-year long build-up toward the most controversial sale of a seicento picture this year—that of the so-called Toulouse Judith Beheading Holofernes, ascribed to Caravaggio.

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Why posh politicians pretend to speak Latin

When Jacob Rees-Mogg wished to criticise the judges of the European Union, he said, “Let me indulge in the floccinaucinihilipilification of EU judges.” The meaning of the jocular term (the action of judging something to be worthless) is not as important as its source—the Eton Latin Grammar. Latin and Latinate English flow readily from the […]

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9 forgotten facts about Leonardo da Vinci

For over 500 years, the masterful works of Leonardo da Vinci have awed artists, connoisseurs, and laypeople alike. Often considered the first High Renaissance artist, Leonardo worked extensively in Florence, Milan, and Rome before ending his career in France, and his techniques and writings influenced artists for centuries after his death. However, to refer to Leonardo da Vinci as just an artist minimizes his role in numerous areas of study; in addition to painting, sculpture, and drawing, the quintessential “Renaissance Man” left an indelible mark on architecture, engineering, science, philosophy, and even music.

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Notre-Dame, a work in progress

At dusk on Monday, April 15th, just in time for the evening news, the world was treated to the horrendous spectacle of uncontrollable flames licking the roof of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. The fire spread from a scaffold that had been installed six months earlier for restorations.

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Reconsidering the period room as a museum-made object

Period rooms were widespread among European museums during the last decades of the nineteenth century, and became popular in North American institutions in the early twentieth. But the debate about whether period rooms are “authentic” or “fake” tends to ignore what they really are: a museum-made object.

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Is there room for creative imagination in science?

Not just once, but repeatedly, I have heard something like “I just didn’t see in science any room for my own imagination or creativity,” from young students clearly able to succeed at any subject they set their minds to. It is a tragedy that so many people do not perceive science as a creative. Yet […]

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Photography and sex in Amos Badertscher’s Baltimore

The Baltimore photographer Amos Badertscher has been cataloguing queer lives in his city since the 1960s: male sex workers and their girlfriends, the 1990s Baltimore and Washington club culture, transgender people, crack and heroin addiction, and the impact of AIDS. His is the largest extant photographic record of the short lives of hustlers (male sex […]

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