Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The Realness of Things Past

Have humans always lived in a “pluriverse” of worlds?

In the modern West, we take it for granted that reality is an objectively knowable material world. From a young age, we are taught to visualize it as a vast abstract space full of free-standing objects that all obey timeless universal laws of science and nature. But a very different picture of reality is now emerging from new currents of thought in fields like history, anthropology, and sociology.

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A Roman road trip: tips for travelling the Roman Empire this summer

As Europe reopens, consider a Roman road trip that takes inspiration from an ancient travel guide. The Vicarello itineraries describe what we might call the scenic route from Cádiz to Rome. Glimpses of the empire’s superlative architecture can be found along the way, and emerging digital tools can put primary sources at your fingertips.

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The Spanish Civil War: a nostalgia of hope

This summer will mark the 85th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War, a brutal struggle that began with a military uprising against the democratic Second Republic and ended, three years later, in victory for the rebels under General Francisco Franco. The enduring fascination of that conflict, its ability to grip the global imagination, belies its geographical scale and is testament to the power of art.

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On SHAPE: a Q&A with Lucy Noakes, Eyal Poleg, Laura Wright & Mary Kelly

OUP have recently announced our support for the newly created SHAPE initiative—Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy. To further understand the crucial role these subjects play in our everyday lives, we have put three questions to four British Academy SHAPE authors and editors—social and cultural historian Lucy Noakes, historian of objects and faith Eyal Poleg, historical sociolinguist Laura Wright, and Lecturer in Contemporary Art History Mary Kelly—on what SHAPE means to them, and to their research.

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Evolution of a Taboo

The power of pigs: tension and taboo in Haifa, Israel

It might be an exaggeration to say a boar broke the internet. But when someone posted an image of wild boar sleeping on a mattress and surrounded by garbage from a recently-raided dumpster in Haifa, Israel in March, Twitter briefly erupted. In a recent article in The New York Times, Patrick Kingsley documented the uneasy relationship, not only between people and pigs, but also between the people who want the animals eliminated and those who welcome them. But Kingsley curiously omits an important detail: the drama over the fate of Haifa’s boar plays out against a backdrop of taboo and religious law.

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Beer: A Global Journey through the Past and Present

Ten refreshing books to read for National Beer Day [reading list]

Beer is one of the world’s oldest produced alcoholic beverages and since its invention some 13,000 years ago, people across the globe have been brewing, consuming, and even worshiping this amber nectar. Whether you prefer a pale ale, wheat beer, stout, or lager, from the cask or a humble bottle, beer enthusiasts can agree that the topic of beer is as complex as its taste.

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SHAPE today and tomorrow: Q&A with Sophie Goldsworthy and Julia Black (part two)

This second part of our Q&A with Sophie Goldsworthy, Director of Content Strategy & Acquisitions at OUP, and Professor Julia Black CBE FCA, Strategic Director of Innovation and Professor of Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and President-elect of the British Academy, reflects on how SHAPE disciplines can help us to understand the impact of the events of the pandemic and look towards the future of SHAPE.

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Making Deep History

Turning geology into archaeology: how two businessmen changed the face of time

On the afternoon of 27 April 1859, two top-hatted businessmen, standing in a gravel pit outside the French city of Amiens, were about to change history. Joseph Prestwich and John Evans had brought with them a photographer, scientific witnesses, and a great deal of zeal and perseverance to answer a longstanding question: how old was humanity?

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Introducing SHAPE: Q&A with Sophie Goldsworthy and Julia Black (part one)

OUP is excited to support the newly created SHAPE initiative—Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy. SHAPE has been coined to enable us to clearly communicate the value that these disciplines bring to not only enriching the world in which we live, but also enhancing our understanding of it. In the first instalment this two-part Q&A, we spoke to Sophie Goldsworthy and Professor Julia Black to find out more about SHAPE and what it means to them.

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Was the dog-demon of Ephesus a werewolf?

Apollonius of Tyana was a Pythagorean sage and miracle-worker whose life was roughly conterminous with the first century AD. He is often, accordingly, referred to as “the pagan Jesus.” We owe almost all we know about him to a Life written by Philostratus shortly after AD 217. In one of the biography’s more striking episodes (4.10), the great man eliminates a plague (a timely subject indeed for us!) that has fallen upon the people of Ephesus.

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Athens After Empire

Capturing your “rude” conqueror

Roman civilization is one of the foundation stones of our own western culture, and we are often exposed in newspaper and magazine articles, books, and even TV documentaries to the glories of Roman art, architecture, literature (the chances are you’ve read Virgil’s Aeneid), rhetoric (we’ve all heard of Cicero), even philosophy. Yet in the late first century BC the Roman poet Horace wrote: “Captive Greece captured her rude conqueror and introduced her arts to the crude Latin lands” (Epistle 2.1.156). Did he really mean that Rome owed its cultural and intellectual heritage to the Greeks?

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Athens After Empire

Down but never out

The Athenians were in a panic in 490 BC. A Persian army had landed at Marathon, on the coastline east of Athens, intent on capturing the city and even conquering all Greece. The famous battle of Marathon was Athens’ coming of age as a military power; a decade later its navy helped to block another Persian invasion (led by Xerxes), a stepping-stone to Athens’ rise as a wealthy imperial power.

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Scientism, the coronavirus, and the death of the humanities

The cause of the humanities’ current crisis is far older than critics of postmodern relativism allow—and more baked into the heart of the modern American university. In fact, one must look back to very creation of the American universities in the late nineteenth century to see why their triumph precipitated the marginalization of the modern humanities. The scientizing of our higher education amounts to the root of the problem, and without a deep-seated revolt against this process, the humanities will continue to wither.

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