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Marcel Duchamp’s most political work of art

A hundred years ago last month, two of the most influential historical events of the twentieth century occurred within a span of three days. The first of these took place on 6 April 1917, when the United States declared war on Germany and, in doing so, thrust the USA into a leading role on the world stage for the first time in its history.

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Lost in time: the El Cortez hotel and casino

On a sticky afternoon in June of 2015 I, with friend and photographer, Matilda Temperley, drove through downtown Las Vegas and into the driveway of the El Cortez Hotel and Casino. The midday sun exposed some rust on the hotel’s neon signage as well as a missing light bulb on the giant red, rotating high healed shoe, which framed an advertisement for $10.95 Prime Rib at the hotel’s diner.

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Did you know these 10 fascinating facts about museums?

Collections of art, scientific instruments, historical relics, and peculiarities have attracted the curiosity and imaginations of people around the world since ancient times. The museum as an institution developed in antiquity and evolved over the years to encompass and celebrate all aspects of human society, science, art, and history. Museums are vital to the study […]

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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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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on birds, poetry, and immigration

On 26 February this year, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the most popular poet America has ever had, turned 210. The lines from Longfellow everyone remembers, often without knowing who actually wrote them (“into each life a little rain must fall”; “Let us, then, be up and doing”; “Each thing in its place is best”), point to an author who wanted to help us live our lives, not exactly change them.

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Edwin Muir and a story of Europe

While reading recently British Library correspondence files relating to the poet Edwin Muir—the 130th anniversary of whose birth will be on 15 May this year—I was struck, as I have often been, by the important part played in his development as man and poet by his contact with the life of Europe—a continent that is currently high on the agenda of many of us with a possible British Brexit in view.

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Photographer Helen Muspratt through the eyes of her daughter

Helen Muspratt (1905–2001) was a pioneering photographer. Her unique techniques with different forms of exposure made her a driving force in naturalistic portraiture and social documentation. Throughout her illustrious career, Helen photographed the likes of Dorothy Hodgkin, Nobel Prize winning chemist; Roger Fry and Julian Bell of the Bloomsbury Group; painter Paul Nash; journalist Alistair Cooke; and many others.

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The historical roots of Iran: an interview

In April 2017 Bridget Kendall, former BBC diplomatic correspondent and now Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, interviewed Michael Axworthy, author of Iran: What Everyone Needs to Know® about the history of Iran, the characterization of Iran as an aggressive expansionist power, and the current challenges and developments in the country today. Below is a transcribed version of part of the interview.

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Fame, race, Nella Larsen, and Nella the Princess Knight

Certainly my oddest moment as a scholar of the biracial woman novelist Nella Larsen (1891–1964) was the day I ran across her in the guise of a pink-clad children’s cartoon character, profiled in the New York Times. The unusual name “Nella” drew my eye to Nella the Princess Knight, but as I read further, the character’s similarities to the literary figure multiplied. Like the novelist, Nick Jr’s new heroine has a black father, a white mother, and a baby sister, and she lives in a multiracial community.

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The free press in the “Good War”

When the president declares war on the media, dubbing it the “enemy of the people,” the first instinct of its defenders is to take to Twitter to emphasize how many reporters have sacrificed their lives in reporting the news. The second is to hark back to two eye-catching events: the Vietnam War, when uncensored media reporting exposed the lies about how the conflict was being waged; and the Watergate scandal, when the Washington Post helped to uncover the massive attempt to cover-up the Nixon administration’s illegal bugging of the Democrats.

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Reading landscapes of violence

The Mewatis sought shelter on the Kala Pahar, the Black Mountain, as the Aravallis are called, but the very next day there was firing from an aircraft sent by the Bharatpur State. Azadi was no freedom but is instead locally called bhaga-bhagi (exodus) and kati (killing) in 1947.

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How libraries served soldiers and civilians during WWI and WWII

Essentials for war: supplies, soldiers, strategy, and…libraries? For the United States Army during both World War I and World War II, libraries were not only requested and appreciated by soldiers, but also established as a priority during times of war. In the midst of battle and bloodshed, libraries continued to serve American soldiers and citizens in the several different factions of their lives.

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How apostrophes came to confuse us

A colleague of mine recently retired from teaching. As she began her last semester, she announced to her students that she hoped they would finally be the class where no one confused “its” and “it’s.” Her wish did not come true. The apostrophe rules of English are built to confuse us. Not intentionally. But they have evolved in a way that can confuse even the most observant readers and writers.

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Edward Gibbon, Enlightenment historian of religion

On 8 May 1788, Edward Gibbon celebrated the publication of the final three volumes of his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire at a dinner given by his publisher Thomas Cadell. Gibbon (born 27 April 1737) was just 51; he had completed perhaps the greatest work of history ever written by an Englishman, and certainly the greatest history of what his contemporary David Hume called the “historical age,” and we think of as the Enlightenment.

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