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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Zenobia: Shooting Star of Palmyra

Zenobia: warrior queen or political tactician?

Popular culture often romanticizes Zenobia of Palmyra as a warrior queen. But the ancient evidence doesn’t support that she fought in battles. Instead, we should remember Zenobia as a skilled political tactician. She became ruler without being dominated by the men of her court.

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When Money Talks: A History of Coins and Numismatics

A silver thread through history [video]

With a history spanning back over 2,000 years, coins are much more than just money. They are also a means of storing and communicating information, resembling tiny discs of information technology that convey images and text across vast swatches of time and territory. Coins are the first world wide web linking us together. While they […]

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Forms of Astonishment: Greek Myths of Metamorphosis by Richard Buxton

Charlie Chaplin and the art of metamorphosis

Charlie Chaplin was certainly the greatest mime, probably the greatest actor, and arguably the greatest artist in any medium in the twentieth century. As self-transformations go, his personal rags-to riches story is hard to match. But the theme of metamorphosis also permeates his movies.

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Classical Mythology

Can interpretations of the Pandora myth tell us something about ourselves?

According to the early Greek poet Hesiod (ca. 700 BC), the primordial human community consisted only of men, who lived lives of health and ease, enjoying a neighborly relationship with the gods. That relationship soured, however, after Prometheus deceived the Olympian gods for the benefit of mankind. In retaliation, Zeus schemed to punish men by […]

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An empire of many colours? Race and imperialism in Ancient Rome

Romans sometimes worried that you couldn’t tell enslaved and free people apart. By the second century CE, many senators were descended from Gauls and Iberians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and Syrians—the very peoples Romans had conquered as they extended their empire. So, was the Roman empire unusually inclusive? Or even a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic civilization? None of that seems very likely.

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Urban Transformation in Ancient Molise

Molise: the undiscovered Italian region

When planning a trip to Italy, the major cities of Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice are usually on the must-see list. Yet many people also yearn to find the “undiscovered hidden gem” waiting to be explored. For the latter group, Molise is waiting. This region is so underrated that Italians have a running joke: “Il Molise non esiste” (“Molise doesn’t exist”).

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SHAPE and societal recovery from crises

The SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy) initiative advocates for the value of the social sciences, humanities, and arts subject areas in helping us to understand the world in which we live and find solutions to global issues. As societies around the world respond to the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, research from SHAPE disciplines has the potential to illuminate how societies process and recover from various social crises.

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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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