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How China spurs global dissent

China’s rulers launched the New Silk Road venture—a trillion-dollar development campaign that is often compared to the Marshall Plan—to promote connectivity across what they believed to be poorly integrated regions of Eurasia and Africa. Much to their surprise, however, they discovered that many of these societies were already wired to the hilt—not by the infrastructure […]

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Exploring the seven principles of Kwanzaa: a playlist

Beginning the 26th of December, a globe-spanning group of millions of people of African descent will celebrate Kwanzaa, the seven-day festival of communitarian values created by scholar Maulana Karenga in 1966. The name of the festival is adapted from a Swahili phrase that refers to “the first fruits,” and is meant to recall ancient African harvest celebrations.

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Thanksgiving: Behind the Pilgrim Myth

The driving force behind making Thanksgiving a national holiday was Sarah Josepha Hale, who was born in 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire. After her husband’s death, Hale turned to writing to generate money. Her novel Northwood: A Tale of New England (1827) included an entire chapter devoted to a Thanksgiving dinner. Its publication brought Hale […]

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Eight things you didn’t know about George Eliot

Throughout her life, George Eliot was known by many names – from Mary Anne Evans at birth, to Marian Evans Lewes in her middle age, to George Eliot in her fiction – with the latter name prevailing in the years since her death through the continued popularity of her novels. Eliot has long been recognised as one of the greatest Victorian writers, in life and in death, having published seven acclaimed novels and a number of poems, in addition to her work as a translator and a journalist.

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How meningitis has (almost) been conquered

Scientific discovery is often a messy affair. It’s sometimes intentional, sometimes accidental, sometimes cluttered with error, and always complicated. The ultimate value of scientific observations may not be recognized for many years until the discovery emerges to shed new insight on old problems and become etched in the scientific canon. Such is the story of the conquest of meningitis, a devastating infection of the brain that is usually fatal if not treated.

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Q&A with author Craig L. Symonds

There are a number of mysteries surrounding the Battle of Midway, and a breadth of new information has recently been uncovered about the four day struggle. We sat down with naval historian Craig L. Symonds, author of The Battle of Midway, newly released in paperback, to answer some questions about the iconic World War II battle.

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Polychromy in Greek and Roman sculpture [video]

Coined by archaeologist and architectural theorist Antoine-Chrysostome Quatremère de Quincy, the term “polychromy” has been in use since the early 19th century to denote the presence of any element of colour in Greek and Roman sculpture.

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What does ‘Honest to God’ tell us about Britain’s “secular revolution”?

On 17 March 1963, John Robinson, the Anglican bishop of Woolwich, wrote an article for the Observer entitled “Our Image of God Must Go.” He was writing to advertise his new book, Honest to God, which made a deeply controversial argument: that modern Christians would eventually find it necessary to reject classical theism. God Himself, Robinson argued, was causing […]

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The Holocaust and the illusions of hindsight

Historians’ 20-20 hindsight makes them in a way blind, trapped on the far side of history’s moving wall from the actors they wish to study. Nowhere is this truer than when writing the history of periods of great uncertainty and struggle. The only chance of understanding those caught up in the maelstrom of such moments, is to plunge, as far as that is possible, into the uncertain waters of their present.

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How James Glaisher discovered the jet stream

James Glaisher and Henry Coxwell are best known for a dramatic balloon ascent in 1862, in which they launched from Wolverhampton and reached heights above the top of Everest within an hour. The aeronauts went on to perform many highly successful ascents, recording invaluable data of the upper atmosphere. On one trip in 1864, Glaisher noted a characteristic warm, south-westerly wind blowing above the country. His thoughts proved to be well over a hundred years ahead of their time.

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Why more democracy isn’t better democracy

Democracy is necessary for a free and just society. It is tempting to conclude that democracy is such a crucial social good that there could never be too much of it. It seems that when it comes to democracy, the more the better. Yet it is possible to have too much democracy. This is not […]

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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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The ‘What If’ moments of modern Britain

We often talk about there being days that “changed history”; modern British history has had its fair share of them. But what about the days that looked as though they would – but didn’t? Which days once felt like they would change everything but, with the benefit of hindsight, now seem false-starts? Here are three […]

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How the prime minister can suspend Parliament

On 28 August, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson officially notified Parliament and the public of his decision to prorogue (i.e., suspend or end) the session by mid-September. Proroguing is the term for ending a legislative session of parliament. All sessions are technically prorogued and most in recent memory have happened without much ado. What makes […]

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