Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • History

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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:

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

Hispanic American heritage in the arts [slideshow]

Hispanic Americans are a core demographic of the United States, making up roughly 18% of the population. This highly diverse group includes recent immigrants and families whose US roots extend back many generations, with some ancestors originating from areas in southern US states that belonged to Mexico prior to the Mexican-American War (1846-48). To celebrate the achievements of […]

Read More

Understanding the Multi-functional Nature of the Countryside

It is tempting to see the countryside through a haze of a pink washed nostalgia as somewhere where life continues with a perceived simplicity in tandem with the seasons and inherited practises. However, just as urban areas change and evolve, so does the countryside. With this, comes a more complex wordscape that combines the traditional language of […]

Read More

Why we need more biographies of suffragists

One of the most striking characteristics of the American women’s suffrage movement is that its history has traditionally been told through the lives of its leading figures. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Anna Howard Shaw, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Alice Paul and the organizations they founded and led dominate the story to […]

Read More