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  • History

Simon of Montfort and the Statutes of Pamiers

“Kill them. The Lord will know those that are his.” This statement, attributed to a Cistercian abbot at the sack of Béziers in 1209, encapsulates for the modern mind the essence of the Albigensian Crusade (1208-1229). However, a view of the Albigensian Crusade that encompasses only its violence will miss a great deal of the movement’s significance.

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Poaching with Piers Plowman

When an army of Kentish insurgents gathered south of London on 12 June 1381, the firebrand priest John Ball is said to have addressed them with a subversive proverb: “When Adam delved and Eve span, where was then the gentleman?” On the following day, the rebels flooded into London, orchestrating spectacles of political violence. They razed the sumptuous Savoy Palace of John of Gaunt, King Richard II’s despised uncle, and beheaded both the treasurer of England and the archbishop of Canterbury.

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The Islamic monuments of Spain: four centuries ago and today

Spanish historians and antiquarians in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries revised the medieval reception of Islamic monuments in the Peninsula as architectural wonders and exotic trophies. They endeavoured to re-appropriate these hybrid architectures by integrating them into a more homogeneous cultural memory focused on Spain’s Roman and Christian past.

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Truth, lies, and the Reformation

We are obsessed with lying, a subject which has been much in the news recently. Indeed, a main concern has been the production of ‘fake news’, news that is a lie. The issue is of fundamental importance: if we don’t have proper evidence and accurate testimony then we can never get to the truth. The Reformation shows us that this is not a new phenomenon, but one that has been ever-present in history.

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Knowledge of the Holocaust: the meaning of ‘extermination’

Did ordinary Dutchmen know of the Holocaust during the war? That might seem an easy question to answer. Research has shown that the illegal press, Dutch radio broadcast from London, and even exiled queen Juliana characterized the deportation of the Jews almost from the beginning in the summer of 1942 as mass murder, destruction and, in the Queen’s words, “systematic extermination.”

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The hippie trail and the question of nostalgia

The term ‘hippie’ was coined around 1965; the term ‘hippie trail’ began to circulate in the late 1960s: it referred principally to the long route from London (or sometimes Amsterdam) to Katmandu. This was not an actual path, although disparate travellers often, by coincidence, followed a route that led through the same cafés, campsites, border-crossings […]

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Writing the first draft of history in the Middle Ages

The end of the twelfth century and the start of the thirteenth century proved to be a time where history seemed to be moving an an unusual speed. It as a period where one piece of remarkable news could hardly be apprehended before it was overtaken by another even more extraordinary. It is known as the Angevin dynasty, the era of Henry II, Thomas Becket, Richard the Lionheart, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and more.

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A few bad apples: Stalin, torture, and the Great Terror

On 10 January 1939, Stalin wrote that the Central Committee of the Communist Party had permitted the use of what was euphemistically called “the application of physical measures of persuasion” in interrogations from 1937. To date, there is no extant written order on the use of torture during the Great Terror. Stalin’s admission demonstrates conclusively that directives on torture came from the top.

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Miscarriages of justice

Today we take it for granted that anyone convicted of a crime should be able to appeal to a higher court. However, this wasn’t always so. English lawyers traditionally set great store in the deterrent value of swift and final justice. Over the course of the nineteenth century, reformers pressed for the establishment of a court that could review sentencing and order retrials on points of law or new evidence. These advocates of change met with fierce resistance from the judiciary and much of the legal profession, and the cause of reform had little success until a spectacular miscarriage of justice came to light.

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The Jewish experience in the United States [extract]

To a great extent, Jews have realized the promise of Washington’s America. They have been much admired, in no small part because of the belief that they are the progenitors of the biblical spirit on which America was built. It was this recognition that prompted Washington’s successor, John Adams, to declare of the Jews in 1808: “They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth.”

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Catalan language, identity, and independence

The Catalan sovereignty movement came to a head on 1 October 2017 in a beleaguered referendum declared illegal by the Spanish government, which sent in thousands of police and civil guard troops, used force against would-be voters, confiscated ballot boxes, and jailed civic leaders and elected officials on charges of sedition. The political crisis for the Spanish state as well as Catalonia continues.

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Exploring the Scottish and African diasporas

Since 1801, the fifth anniversary of his death, January 25 has become synonymous with the poet Robert Burns, widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and celebrated worldwide. One of the lesser-known aspects of Burns’ life is that he almost moved to Jamaica to become an overseer; his tumultuous relationship with ‘ungrateful’ Jean Armour also attributed to his resolution to sail as an emigrant to Jamaica.

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In search of political prisoners: A dialogue with Padraic Kenney

States around the world imprison people for their beliefs or politically-motivated actions. Oppositional movements of all stripes celebrate their comrades behind bars. Yet they are more than symbols of repression and human rights. Padraic Kenney discusses his new book, Dance in Chains: Political Imprisonment in the Modern World, which seeks to find universal answers to questions about the meaning and purpose of imprisonment.

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10 fascinating facts about Lucha Libre

Over the course of the 20th century, Lucha Libre—or professional wrestling—has become a stable of urban Mexican culture. Dating back all the way to the 1800s, professional wrestling has become a distinctly national rendition of an imported product. Within the past 20 years, it has gained international acclaim for its distinctive style: an incredible acrobatic ring style and the highly recognizable masks.

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Going back to instrumental lessons

Three existential questions are useful to all of us: “Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going?” The publication of The Integrated String Player got me thinking about these questions in regards to my trajectory as a cellist. I decided to go back to school, so to speak. This is my report.

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The massacre at Paris

When the church bells rang out in Paris on Saint Bartholomew’s Day, 24 August 1572, they heralded a massacre. At dawn, on royal orders the Catholic civic militia assassinated the admiral Gaspard de Coligny and other Protestant leaders. Their cry that “the king wills it!” preceded thousands of killings of Protestants in cities across France during the month that followed.

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