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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Celebrating the NHS at 70

On the 5th of July 2018, the National Health Service (NHS) celebrated its 70th anniversary. Aneurin Bevan, the Minister for Health, founded the NHS in 1948 with the aim of bringing together hospitals, doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and opticians under a single umbrella organisation for the first time.

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The Little Red Book vs. the Big White Book

There are some similarities between former Chairman of the Communist Party of China Mao Zedong’s most famous book, Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (“The Little Red Book”) and current General Secretary Xi Jinping’s The Governance of China (“Big White Book”)—the second installment of which came out last year, each volume the same cream color and featuring the same photograph of the author.

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Epidemics and the ‘other’

A scholarly consensus persists: across time, from the Plague of Athens to AIDS, epidemics provoke hate and blame of the ‘other’. As the Danish-German statesman and ancient historian, Barthold Georg Niebuhr proclaimed in 1816: “Times of plague are always those in which the bestial and diabolical side of human nature gains the upper hand.”

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Hegemonic comeback in Mexico? The victory of López Obrador

On 1 July, Mexicans elected a new president. The results confirmed what the polls had been predicting for months: Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, won by a landslide of over 50% of the vote—more than 30 points over the second place candidate, Ricardo Anaya of the National Action Party (PAN).

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From Galileo’s trajectory to Rayleigh’s harp

A span of nearly 300 years separates Galileo Galilei from Lord Rayleigh—Galileo groping in the dark to perform the earliest quantitative explorations of motion, Lord Rayleigh identifying the key gaps of knowledge at the turn into the 20th century and using his home laboratory to fill them in. But the two scientists are connected by a continuous thread.

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Ten facts about dentistry

You use it every day; it’s a facial feature that everybody sees; and one that enables almost all animals to survive. We’re talking, of course, about the mouth.

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How ‘the future’ connects across subjects

‘Today’s world is complex and unreliable. Tomorrow is expected to be more so.’ – Jennifer M. Gidley, The Future: A Very Short Introduction From the beginning of time, humanity has been driven by a paradox: fearing the unknown but with a constant curiosity to know. Over time, science and technology have developed, meaning that we […]

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70 years of Middle Eastern politics, leaders, and conflict [infographic]

Since the end of the Second World War and the founding of Israel in 1948, the Middle East has been a bastion for the world’s economic, political, and religious tensions. From its economic hold on energy consumption to its complicated, generations-long military conflicts and its unfortunate role as a hotbed of terrorism, the volatile politics of the Middle East have had and will continue to have global implications into the future.

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Isobel and me: medieval sanctuary and Whig history

For the last fifteen years I have been having an intense dialogue in my head with a long-dead historian, Isobel D. Thornley (1893-1941). Isobel is my best frenemy. Two pieces she wrote in 1924 and 1932 remain standard citations for one of my favourite subjects, medieval sanctuary; this is a feat of scholarly longevity that few of her contemporaries can boast.

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How Oscar Wilde got his big break

In the late 1870s, when he was still a student, Oscar Wilde gathered his college friends for a late night chat in his Oxford room. The conversation was drifting to serious topics.
“You talk a lot about yourself, Oscar,” one of them said, “and all the things you’d like to achieve. But you never say what you’re going to do with your life.”

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Remembering Joseph Johnson

Given his near half-century career, the Romantic-era publisher Joseph Johnson (1738-1809) left behind a notably small archive. We know from a letter he wrote on today’s date in 1799 that he destroyed some of his correspondence and business documents while serving a two-year sentence for seditious libel in King’s Bench Prison (imprisonment was a fate that progressive publishers were all too familiar with during the 1790s).

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Who discovered Newton’s Laws?

Newton’s famous remark, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” is not in his published work, but comes from a letter to a colleague and competitor. In context, it reads simply as an elaborately polite acknowledgment of previous work on optics, especially the work of the recipient of the letter, Robert Hooke. 

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New narrative nonfiction [podcast]

After the 2008 recession, print book sales took a hit, but now BookScan has recorded consistent growth in print book sales year over year for the past five years. What has been driving these sales? Surprisingly, adult nonfiction sales. Covering topics from history, politics and law, nonfiction saw a growth of 13 percent during the last fiscal year.

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It’s not just decline and fall anymore…

One evening in mid-October 1764 the young Edward Gibbon sat among the ruins of the Capitol at Rome. The prospect before him must have looked like a Piranesi print–bony cattle grazing on thin grass in the shade of shattered marble columns. It was then and there that he resolved to write the history of the decline and fall of Rome.

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Did Muslims forget about the Crusades?

The crusades are so ubiquitous these days that it is hard to imagine anyone ever forgetting them. People play video games like Assassin’s Creed (starring the Templars) and Crusader Kings II in droves, newsfeeds are filled with images of young men marching around in places like Charlottesville holding shields bearing the old crusader slogan “Deus vult” (God wills it!), and every year books about the crusades are published in their dozens, informing readers about the latest developments in crusader studies.

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