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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • History

Singing resistance on the border

At an early age, Américo Paredes was preoccupied with the inexorable passing of time, which would leave an imprint in his academic career. Devoting his academic career to preserving and displaying Mexican-American traditions through thorough analysis and recording of folk-songs, it is clear that Paredes kept his focus on beating back the forces of time and amnesia. Indeed, Paredes’ lessons are still very much relevant today.

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William Dean Howells and the Gilded Age [excerpt]

Through his writing, novelist and critic William Dean Howells captured the political and social aftermath of the Civil War. Given his limited involvement in politics, Howells’ works focused on the lives of common people over the uncommon, whom he deemed “essentially unattractive and uninteresting.” In the following excerpt from The Republic For Which It Stands, […]

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Diving into the OHR Archive

One of my favorite tasks as the OHR’s Social Media Coordinator is interviewing people for the blog. I get to talk to authors of recent articles from the OHR, oral historians using the power of conversation to create change, and a whole lot more.

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Moses Mendelssohn’s Hebrew politics

How tolerant and diverse should a society be? Are there limits to the views that a society should accept? Can individuals from diverse backgrounds join together to contribute to the common good, and what happens when tensions arise between different groups? Given the events of 2016-2017, such questions stand at the forefront of American civic life. Questions relating to diversity and tolerance loomed large in Mendelssohn’s life.

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Rebuilding New York City

In the weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York City’s position as the center of the financial world came into question. Now, 16-years after the day that could have permanently changed the course of New York’s history, downtown Manhattan rebuilt both its buildings and status of importance. Lynne B. Sagalyn examines the economic impact of the World Trade Center’s fall and rise in the following excerpt from Power at Ground Zero.

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Allen Ginsberg and Ann Coulter walk into an auditorium…

Ann Coulter, a controversial right-wing author and commentator, was tentatively scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley on April 27 until pre-speech protests turned into violent clashes, and her speech was canceled. In response, Coulter tweeted, “It’s sickening when a radical thuggish institution like Berkeley can so easily snuff out the cherished American right to free speech.”

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George Washington’s early love of literature [excerpt]

Unlike his contemporaries Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton—George Washington isn’t remembered as an intellectual. But for what he lacked in formal education, Washington made up for in enthusiasm for learning. His personal education began at an early age and continued throughout his adult life. In the following excerpt from George Washington: A Life in Books, historian Kevin J. Hayes gives insight into Washington’s early love of literature.

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How well do you know the history of physics?

Less than four centuries separate the end of the Renaissance and the theories of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton from the development of quantum physics at the turn of the 20th century. During this transformative time, royal academies of science, instrument-making workshops, and live science demonstrations exploded across the continent as learned and lay people alike absorbed the spectacles of newfound technologies, devices, and innovations.

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Werner Herzog’s hall of mirrors

Werner Herzog turns 75 this September and remains as productive as ever. More than only a filmmaker, he directs operas, instructs online courses, and occasionally makes cameo appearances on television shows including Parks & Recreation and The Simpsons. He has been directing films for nearly six decades, and he released three feature-length films within months of each other in 2016.

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What drives displacement and refuge?

Global refugee numbers are at their highest levels since the end of World War II, but the system in place to deal with them, based upon a humanitarian list of imagined “basic needs,” has changed little. In this excerpt from Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, authors Paul Collier and Alexander Betts explain the cause and effect of mass violence, a far too common pre-cursor to refugee crises and global displacement.

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How to educate your child in the seventeenth century

The end of summer and beginning of autumn mean that children and young adults worldwide are heading back to school. While much has changed since the time of the seventeenth century – which children were allowed to go to school and which weren’t, and what they were taught there, for example – one thing that has not changed is the worry a parent feels about their child getting the best education they can.

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Working class narratives in the twenty first century

With school getting back in session, today on the blog we are exploring how instructors are using oral history in the classroom. The piece below, from filmmaker and UCLA Lecturer Virginia Espino explores the power of oral history to connect students to their campus community, and to help them collaboratively rethink what working class identity means in the modern era.

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America’s forgotten war

You probably don’t know it, but we are now in the centennial year of US entry into World War One. On April 2nd 1917, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress to ask for a declaration of war against Germany. Wilson had narrowly won re-election the year before by campaigning under the slogan “he kept us out of the war.”

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The life of Martin Luther [timeline]

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and Martin Luther posting his ninety-five theses on the door of All Saints’ Church and other churches in Wittenberg. Whether he actually did post the theses publicly has long been disputed, however his influence on Christianity hasn’t.

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The Paris Peace Conference and postwar politics [extract]

But the centerpiece of the Paris Peace Conference was always the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, five years to the day after a teenaged Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, had assassinated Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. The treaty and the conference are thus closely linked but not quite synonymous.

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The steeples of Essex and Tyrone: Irish historians and Brexit

One of the glib accusations levelled against Irish history is that it never changes–that its fundamental themes are immutable. Equally, one of the common accusations against Irish historians is that (despite decades of learned endeavour) they have utterly failed to shift popular readings of the island’s past. Yes, the Good Friday Agreement and its St […]

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