Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Images of Ancient Nubia

For most of the modern world, ancient Nubia seems an unknown and enigmatic land. Only a handful of archaeologists have studied its history or unearthed the Nubian cities, temples, and cemeteries that once dotted the landscape of southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Nubia’s remote setting in the midst of an inhospitable desert, with access by river blocked by impassable rapids, has lent it not only an air of mystery, but also isolated it from exploration.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

The 50th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment

By Kenneth S. Broun
This October 25th marks the fiftieth Anniversary of the beginning of Nelson Mandela’s twenty-seven years in South African prisons. He was initially sentenced in October, 1962 to five years imprisonment for inciting African workers to strike and for leaving the country without valid travel documents. Immediately after sentencing, he was sent to the Robben Island prison, lying off Cape Town harbor, where he was held in solitary confinement.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Tutankhamun and the mummy’s curse

In the winter of 1922-23 archaeologist Howard Carter and his wealthy patron George Herbert, the Fifth Earl of Carnarvon, sensationally opened the tomb of Tutankhamun. Six weeks later Herbert, the sponsor of the expedition, died in Egypt. The popular press went wild with rumours of a curse on those who disturbed the Pharaoh’s rest and for years followed every twist and turn of the fate of the men who had been involved in the historic discovery. Long dismissed by Egyptologists, the mummy’s curse remains a part of popular supernatural belief. We spoke with Roger Luckhurst, author of The Mummy’s Curse: The true history of a dark fantasy, to find out why the myth has captured imagination across the centuries, and how it has impacted on popular culture.

Read More

Who really deciphered the Egyptian Hieroglyphs?

The polymath Thomas Young (1773-1829) — physicist, physiologist, physician and polyglot, among several other things — became hooked on the scripts and languages of ancient Egypt in 1814, the year he began to decipher the Rosetta Stone. He continued to study the hieroglyphic and demotic scripts with variable intensity for the rest of his life, literally until his dying day.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

5 July 1962: Algerian Independence

By Martin Evans
On 5 July 1962, Algeria achieved independence from France after an eight-year-long war — one of the longest and bloodiest episodes in the whole decolonisation process. An undeclared war in the sense there was no formal beginning of hostilities, the intensity of this violence is partly explained by the fact that Algeria (invaded in 1830) was an integral part of France, but also by the presence of European settlers who in 1954, numbered one million as against the nine million Arabo-Berber population.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

50 years of Algerian independence

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence. Martin Evans, author of Algeria: France’s Undeclared War, talks about the complexities of Algerian colonial history and the country’s fight for independence in this new video.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Downton Abbey and the Curse of King Tut

By Roger Luckhurst
You must surely have been tempted on occasion to curse Julian Fellowes, if not for the script of Young Victoria, then for the creation of Downton Abbey, that death star of good old-fashioned aristocratic virtue and due deference. For a little while, all public debate seemed to be sucked through the funnel of Downton discourse, coinciding as it did with the election of all those shiny Eton boys to government in 2010. But don’t worry: he may already be cursed.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Kenyatta elected Kenya’s First Prime Minister

This Day in World History
On May 27, 1963, the people of Kenya voted for the first time in history for their own government. Winning a better than two-to-one majority of parliamentary seats was KANU, the Kenya African Nation Union. As a result, 73-year-old Jomo Kenyatta, leader of Kenya’s independence movement and head of KANU, was assured of becoming the nation’s first prime minister.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

South Africa holds first multiracial election

This Day in World History
April 26, 1994 marked the beginning of the end of a period of monumental change in South Africa. On that day, for the first time in the nation’s history, more than 17 million black South Africans began casting their votes for government officials. When the election ended four days later, the vote made Nelson Mandela South Africa’s first black president.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Ahmed Ben Bella

Ahmed Ben Bella was born in Marnia, near the Algerian-Moroccan border, although some doubt remains about whether the year of his birth was 1916 or 1918. One of five brothers of a farmer, in sociological terms Ben Bella’s family was part of the countryside elite that had been impoverished by French colonialism. From these rural roots Ben Bella rose to become the first post-Independence President of Algeria in 1963 and, until his overthrow in June 1965, one of the most famous leaders of the third world revolutionary movement that took off across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Kenyatta sentenced to seven years hard labor

This Day in World History
On April 8, 1953, Jomo Kenyatta and five associates were sentenced by a British judge to seven years hard labor for allegedly directing the Mau Mau rebellion, a bloody, ongoing violent protest against European domination of what is now Kenya.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

A quiz on the Great Sea — the Mediterranean

The Trojan War. The history of piracy. The great naval battles between Carthage and Rome. The Jewish Diaspora into Hellenistic worlds. The rise of Islam. The Grand Tours of the 19th century. The mass tourism of the 20th. We may have missed World Maritime Day on March 17, but we can still admire the watery wonder of the sea and its peoples. And now a quick quiz on the history of the Mediterranean…

Read More

An Englishman’s fascination for Egypt’s grand hotels

Imagine luxury hotels during the bygone days when explorers, travelers, and foreign occupying forces mingled. Walk into the lavish lobbies and moonlit terraces of these “gilded refuges.” Mix with delighted high-society, dining and dancing while “wintering on the Nile.” Journalist, editor, and author Andrew Humphreys recreates this world with well-documented accounts, extracts, and anecdotes; vintage photography; and full-color illustrations of travel posters, luggage labels, postcards, decorated letterheads, menus, and invitations in Grand Hotels of Egypt: In the Golden Age of Travel. We sat down with Andrew Humphreys to discuss the glamorous guests, glorious architecture, and regrettable colonialism.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Nelson Mandela, 22 years after his release from prison

By Kenneth S. Broun
Twenty-two years ago, on the 11th of February 1990, Nelson Mandela walked out of a South African prison, a free man for the first time in twenty-seven years. He immediately assumed the leadership role that would move South Africa from a system of apartheid to a struggling but viable democracy. No one person, not even Nelson Mandela, was solely responsible for this miracle.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Idi Amin takes power in Uganda

On January 25, 1971, General Idi Amin took advantage of the absence of President Milton Obote to stage a coup and seize power in Uganda. Amin’s turbulent rule lasted only eight years, but in that time he earned him the nickname the “Butcher of Uganda.”

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Algeria’s televised coup d’état

By Martin Evans
On 11 January 1992 the Algerian President, the white-haired sixty-one year old Chadli Bendjedid, announced live on television that he was standing down as head of state with immediate effect. Nervous and ill at ease, the president read out a brief prepared statement. In it he explained his decision as a necessary one. Why? Because the democratic process which he had put in place two years earlier could no longer guarantee law and order on the streets.

Read More