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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

History books for Dads [reading list]

In recent years, consumer surveys have shown an upward trend in Father’s Day gift-giving. According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. Father’s Day spending in 2017 hit record highs: reaching an estimated $15.5 billion. This change could be related to nature of modern fatherhood: today’s dads report spending an average of seven hours per week on child care (nearly triple what fathers reported 50 years ago). To celebrate Father’s Day, we put together a video collection of books we think dads will love. More details about each book can be found in the list below. If you have any reading suggestions for Father’s Day, please share in the comments section!

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Legal leadership and its place in America’s history and future

This past year, I wrote a book about lawyers’ service in the American Civil War, I argued that the lawyers’ part in the US and Confederate cabinets and in their respective Congresses made a civil war a little more civil, and allowed that out of horrific battle came a new respect for rule of law, as well as a new kind of positive, rights-based constitutionalism.

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John Tyndall in America

The development of the world, and of scientific discovery, is highly contingent on the actions of individual people. The Irish-born John Tyndall (c. 1822–93), controversial scientist, mountaineer, and public intellectual, nearly emigrated to America in his early 20s, like so many of his fellow countrymen. Had he done so, the trajectory of nineteenth-century scientific discovery would have been different.

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How well do you know the US Supreme Court? [quiz]

The Supreme Court is at the heart of the United States of America’s judicial system. Created in the Constitution of 1787 but obscured by the other branches of government during the first few decades of its history, the Court grew to become a co-equal branch in the early 19th century. Its exercise of judicial review—the power that it claimed to determine the constitutionality of legislative acts—gave the Court a unique status as the final arbiter of the nation’s constitutional conflicts. From the slavery question during the antebellum era to abortion and gay rights in more recent times, the Court has decided cases brought to it by individual litigants, and in doing so has shaped American constitutional and legal development.

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Revered and reviled: George Washington’s relationship with Indian nations

During George Washington’s presidency, Indian delegates were regular visitors to the seat of government. Washington dined with Cherokees, Chickasaws, Creeks, Kaskaskias, Mahicans, Mohawks, Oneidas, and Senecas; in one week late in 1796, he had dinner with four different groups of Indians on four different days—and on such occasions the most powerful man in the United States followed the customs of his Indian visitors, smoked calumet pipes, exchanged wampum belts, and drank punch with them.

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Resisting doomsday: The American antinuclear movement

An aging TV personality occupies the White House. Representing the Republican Party, he denounces his predecessors for coddling the nation’s enemies. Not long after taking office, he begins rattling nuclear sabers with the country’s most dangerous nuclear rival, threatening complete destruction and promising victory in nuclear war. His rhetoric concerns people at home and abroad. Just as this description applies to Donald Trump in 2017, it also characterizes Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. A longtime critic of his predecessors’ détente policy, Reagan took a fierce stand toward the Soviet Union.

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The untold story of ordinary black southerners’ litigation during the Jim Crow era

Discover how Henry Buie, Moses Summerlin, Lurena Roebuck, and almost a thousand other black soutnerners managed to successfully litigate civil cases against white southerners throughout the 85 years following the Civil War. Many different tactics needed to be deployed during this period of injustice, and in a system where those in power often had very different interests and perspectives than their own.

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Prohibition and its discontents [Q&A]

The Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution banned alcohol from 1920 to 1933. Sometimes called the “noble experiment,” this disastrous public policy reduced tax revenues, made gangsters rich, and failed to stop drinking. Alcohol consumption did drop some, but regular drinkers turned to bootleg liquor and moonshine. In the following interview the historian W. J. Rorabaugh discusses prohibition and its discontents.

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The eleventh hour: a look at the final battles of the Great War [timeline]

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the Great War came to an end. Conventional accounts of the war often allow these closing battles to be overshadowed by opening moves and earlier battles. However, the human costs behind the Allied victory cannot be truly understood without examining the summer of 1918. Using personal accounts featured in The Last Battle, the timeline below captures the final battles of World War I through the eyes of the men fighting them.

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A visual history of the New York Crystal Palace [slideshow]

When New York’s Crystal Palace opened in 1853, it quickly became one of the most celebrated landmarks in the city. But five years later, the building was gone—engulfed in flames and reduced to a heap of smoldering debris. The below photographs from The Finest Building in America recapture the sensation and spectacle behind the New York Crystal Palace: a building that mattered so much to antebellum Americans and New Yorkers, yet was never rebuilt.

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Defiant rulers and (real) superheroes: Black History Month

The first incarnation of Black History Month began in 1926, when Carter G. Woodson, historian and author, established an observance during the second week of February coinciding with the birthdays of social reformer Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. The month-long celebration was then proposed at Kent State University, Ohio, in February 1969, beginning the following year.

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In celebration of twentieth century African American literature

Since the first poems published by former slaves Phyllis Wheatley and Jupiter Hammon around the time of the American Revolution, African American literature has played a vital role in the history and culture of the United States. The slave narratives of figures such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Wilson became a driving force for abolitionism before the Civil War, and the tumultuous end of Reconstruction brought about the exploration of new genres and themes during the height of the Jim Crow era.

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Alain Locke, Charles S. Johnson, and the establishment of Black literature [excerpt]

In March of 1924, Charles S. Johnson, sociologist and editor of Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, approached Alain Locke with a proposal: a dinner was being organized with the intention to secure interracial support for Black literature. Locke, would attend the dinner as “master of ceremonies,” with the responsibility of finding a common language between Black writers and potential White allies.

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George Washington and eighteenth century masculinity

We want George Washington—the President of all Presidents, the Man of all Men—to be a certain way. We want him to be an unalloyed male outdoing, singlehandedly, all the other competitors. We want him strong and rude, rough and rugged, athletic and hypersexualized, a chiseled torso, a Teddy Roosevelt, a Tarzan, and a John Wayne: “a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”

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The economic relationship between Mexico and the United States

Mexico and the United States share a highly integrated economic relationship. There seems to be an assumption among many Americans, including officials in the current administration, that the relationship is somehow one-sided, that is, that Mexico is the sole beneficiary of commerce between the two countries. Yet, economic benefits to both countries are extensive.

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Glioblastoma’s spectre in the Senate

With his right arm extended – pausing for just a moment – Senator John McCain flashed a thumbs-down and jarred the Senate floor. Audible gasps and commotion followed. At 1:29 am on 28 July, Senator McCain had just supplied the decisive “Nay” vote to derail the fourth and final bill voted on that night. With that, a seven-year pursuit to undo the Affordable Care Act had collapsed.

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