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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Walk with Me

The activism of Fannie Lou Hamer: a timeline

Fannie Lou Hamer was a galvanizing force of the Civil Rights movement, using her voice to advance voting rights and representation for Black Americans throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Faced with eviction, arrests, and abuse at the hands of white doctors, policemen, and others, Hamer stayed true to her faith and her conviction in non-violent […]

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SHAPE and societal recovery from crises

The SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy) initiative advocates for the value of the social sciences, humanities, and arts subject areas in helping us to understand the world in which we live and find solutions to global issues. As societies around the world respond to the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, research from SHAPE disciplines has the potential to illuminate how societies process and recover from various social crises.

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An African American Dilemma

Which is better: school integration or separate, Black-controlled schools?

This summer journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones shocked Americans when she decided to decline tenure at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in favor of an endowed chair at historically Black Howard University. The choice is unexpected because Ms Hannah-Jones, who identifies as Black, has spent her career arguing for school integration as an essential strategy to equalize educational opportunities for students of color.

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Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest

The three greatest myths of the Fall of Tenochtitlán

13 August 2021 marks the moment, exactly five hundred years ago, when Spanish conquistadors won the battle for Tenochtitlán, completing their astonishing conquest of the Aztec Empire, initiating the three-century colonial era of New Spain. At least, that is the summary of the event that has since predominated. In recent decades, scholars have developed increasingly informed and complex understandings of the so-called Conquest, and opinions in Mexico itself have become ever more varied and sophisticated.

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Whose streets? The picturesque, Central Park, and the spaces of American democracy

Last summer, during the “Black Lives Matter” protests in US cities galvanized by the murder of George Floyd, it was common to hear marchers chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” In some instances, police seeking to break up the protests also took up this chant, an ironic retort to the crowd’s claim to political power. These contesting claims to possession of the city streets framed a conflict over social representation in contemporary US life: “whose streets” are they really

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Sandbows and Black Lights

The mermaid in the fishbowl: the rise of optical illusions and magical effects

The nineteenth century saw the publication of several books explaining how magical effects and spectral appearances could be performed using the science of optics. It started in 1831, when Sir David Brewster (famed for his discovery of Brewster polarization and inventing the kaleidoscope) published “Letters on Natural Magic.” In this book, Brewster showed how to produce images of ghosts using partially silvered mirrors and by using a magic lantern to project images onto screens or onto clouds of vapor.

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The Shock of America

The rise and fall of the European Super League: when the American challenge backfires

In the long history of America’s influence on the politics of innovation in Europe, the case of the planned football Super League stands out. This is not because of the project as such, but simply because, of all the variety of responses Europe has produced when faced with the latest American novelty, none has provoked enthusiasm and rejection—above all rejection—with such extraordinary intensity, unity, and speed.

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New York City and the path to neoliberalism in the 1970s [timeline]

In the late twentieth century, New York City transformed into a model of neoliberal governance. While at mid-century, city government maintained the most robust social democratic program in the country, by the late twentieth century, much of this program had been curtailed and the private sector and market had gained a far greater role in providing services previously maintained by government.

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Reconstructing the Dreamland

100 years after the Tulsa Race Massacre

On 1 June 1921, mobs comprised of ordinary white Oklahomans destroyed Greenwood, a black neighborhood in Tulsa sometimes referred to as “Little Africa.” The rioters proceeded to subject their African American neighbors to injury, murder, looting, pillaging, and arson. At least a hundred residents of Greenwood were killed while thirty-five city blocks were torched, destroying churches, businesses, and all sorts of other dwellings. The riot rendered more than a thousand families homeless.

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Charlie Brown's America

9 new books to explore our shared cultural history [reading list]

How did the Peanuts gang respond to–and shape–postwar American politics? How has a single game become a cultural touchstone for urban Chinese Americans in the 1930s, incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, and Jewish American suburban mothers? Were 19th Century Brits very deeply bored? Cultural and social history bring to life the beliefs, understandings, and motivations of peoples throughout time. Explore these nine books to expand your understanding of who we are.

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The US Congress

The Senate’s unchanging rules

At his recent press conference, President Biden said that he came to the Senate 120 years ago. I knew exactly what he meant because I got there three years after him when I joined the Senate Historical Office in 1976, and it was a different world.

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Can skepticism and curiosity get along? Benjamin Franklin shows they can coexist

No matter the contemporary crisis trending on Twitter, from climate change to the US Senate filibuster, people who follow the news have little trouble finding a congenial source of reporting. The writers who worry about polarization, folks like Ezra Klein and Michael Lind, commonly observe the high levels of tribalism that attends journalism and consumption of it. The feat of being skeptical of the other side’s position while turning the same doubts on your own team is apparently in short supply. The consequences of skepticism about disagreeable points of view for the virtues of intellectual curiosity are not good.

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Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt’s religious tolerance

Theodore Roosevelt is everywhere. Most famously, his stone face stares out from South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore. One of the most important but least recognized aspects of Roosevelt’s life are his ecumenical convictions and his promotion of marginalized religious groups. Through Roosevelt’s influence, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, and Unitarians moved a little closer toward the American religious mainstream.

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