Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Eighty years of The Wizard of Oz

The summer of 1939 was busy for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, one of Hollywood’s major studios, as it rolled out The Wizard of Oz, a movie musical almost two years in preparation. The budget for production and promotion was almost $3 million, making it MGM’s most expensive effort up to that time. A June radio broadcast introduced the songs and characters to the public.

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McCarthyism and the legacy of the federal loyalty program [video]

As World War I finally concluded on November 11, 1918, the United States became swept up in a fear-driven, anti-communist movement, following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. From 1919-1920, the United States entrenched itself in the First Red Scare, the American public anxious at the prospect of communism spreading across continents.

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The life and work of Herman Melville

August 1st marks the 200th anniversary of Herman Melville’s birth. We have put together a timeline of Melville’s life to celebrate the event.  Feature Image credit: “Arrowhead farmhouse Herman Melville” by United States Library of Congress. Public domain via Wikimedia.

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From the farm to rocket road: one engineer’s story

Retired engineer Henry Pohl can vividly recall his first encounter with a rocket. During the early 1950s, the Army drafted him and shipped him from Texas to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. “That dadgum thing looked pretty simple,” he says of the rocket engine. It didn’t look much bigger than the tractor engine back […]

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A visual history of slavery through the lens [slideshow]

During the 1840s and 1850s, enslavers began commissioning photographic portraits of enslaved people. Most images portrayed well-dressed subjects and drew upon portraiture conventions of the day, as in the photograph of Mammy Kitty, likely enslaved by the Ellis family in Richmond, who placed an arm on a clothed, circular table.

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First ladies throughout American history

Attention to the spouse of the president of the United States has been a constant throughout American history, but the role of the first lady has changed over time. The first lady has always been an exemplar of idealized femininity and thus connected to expectations of the role women should play in society. While initially […]

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Four remarkable LGBTQ activists

Around the world, the LGBTQ community faces inequality and discrimination on different levels. Although an increasing number of countries have legalised same-sex marriage in recent years, in countries such as Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, members of the LGBT community are still fighting for their simple right to exist. In the USA, much of LGBTQ activism […]

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The impeachment illusion

The best barometer of political anger is how often the word “impeachment” appears in news stories, editorials, and Congressional rhetoric. These days, the references have grown exponentially, despite the House Speaker’s efforts to keep her members focused on legislation. The constitutional definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” is vague enough to have encouraged members of […]

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In America, trees symbolize both freedom and unfreedom

Extralegal violence committed by white men in the name of patriotism is a founding tradition of the United States. It is unbearably fitting that the original Patriot landmark, the Liberty Tree in Boston, sported a noose, and inspired earliest use of the metaphor “strange fruit.” The history of the Liberty Tree and a related symbol, […]

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Frederick Douglass’ family and the roots of social justice

Frederick Douglass. Just the name alone is enough to inspire us to think of a life lived in activism and an unceasing fight for social justice. But there are other names in the life story of Frederick Douglass that are far more unknown to us, those of his daughters and sons: Rosetta, Lewis Henry, Frederick Jr., Charles Remond and Annie Douglass.

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Black History Month: a reading list

February marks the celebration of Black History Month in the United States and Canada, an annual celebration of achievements by Black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S history. Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life, which initiated the first variation of Black History month, titled, Negro History Week in 1926 during the second week of February. The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History expanded the February celebration in the early 1970’s, renaming it Black History Month, however, it was not until 1976 that every president designated the month of February as Black History Month.

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Protest songs and the spirit of America [playlist]

In a rare television interview, Jimi Hendrix appeared on a network talk show shortly after his historic performance at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. When host Dick Cavett asked the guitarist about the “controversy” surrounding his wild, feedback-saturated version of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Hendrix gently demurred.

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What Matthew Shepard’s interment taught us about religion

On 26 October 2018, twenty years after two men in Wyoming brutally murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard, the Washington National Cathedral hosted a service to inter Shepard’s ashes in a permanent memorial. More than four thousand people attended the service that was co-led by the Reverend Gene Robinson, the first openly-gay elected bishop of […]

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Remaking Europe after the First World War

In the wake of the November 11, 1918 armistice between Germany and the Allies, high-minded idealism confronted a mélange of very unpleasant realities. All the belligerents had claimed to be fighting for a noble set of aims, and the United States President, Woodrow Wilson, went further. He proposed the creation of a supranational agency, the League of Nations, to govern international relations in a pacific age of transparent, altruistic diplomacy.

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