Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Christmas on 34th Street: a history of NYC department stores [excerpt]

Each year, department stores in New York City decorate their windows with ornate holiday displays. Taking on festive themes with dazzling lights, crystals, and figurines, these stores aim to entice shoppers and encourage passers-by to get into the holiday spirit. In the following excerpt from Greater Gotham, Mike Wallace discusses the history of these famous department stores and their connection to the economy of New York City.

Read More

The building blocks of ornithology

Museum collections are dominated by vat collections of natural history specimens—pinned insects in glass-topped drawers, shells, plants pressed on herbarium sheets, and so on. Most of these collections were never intended for display, but did work in terms of understanding the variety and distribution of nature.

Read More

Four NYC-inspired sundaes for National Sundae Day

November 11 is National Sundae Day. To celebrate, we’ve created four New York City–themed sundae recipes, inspired by Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919. Take a look at the recipes below and get a taste of NYC—no matter where you are in the world.

Read More

The importance of physics for humanists and historians

If you studied history, sociology, or English literature in your post-secondary education, it was probably in part because physics was too hard to understand or not as interesting. If you did not pay attention to quiet developments in the world of physics over the past several decades, you missed some very interesting important discoveries. Today, physics is not what our parents or even any of us who went to high school or university in the last quarter of the twentieth century learned because the physicists have been busy learning a lot of new things.

Read More

Hop heads and locaholics: excerpt from Beeronomics

Beer drinkers across the United States observe the National American Beer Day annually on 27 October. Over the last decade two IPAs, craft beer and microbreweries have taken over the American beer market and continue their steady growth. This extract from Johan Swinnen and Devin Briski’s Beeronomics discusses some of the strategies of the American craft beer movement.

Read More
The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic

The art of witchcraft: six illustrations [slideshow]

Witchcraft dates back 5,000 years to the beginning of writing. Its history offers glimpses into the human psyche and has excited the minds of artists, playwrights, and novelists for centuries. Referencing The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic, we’ve pulled together a slideshow of six fascinating facts about the history of witchcraft.

Read More

Not finding Bigfoot

The Renaissance is remembered as a time of renewed interest in scientific investigation, yet it also brought a huge increase in sightings of fantastic creatures such as mermaids and sea serpents. One explanation for this apparent paradox is that the revival of classical art and literature inspired explorers to look for the creatures of Greco-Roman mythology. Another reason was the expansion of trade. Cryptids, fantastic creatures that elude established terms of description, tend to arise on the boundary of two or more cultures.

Read More

A Tale of Two New York Cities [excerpt]

New York is a city of many things to many people. But more and more those people are being divided. Those who have the means to live in comfort and splendor, and those struggling to survive in a once vast urban landscape that grows smaller and smaller with each year. In this excerpt from his book The Creative Destruction of New York City, author and urban scholar Alessandro Busà, gives us the lay of this new land where all are welcome, particularly if they can afford it.

Read More

Women at work: New York City at the turn of the 20th century

New York City was rapidly expanding at the turn of the 20th century: the five boroughs had just unified, skyscrapers were going up, and the economy was booming. In the following extract from Greater Gotham, historian Mike Wallace discusses how the New York City’s flourishing economy influenced the career opportunities available to women in the early 1900s.

Read More

Understanding Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth status [excerpt]

Acquired by the United States from Spain in 1898, Puerto Rico has a peculiar status among Latin American and Caribbean countries. In the excerpt below, author Jorge Duany provides the necessary background for understanding the inner workings of the Commonwealth government and the island’s relationship to the United States. How did Puerto Rico become a US Commonwealth?

Read More

The soldier and the statesman: A Vietnam War story

We need to “send someone over there as a cop to watch over that son-of-a-bitch.” “I have no confidence” in him. “I think he’s run his course.” These remarks—excerpts from conversations between President Richard M. Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger—left little doubt about how the White House’s inner circle viewed the top US general in Vietnam, General Creighton Abrams.

Read More

Race in America: parallels between the 1860s, 1960s, and today [extract]

The American Civil War remains deeply embedded in our national identity. Its legacy can be observed through modern politics—from the Civil Rights Movement to #TakeAKnee. In the following extract from The War That Forged a Nation, acclaimed historian James M. McPherson discusses the relationship between the Civil War and race relations in American history.

Read More

Let the world see

When Emmett Till’s body arrived at the Illinois Central train station in Chicago on 2 September 1955, the instructions from the authorities in Mississippi were clear: the casket containing the young boy must be buried unopened, intact and with the seal unbroken. Later that morning, Till’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley, instructed funeral home director Ahmed Rayner to defy this command.

Read More

America’s darkest hour: a timeline of the My Lai Massacre

On the morning of 16 March 1968, soldiers from three platoons of Charlie Company entered a group of hamlets located in the Son Tinh district of South Vietnam on a search-and-destroy mission. Although no Viet Cong were present, the GIs proceeded to murder more than five hundred unarmed villagers.

Read More

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, […]

Read More