Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Lessons for the coronavirus from the 1899 Honolulu plague

Public health officials all over the United States—indeed globally—are trying to decide how to deal with the world’s coronavirus pandemic.   They know the coronavirus originated in China, and they know they can identify it with certainty.  But they do not know what might kill it, and they have no cure for anyone who contracts […]

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Nine books to read for Black History Month [reading list]

The month of February has been officially designated Black History Month since 1976 in order to, in President Gerald Ford’s words, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” In keeping with this tradition, we have gathered the below titles, which all engage in […]

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Thanksgiving: Behind the Pilgrim Myth

The driving force behind making Thanksgiving a national holiday was Sarah Josepha Hale, who was born in 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire. After her husband’s death, Hale turned to writing to generate money. Her novel Northwood: A Tale of New England (1827) included an entire chapter devoted to a Thanksgiving dinner. Its publication brought Hale […]

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Q&A with author Craig L. Symonds

There are a number of mysteries surrounding the Battle of Midway, and a breadth of new information has recently been uncovered about the four day struggle. We sat down with naval historian Craig L. Symonds, author of The Battle of Midway, newly released in paperback, to answer some questions about the iconic World War II battle.

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Why more democracy isn’t better democracy

Democracy is necessary for a free and just society. It is tempting to conclude that democracy is such a crucial social good that there could never be too much of it. It seems that when it comes to democracy, the more the better. Yet it is possible to have too much democracy. This is not […]

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Why we need more biographies of suffragists

One of the most striking characteristics of the American women’s suffrage movement is that its history has traditionally been told through the lives of its leading figures. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Anna Howard Shaw, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Alice Paul and the organizations they founded and led dominate the story to […]

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Five fascinating facts about Leonard Bernstein and Japan

On 25 August 2019, which would have been Leonard Bernstein’s 101st birthday, the busy centenary year filled with performances, exhibitions, publications, and events comes to a close. Much of Bernstein’s status as a world maestro tends to be discussed in terms of his relationship to Israel and Europe, but once we turn our attention eastward […]

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The first gay president?

The topic of the sexuality of President James Buchanan has become a talking point in the media of late due to the presidential campaign of openly gay candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg of Indiana. In that spirit, we turn to the life of our nation’s only bachelor president and his intimate personal relationship with William Rufus King of Alabama […]

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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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