Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

How to educate your child in the seventeenth century

The end of summer and beginning of autumn mean that children and young adults worldwide are heading back to school. While much has changed since the time of the seventeenth century – which children were allowed to go to school and which weren’t, and what they were taught there, for example – one thing that has not changed is the worry a parent feels about their child getting the best education they can.

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The Paris Peace Conference and postwar politics [extract]

But the centerpiece of the Paris Peace Conference was always the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, five years to the day after a teenaged Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, had assassinated Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. The treaty and the conference are thus closely linked but not quite synonymous.

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The steeples of Essex and Tyrone: Irish historians and Brexit

One of the glib accusations levelled against Irish history is that it never changes–that its fundamental themes are immutable. Equally, one of the common accusations against Irish historians is that (despite decades of learned endeavour) they have utterly failed to shift popular readings of the island’s past. Yes, the Good Friday Agreement and its St […]

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Gottschalk: a ninth-century heretic, dissenter, and religious outlaw

“Just as a dog returns to its own vomit, so a fool reverts to his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). Thus did medieval church officials condemn unrepentant heretics and those who recanted, but later allegedly returned to their crimes. The typical punishment — burning at the stake — purged the offenders’ pollution from the church. This familiar image of burning heretics shapes today’s popular and scholarly perspectives of the European Middle Ages.

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The Red Cross in Nazi Germany

Built on the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was founded to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and violence and to provide them with assistance. But despite being one of the world’s most revered aid organizations, the ICRC has a complicated and unsettling history.

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Remembering the life and music of Antonio Vivaldi

For many who at least known his name, Antonio Vivaldi is the composer of a handful of works heard on the radio or a drive-time playlist of 100 Famous Classical Pieces, featured in TV (and internet) commercials, movies and concerts by students, amateurs, and professionals. Pieces such as The Four Seasons (featured prominently in Alan Alda’s 1981 film, The Four Seasons), the Gloria in D RV 589 and the Violin Concerto in A Minor Op. 3 No. 6 (familiar to most students of the Suzuki Violin Method) are staples of the repertoire and frequently rank high on lists of popular classical music.

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More than an Amazon: Wonder Woman

This summer’s epic blockbuster, Wonder Woman, is a feast of visual delights, epic battles, and Amazons. The young Diana, “Wonder Woman,” is, we quickly learn, no ordinary Amazon. In fact, though she is raised by the Amazon queen Hippolyta and trained to be a formidable warrior by her aunt Antiope, both of whom are regularly featured Amazons in Greek myth, she turns out to be not an Amazon at all but a god, whom Zeus has given to the Amazons to raise.

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What’s in the message?

Once upon a time, it could be believed that each advance in communications technology brought with it the probability, if not the certainty, of increased global harmony. The more that messages could be sent and received, the more the peoples of the world would understand each other. Innovators have not been slow to advance comprehensive claims for their achievements. Marconi, for example, selected 1912 as a year in which to suggest that radio, in apparently making war ridiculous, made it impossible.

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Wonder Woman and the realities of World War I

Wonder Woman takes place in an alternative universe, yet the new film of the same name is set in a recognizable historical context: the First World War. For historians, this provides a chance to compare myth to reality. Putting aside the obvious and deliberate alterations—Erich von Ludendorff’s depiction in the story—the film touches on several of the themes that scholars still debate today regarding war and gender.

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Bastards and Game of Thrones

Watching Game of Thrones, and devouring the novels, made me a better medievalist. As fans of the show and novels know well, George R. R. Martin’s imaginary world offers a vibrant account of life and death, of royal power and magic, of political infighting, arranged marriages, sex, love, and despair. It is not an accurate depiction of medieval Europe, but why should it be?

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“Finding Clarity” [an extract from Martin Luther]

The foundation of Protestantism changed the religious landscape of Europe, and subsequently the world, Heinz Schilling traces the life of Martin Luther and shows him not simply as a reformer, but also as an individual. The following extract looks at the consequences following the publication of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses.

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Edwin Muir and a story of Europe

While reading recently British Library correspondence files relating to the poet Edwin Muir—the 130th anniversary of whose birth will be on 15 May this year—I was struck, as I have often been, by the important part played in his development as man and poet by his contact with the life of Europe—a continent that is currently high on the agenda of many of us with a possible British Brexit in view.

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The historical roots of Iran: an interview

In April 2017 Bridget Kendall, former BBC diplomatic correspondent and now Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, interviewed Michael Axworthy, author of Iran: What Everyone Needs to Know® about the history of Iran, the characterization of Iran as an aggressive expansionist power, and the current challenges and developments in the country today. Below is a transcribed version of part of the interview.

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Ottonian queenship: powerful women in early medieval Germany

In 2008, archaeologists working on the cathedral at Magdeburg, in eastern Germany, opened an ancient tomb and rediscovered the bones of an Anglo-Saxon princess called Edith. She had died in the year 946, aged only about 30. Her remains were brought across the North Sea for scientific tests which verified the identification via tests on her tooth enamel, indicating that the bones belonged to someone who had grown up drinking water from the chalky landscapes of southern Britain.

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What to do with a simple-minded ruler: a medieval solution

The thirteenth century saw the reigns of several rulers ill-equipped for the task of government, decried not as tyrants but incompetents. Sancho II of Portugal (1223–48), his critics said, let his kingdom fall to ruin on account of his “idleness,” “timidity of spirit,” and “simplicity”. The last term, simplex, could mean straightforward, but here it meant only simple-minded, foolish, stupid.

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Edward Gibbon, Enlightenment historian of religion

On 8 May 1788, Edward Gibbon celebrated the publication of the final three volumes of his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire at a dinner given by his publisher Thomas Cadell. Gibbon (born 27 April 1737) was just 51; he had completed perhaps the greatest work of history ever written by an Englishman, and certainly the greatest history of what his contemporary David Hume called the “historical age,” and we think of as the Enlightenment.

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