Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Beer: A Global Journey through the Past and Present

Ten refreshing books to read for National Beer Day [reading list]

Beer is one of the world’s oldest produced alcoholic beverages and since its invention some 13,000 years ago, people across the globe have been brewing, consuming, and even worshiping this amber nectar. Whether you prefer a pale ale, wheat beer, stout, or lager, from the cask or a humble bottle, beer enthusiasts can agree that the topic of beer is as complex as its taste.

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1837

To know Russia, you really have to understand 1837

To know Russia, you really have to understand 1837. The assertion might seem strange. Even among historians of Russia, it is likely to produce head-scratching rather than nods of knowing approval. Most would point to other years—1613 and the birth of the Romanov dynasty; 1861 and the end of Russian serfdom; 1917 and the Bolshevik seizure of power—as more consequential. But in fact 1837 was pivotal for the country’s entry into the modern age and for defining many of Russia’s core attributes. Russia is what it is today, in no small measure, because of 1837.

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Erard: A Passion for the Piano

Family secrets and the demise of Erard pianos and harps

Musicians from Haydn to Liszt were captivated by the rich tone and mechanical refinement of the pianos and harps invented by Sébastien Erard, whose firm dominated nineteenth-century musical life. Erard was the first piano builder in France to prioritise the grand piano model, a crucial step towards creating a modern pianistic sonority.

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Making Deep History

Turning geology into archaeology: how two businessmen changed the face of time

On the afternoon of 27 April 1859, two top-hatted businessmen, standing in a gravel pit outside the French city of Amiens, were about to change history. Joseph Prestwich and John Evans had brought with them a photographer, scientific witnesses, and a great deal of zeal and perseverance to answer a longstanding question: how old was humanity?

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Transcending Dystopia

Digging into the vaults of the unknown: the “Transcending Dystopia” research diaries

Research for Transcending Dystopia over the course of almost a decade was truly a journey, piecing together disparate snippets that have been transmitted in different repositories to gain insight into the musical practices and lives of Jews in postwar Germany. Among the 26 archives and private collections I consulted, two experiences stand out—the first being somewhat unusual, the second being quite extraordinary.

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After the Black Death

The Black Death: how did the world’s deadliest pandemic change society?

COVID-19 has ignited global interest in past pandemics, and the Black Death of 1346-53 is the worst in recorded history. Recent research has transformed our understanding of this lethal disease, which coincided with environmental stress and rapid climate change. But in the long term it proved a watershed in human history, triggering a range of institutional, economic, and social changes that opened up the route to liberal modernity.

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Athens After Empire

Capturing your “rude” conqueror

Roman civilization is one of the foundation stones of our own western culture, and we are often exposed in newspaper and magazine articles, books, and even TV documentaries to the glories of Roman art, architecture, literature (the chances are you’ve read Virgil’s Aeneid), rhetoric (we’ve all heard of Cicero), even philosophy. Yet in the late first century BC the Roman poet Horace wrote: “Captive Greece captured her rude conqueror and introduced her arts to the crude Latin lands” (Epistle 2.1.156). Did he really mean that Rome owed its cultural and intellectual heritage to the Greeks?

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Athens After Empire

Down but never out

The Athenians were in a panic in 490 BC. A Persian army had landed at Marathon, on the coastline east of Athens, intent on capturing the city and even conquering all Greece. The famous battle of Marathon was Athens’ coming of age as a military power; a decade later its navy helped to block another Persian invasion (led by Xerxes), a stepping-stone to Athens’ rise as a wealthy imperial power.

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MI5, the Cold War, and the Rule of Law

MI5 and Russian interference, now and then

On 21 July 2020, the UK parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee published its long-delayed report on “the Russian threat to the UK.” Although heavily redacted, the report was wide-ranging and dealt with a number of issues, including the threat to democracy, highlighting concerns about potential Russian interference in the Scottish referendum in 2014, the EU […]

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Beethoven 1806

Beethoven’s virtual collaborations

Since the onset of the pandemic, online platforms like Facebook and YouTube have become indispensable hubs of musical collaboration. Simply scroll down your Facebook feed to encounter collaborative virtual performances of everything from “Over the Rainbow” to Mahler’s Third Symphony, each one painstakingly assembled from individual recordings of sequestered singers and isolated instrumentalists. While physically distant musical collaborations […]

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Eastern Medieval Architecture

The reconversion of Hagia Sophia in perspective

At the beginning of January 1921, a special service was held in the cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, with Orthodox and Episcopal clergy offering prayers in six languages—Hungarian, Greek, Arabic, Russian, Serbian, and English—for the restoration of Hagia Sophia as a Christian sanctuary. As reported in the New York Times, the […]

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Inca Apocalypse by R. Alan Covey

The apocalypse of the Inca empire [timeline]

The Inca Empire rose and fell over the course of a millennium, driven to its demise by internal strife and Spanish conquistadors. This timeline highlights a few key events from the rise of the Inca Empire to its apocalypse.    Header image by Eliazaro via Pixabay

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Writing a non-fiction historical thriller

The distinguished biographer, Ben Pimlott, used to say that historians should try to write like novelists. To my knowledge, he never developed the thought, but what he meant was clear. While the historical monograph may make a significant contribution to knowledge, too often it is boring to read. He wanted us to deploy the skills […]

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