Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Five astonishing facts about women in Shakespeare

What would Macbeth be without Lady Macbeth? Or Romeo and Juliet with only Romeo? Yet there’s an enormous disparity between female and male representation in Shakespeare’s play. Few, great female characters deliver as many lines or impressive speeches as their male counterparts. While this may not be surprising considering 16th century society, literature, and theater, data can reveal a wider disparity than previously thought.

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A history of firsts [slideshow]

We live in a globalized world, but mobility is nothing new. Set on a huge continental stage, By Steppe, Desert and Ocean tells the story how human society evolved across the Eurasian continent from Europe to China.

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Subversive voting, or how the French spoil their ballot papers

You might not guess, but the image below celebrating the Second Republic of 1848 was cast at Dijon as a negative vote in the referendum of 1851, which sought approval for the coup d’état that brought Louis-Napoleon (nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte) to power in France. The overwhelming majority voted positively but, among a minority of dissenters, there were those who chose to graphically illustrate their opposition. Others made adverse written comments on their papers and still more defaced the ballot they had been instructed to use by the newly installed Napoleonic authorities, or submitted blank pieces of paper to the ballot box.

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Agents of Empire: Who were the Bruni and Bruti families?

Representing a broad span of empires, cultures and religions during the sixteenth century, the Bruni and Bruti families exemplify a snapshot of Albania at a time when European and Ottoman histories collided. Only a small piece of the greater story, Noel Malcolm uses the Bruni and Bruti families to paint a panoramic landscape of history that covers the Venetian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Papacy, Malta, north Africa, Spain, southern France, Poland and the Holy Roman Empire.

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When everywhere is a grave: remembering WWII casualties in Belarus

On 22 June 2015, the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko opened a new memorial complex at the site of the former extermination camp Maly Trostenets near Minsk. Between 1941 and 1944, German occupants and their helpers interned and killed up to 206,500 people in this camp and in the nearby forest of Blagovshchina.

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Separating Church and State

Since the 17th century Western thinkers have struggled with the problem of how to stop conflicts over religious differences. Not long ago, we mostly thought that the problem had been solved. Two rather different solutions served widely as paradigms, with many variations. One was the American Separation of Church and State, and the other French laïcité, usually if misleadingly translated as ‘secularism’.

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The garden palaces of Europe and Asia [interactive map]

In 1682, the French court moved from Paris to the former royal hunting lodge of Versailles, which had been transformed under the supervision of Louis XIV into Europe’s most splendid palace, one which moreover was set in a stunning park that stretched all the way to the horizon. Versailles established a fashion for palaces surrounded by ample gardens that most major European courts would soon imitate. These parks provided appropriate backdrops for elaborately spectacles staged to impress visiting diplomats hunts as well as secluded settings for flirting.

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Does war cause xenophobia?

Does war cause xenophobia? Or does xenophobia cause war? That’s a “chicken and egg” sort of question. The fact is, fear of “the other” had already prevailed in pre-World War I European society—even in more liberal polities such as Britain—later manifesting itself in various ways throughout the conflict.

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Where is architecture truly ‘modern’?

Too often, we in Europe and the English-speaking world presume that we have a monopoly on both modernity and its cultural expression as modernism. But this has never been the case. Take, for instance, the case of sixteenth and seventeenth century urbanism in Europe and Asia. One can focus on the different ways in which […]

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Why we like to blame buildings

On 27 October 2005, two French youths of Tunisian and Malian descent died of electrocution in a local power station in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Police had been patrolling their neighborhood, responding to a reported break-in, and scared that they might be subject to an arbitrary interrogation, the youngsters decided to hide in the nearest available building. Riots immediately broke out in the high-rise suburbs of Paris and in hundreds of neighborhoods across the country.

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The curious case of culprit

Amnesia, disguises, and mistaken identities? No, these are not the plot twists of a blockbuster thriller or bestselling page-turner. They are the story of the word culprit. At first glance, the origin of culprit looks simple enough. Mea culpa, culpable,exculpate, and the more obscure inculpate: these words come from the Latin culpa, “fault” or “blame.”

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What five recent archaeological sites reveal about the Viking period

The famous marauders, explorers, traders, and colonists who transformed northern Europe between AD 750 and 1100 continue to hold our fascination. The Vikings are the subject of major new museum exhibitions now circulating in Europe and a popular dramatic television series airing on The History Channel.

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Looking forward to ESEB 2015

My first experience of an academic conference as a biology books editor at Oxford University Press was of sitting in a ballroom in Ottawa in July 2012 listening to 3000 evolutionary biologists chanting ‘I’m a African’ while a rapper danced in front of a projection of Charles Darwin

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Ten myths about the French Revolution

The French Revolution was one of the most momentous events in world history yet, over 220 years since it took place, many myths abound. Some of the most important and troubling of these myths relate to how a revolution that began with idealistic and humanitarian goals resorted to ‘the Terror’.

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From communist power to political collapse: twentieth-century Russia [timeline]

Marked by widespread political and social change, twentieth-century Russia endured violent military conflicts, both domestic and international in scope, and as many iterations of government. The world’s first communist society, founded by Vladimir Lenin under the Bolshevik Party in 1917, Russia extended its influence through eastern Europe to become a global power.

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Did the League of Nations ultimately fail?

The First World War threw the imperial order into crisis. New states emerged, while German and Ottoman territories fell to the allies who wanted to keep their acquisitions. In the following three videos Susan Pedersen, author of The Guardians, discusses the emegence of the League of Nations and its role in imperial politics.

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