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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The Second World War as refugee crisis

On this, the 74th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe, when refugee camps across the globe are overflowing, it’s worth considering that the war itself was the violent climax of a massive refugee crisis. Even before the refugee problems caused by the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution could be solved, Hitler’s seizure of power in early 1933 convinced Jews and left-leaning political opponents of Nazism to leave their homes. Not long after, refugees from the Spanish Civil War trekked into southern France, followed by millions of families fleeing from the Wehrmacht’s blitzkrieg through western Europe.

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Rome: the Paradise, the grave, the city, the wilderness

The following is an abridged extract from The Rome We Have Lost by John Pemble and discusses how Rome, the eternal city, the centre of Europe and, in many ways, the world evolved into a city no longer central and unique, but marginal and very similar in its problems and its solutions to other modern cities with a heavy burden of “heritage.” These arguments illuminate the historical significance of Rome’s transformation and the crisis that Europe is now confronting as it struggles to re-invent without its ancestral centre—the city that had made Europe what it was, and defined what it meant to be European.

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Learning about the First World War through German eyes

Thanks to the ongoing centenary commemorations, interest in the First World War has never been higher. Whether it be through visiting the poppies at the Tower, touring the battlefields of Belgium and France, tracking grandad’s war or digging in local archives to uncover community stories – unprecedented numbers of people have come face to face with their history in new and exciting ways.

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Paris in Translation: Eugène Briffault’s Paris à Table [excerpt]

“When Paris sits down at the table, the entire world stirs….” Eugène Briffault’s Paris à Table captures the manners and customs of Parisian dining in 1845. He gives a panoramic view of the conception of a dish (as detailed as the amount of coal used in stoves) to gastronomy throughout the city—leaving no bread roll unturned as he investigates how Paris eats. The below excerpt from Paris à Table (translated into English by J. Weintraub) provides statistics to capture the magnitude of the Parisian way of life.

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Short History of the Third Reich [timeline]

Historians today continue raising questions about the Third Reich, especially because of the unprecedented nature of its crimes, and the military aggression it unleashed across Europe. Much of the inspiration for the catastrophic regime, lasting a mere twelve years, belongs to Adolf Hitler, a virtual non-entity in political circles before 1914.

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The astronomer Johannes Stöffler and the reform of Easter

In 1518, Johannes Stöffler published the 290-page Calendarium Romanum magnum. This carefully carfted ensemble of astronomical tables and detailed supplementary treatises that qualifies as one of the most impressive manifestations of the mathematical culture of the Northern Renaissance. Find out about the history of the Calendarium and its importance in the debate regarding the date the church celebrates Easter

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The eleventh hour: a look at the final battles of the Great War [timeline]

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the Great War came to an end. Conventional accounts of the war often allow these closing battles to be overshadowed by opening moves and earlier battles. However, the human costs behind the Allied victory cannot be truly understood without examining the summer of 1918. Using personal accounts featured in The Last Battle, the timeline below captures the final battles of World War I through the eyes of the men fighting them.

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Ten fascinating facts about the Marshall Plan

In 1947, with Britain’s empire collapsing and Stalin’s rise in Europe, US officials under new Secretary of State George C. Marshall set out to reconstruct Western Europe as a bulwark against communist authoritarianism. Their massive, costly, and ambitious undertaking confronted Europeans and Americans alike with a vision at odds with their history and self-conceptions.

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History in 3 acts: a brief introduction to Ancient Greece [excerpt]

Ancient Greek history is conventionally broken down into three periods: Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic. However, the language used to describe them highlights an oversight made by generations of historians. By dubbing one period of history as “Classical,” scholars imply that the other two periods are inferior, simplifying the Archaic age as a mere precursor to and the Hellenistic age as a lesser descendant of the Classical age.

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The forgotten history of free trade: the Medici dynasty and Livorno

The Medici had everything, almost. They got immensely rich as bankers during the fifteenth century. As patrons of the arts they assembled some of the finest collections in Italy. They placed two scions on the papal throne as Leo X and Clement VII. They won political control over the city of Florence. The Medici lacked only one thing to render their earthly felicity complete: they lacked a port city.

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Lützen and the birth of modern warfare

The battle of Lützen between the imperial and Swedish armies was fought about 19km southwest of Leipzig in Saxony, Germany, on Tuesday 16 November 1632. It was neither the largest nor the bloodiest battle of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), Europe’s most destructive conflict prior to the twentieth-century world wars, but it is certainly the best remembered today. Lützen’s place in military history has even wider resonance.

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Europeans and Britain’s wider world

Is the wider world really the alternative to Europe that some of today’s commentators claim? Britain’s eighteenth-century experience suggests not. Then, the supposed alternatives, in the eyes of some contemporaries, were Europe and empire. But look more closely at Britain’s empire, and we can see that its development, defence, and expansion owed much to other Europeans.

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Sexuality and the Holocaust

When, at one point in 2008, Nancy Wingfield approached me with the idea that I should write a paper about prostitution in Theresienstadt, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. That was probably for the best, because before long, I was confronted with hostile, personal attacks from survivors, which demonstrated quite clearly how sensitive the topic was.

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What’s in her name?

It must top the list of famous misquotes: Shakespeare’s Juliet did not say “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But she did ask “What’s in a name?” thus pinpointing a problem that still vexes women today. When I turned 40, I rebranded myself from Pat to Patricia, a shift that was personally gratifying yet had no serious effects. But some women have had to contemplate more serious consequences.

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The counter-revolution in Europe

Several months after the fall of the Berlin Wall Ralf Dahrendorf wrote a book fashioned on Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France called Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. The intention was to explain the extraordinary events taking place in Europe around 1989.Today we are witnessing an equally turbulent period in Europe, however heading in the opposite direction.

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Want to know the Latin for “true love”?

Then Ovid is your man – and woman, as the case may be … Fidus amor. That’s “true love” in Latin. Historically, such love is often claimed to have emerged with the troubadours of twelfth century Provence. The troubadours used the Occitan term fin amor for this kind of love rather than the more famous […]

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