Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Book thumbnail image

The History of the World: Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

In the end, though the dynasty Napoleon hoped to found and the empire he set up both proved ephemeral, his work was of great importance. He unlocked reserves of energy in other countries just as the Revolution had unlocked them in France, and afterwards they could never be quite shut up again. He ensured the legacy of the Revolution its maximum effect, and this was his greatest achievement, whether he desired it or not.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

The evolution of language and society

By Avi Lifschitz
We might have grown skeptical about our cultural legacy, but it is quite natural for us to assume that our own cognitive theories are the latest word when compared with those of our predecessors. Yet in some areas, the questions we are now asking are not too different from those posed some two-three centuries ago, if not earlier.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

The power of popular songs

By Saartje Vanden Borre and Elien Declercq
1883. In Tourcoing, a French industrial town right on the border with Belgium, the local celebrity and writer of Flemish origin Jules Watteeuw published Le marchand d’oches for the first time. His song about a Flemish rag-and-bone man who had migrated to Northern France to make a living but kept dreaming about his hometown as the Garden of Eden, was a huge success.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

The reign of Alexander the Great

The relatively short reign of Alexander (336 to 323 BC) marked one of the major turning-points in world history. The Greek city states continued to function after his death, but the world order had changed and a new era began, which came to be labelled the Hellenistic period. For Alexander, like many an autocrat, departed without leaving a viable succession plan.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Violence, now and then

By Hannah Skoda
We are used to finding a stream of extreme violence reported in the media: from the brutal familial holocaust engineered by Mick Philpott to the terror of the Boston bombings. Maybe it is because such cases seem close to home and elicit reactions both voyeuristic and frightened, that they gain so much more emotive coverage than quotidian violence in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

The five most common insults and slogans of medieval rebels

By Jan Dumolyn and Jelle Haemers
How subversive was the speech of Flemish rebels in the later Middle Ages? Violence remained the exception in urban rebellions, whereas subversive utterances, though always risky, must have been almost the rule of daily politics in the urban centres of late medieval Flanders and, clearly, in many other European towns and cities as well.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Bismarck: as seen by his personal assistant

Jonathan Steinberg
An old English proverb claims that ‘no man is a hero to his valet’. In this, as in so many other respects, Otto von Bismarck defies the rule. In 1875, Christoph Willers von Tiedemann, a youngish Liberal member of the German parliament, became Bismarck’s first personal assistant; the job took up most of his time for the next six years. When he received a formal invitation to tea addressed to Privy Councillor Christoph von Tiedemann from his wife, complete with his home address to remind him where it was, he decided to resign. At the end of his service he sketched a portrait of his remarkable boss.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

The History of the World: Nixon visits Moscow

22 May 1972 The following is a brief extract from The History of the World: Sixth Edition by J.M. Roberts and O.A. Westad. In October 1971 the UN General Assembly had recognized the People’s Republic as the only legitimate representative of China in the United Nations, and expelled the representative of Taiwan. This was not […]

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Musings on the Eurovision Song Contest

By Alyn Shipton
When the first Eurovision Song Contest was broadcast in 1956, the BBC was so late in entering that it missed the competition deadline, so it was first shown in my native England in 1957. Nonetheless, it seems as if this curious example of pan-European co-operation, which started with seven countries and is now up to 40, has been around forever.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

The environmental history of Russia’s steppes

By David Moon
When I started researching the environmental history of Russia’s steppes, I planned my visits to archives and libraries for conventional historical research. But I wanted to get a sense of the steppe environment I was writing about, a context for the texts I was reading; I needed to explore the region. I was fortunate that several Russian and Ukrainian specialists agreed to take me along on expeditions and field trips to visit steppe nature reserves.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Top five untrue facts about Hitler

By Thomas Weber
It has been thirty years this month since the master forger Konrad Kujau had his fifteen minutes of fame. Kujau managed to fool Stern magazine in Germany and the Sunday Times into believing that Hitler had secretly kept a diary. On 25 April 1983, Stern went public with the sensational story that Hitler’s diaries – which Kujau had penned in the late 70s and early 80s – had surfaced and that the history of the century had to be rewritten. By 6 May, it had become clear that two of the most venerable German and British publications had become the laughing stock of their nations. While no-one still believes that Hitler kept a diary, many other untrue facts about Hitler have been surprisingly resilient

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Katharina von Kellenbach
Holocaust Remembrance Day was originally declared a state holiday in Israel in 1951. The date, the 27th of the month of Nissan, was chosen in memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In the United States, a week-long series of “Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust” was ratified by US Congress in 1979 to coincide with Yom HaShoah, which falls sometime during April or May.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Yom HaShoah and everyday genocide

For the historian Mary Fulbrook, the history of the small town of Będzin hits close to home. Her mother was a refugee from Nazi Germany and a close friend to the wife of Uda Klausa, a one-time civilian administrator in that small town so close to the infamous concentration camp Auschwitz. What role did Klausa, as countless local functionaries across the Third Reich, play in facilitating Nazi policy? Fulbrook traveled to Bedzin with her son to film a series of videos exploring the subject as a companion to her book, A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Constantine and Easter

By David Potter
Christians today owe a tremendous debt to the Roman emperor Constantine. He changed the place of the Church in the Roman World, moving it, through his own conversion, from the persecuted fringe of the empire’s religious landscape to the center of the empire’s system of belief. He also tackled huge problems with the way Christians understood their community.

Read More
Book thumbnail image

Soldier, sailor, beggarman, thief

By Clive Emsley
Soldiers, sailors, and airmen reflect the societies from which they come. We should not be surprised therefore if they reflect vices as well as virtues; yet there is often hostility to anyone picking up on the vices of service personnel. When putting together a recent book, I was denied permission to use a quotation from the memoir of an infantry lieutenant about theft by members of his platoon in Germany in 1945. It might be asked: why was the information put in the memoir if it was not to be read? It was not always thus.

Read More