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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The massacre at Paris

When the church bells rang out in Paris on Saint Bartholomew’s Day, 24 August 1572, they heralded a massacre. At dawn, on royal orders the Catholic civic militia assassinated the admiral Gaspard de Coligny and other Protestant leaders. Their cry that “the king wills it!” preceded thousands of killings of Protestants in cities across France during the month that followed.

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Putin and patriotism: national pride after the fall of the Soviet Union [excerpt]

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin undertook the formidable task of uniting a restless and disorganized Russia. Throughout the early 1990s, the national narrative behind USSR’s regime remained unclear—causing national pride to deteriorate in the confusion. In the following excerpt from The Long Hangover, journalist Shaun Walker sheds light on how Putin used Russia’s victory in World War II to reestablish patriotism within the new Russia.

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The Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine: a timeline

Between the summer of 1937 and November 1938, the Stalinist regime arrested over 1.5 million people for “counterrevolutionary” and “antisoviet” activity and either summarily executed or exiled them to the Gulag. This was Stalin’s “Great Terror” and, contrary to popular belief, the largest number of victims were not elites or “Old Bolsheviks,” but common people. Below is a timeline of The Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine.

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The building blocks of ornithology

Museum collections are dominated by vat collections of natural history specimens—pinned insects in glass-topped drawers, shells, plants pressed on herbarium sheets, and so on. Most of these collections were never intended for display, but did work in terms of understanding the variety and distribution of nature.

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“Take control”: delusions of sovereignty

The phrase “take control” served as a mantra for the Vote Leave campaign in the United Kingdom’s referendum of 2016 about its membership of the European Union. The country was held to the same constraints and obligations as the EU’s other twenty-seven members. the United Kingdom, as the campaigners declared, could not manage its own borders, organise its own trade, define and regulate the rights of its own citizens, and, above all, determine its own laws.

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The relevance of the Russian Revolution [video]

This year, 2017, marks the centennial of the Russian Revolution, a defining moment in time with ripple effects felt across the world to this day. In the following video, author Laura Engelstein sits down with Oxford University Press editor Tim Bent to discuss the history of the revolution, its global impact, and her book Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War, 1914-1921.

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Humankind’s battle to conquer the seas

The relationship, through history, between humans and the sea has been one of conflict and conquest. The dangers of traveling on such a fickle, treacherous, and alien environment could easily mean death for early seafarers and explorers (and indeed it still can today). What is even more impressive, and perhaps mind-boggling, is that those venturing to sea in pre-history did not know what they would find, if anything at all. So why did humans first take to the sea? What drove them to surf and sail into the unknown? One reason may be our inquisitive nature.

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The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic

The art of witchcraft: six illustrations [slideshow]

Witchcraft dates back 5,000 years to the beginning of writing. Its history offers glimpses into the human psyche and has excited the minds of artists, playwrights, and novelists for centuries. Referencing The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic, we’ve pulled together a slideshow of six fascinating facts about the history of witchcraft.

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100 years since the world shook [excerpt]

The fall of the Romanov dynasty may have occurred in an instant, but the wheels were set in motion long before 1917. The effects of the Russian revolution were felt far beyond the borders of Eastern Europe and changed the course of world history forever. In this centenary year, Laura Engelstein, author of Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War, 1914-1921, takes us back to the brutal battles that took place at the beginning of the 20th century, and gives us reason as to why we need to revisit it now.

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Perpetual peace

In the fall of 1697, the great powers of Europe signed a series of peace treaties at Rijswijk [Ryswick], near The Hague, which ended the Nine Years’ War (1688–1697), in which France was opposed by a great coalition of the Holy Roman Emperor, Britain, the Dutch Republic, and Spain. In its first article, the peace treaty between Britain and France, signed on 20 September 1697 (21 CTS 409), stated that, henceforth, there would be ‘universal and perpetual peace’

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Nine things you didn’t know about love and marriage in Byzantium

The Byzantine civilization has long been regarded by many as one big curiosity. Often associated with treachery and superstition, their traditions and contributions to the ancient world are often overlooked. Referencing A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities, we’ve pulled together nine lesser known facts about love and marriage in Byzantium.

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A prison without walls? The Mettray reformatory

The Mettray reformatory was founded in 1839, some ten kilometres from Tours in the quiet countryside of the Loire Valley. Over almost a hundred years the reformatory imprisoned juvenile delinquent boys aged 7 to 21, particularly from Paris.

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Mapping Reformation Europe

Maps convey simple historical narratives very clearly–but how useful are simple stories about the past? Many history textbooks and studies of the Reformation include some sort of map that claims to depict Europe’s religious divisions in the sixteenth century.

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Why do humans commit extraordinary evil?

The hideous deeds committed by members of ISIS raise the question why humans alone, among the species, at times engage in mass killings of their own kind. We can find help in understanding this vexing issue by looking at the men who organized and carried out the Nazis’ attempted destruction of the Jewish people known as the Holocaust.

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How well do you know the history of physics? [quiz]

Less than four centuries separate the end of the Renaissance and the theories of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton from the development of quantum physics at the turn of the 20th century. During this transformative time, royal academies of science, instrument-making workshops, and live science demonstrations exploded across the continent as learned and lay people alike absorbed the spectacles of newfound technologies, devices, and innovations.

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