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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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Finding reliable information on Latin America in the Internet flood

Recent political rhetoric filled with such hot button words as “drugs,” “immigrants,” “the Wall,” and “terrorists” serves in place of diplomacy that represents the interests of the United States while remaining respectful toward other nations. This blather is the result of loose-lipped politicians who prefer media quips to thoughtful commentary about policy. Although the United […]

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An American Kaiser?

Despite differences in historical era and social background, the Kaiser who ruled Germany from 1888 to 1918 and the American president who parlayed a real-estate empire into electoral (if not popular) victory displayed remarkably similar temperament. As Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen suggested, “Germany used to have a leader like Trump,” adding that “it’s not who you think.”

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Understanding Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth status [excerpt]

Acquired by the United States from Spain in 1898, Puerto Rico has a peculiar status among Latin American and Caribbean countries. In the excerpt below, author Jorge Duany provides the necessary background for understanding the inner workings of the Commonwealth government and the island’s relationship to the United States. How did Puerto Rico become a US Commonwealth?

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The life and works of Elizabeth Gaskell

On 29 September 2017, we celebrate the 207th birthday of Elizabeth Gaskell, a nineteenth century English novelist whose works reflect the harsh conditions of England’s industrial North. Unlike some of her contemporaries, whose works are told from the perspectives of middle class characters, Gaskell did not restrict herself, and her novels Mary Barton and Ruth feature working class heroines.

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The soldier and the statesman: A Vietnam War story

We need to “send someone over there as a cop to watch over that son-of-a-bitch.” “I have no confidence” in him. “I think he’s run his course.” These remarks—excerpts from conversations between President Richard M. Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger—left little doubt about how the White House’s inner circle viewed the top US general in Vietnam, General Creighton Abrams.

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Race in America: parallels between the 1860s, 1960s, and today [extract]

The American Civil War remains deeply embedded in our national identity. Its legacy can be observed through modern politics—from the Civil Rights Movement to #TakeAKnee. In the following extract from The War That Forged a Nation, acclaimed historian James M. McPherson discusses the relationship between the Civil War and race relations in American history.

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Leipzig’s Marx monument and the dustbin of history

What could Karl Marx have to do with Charlottesville? At an historic moment when debates rage about the fate of memorials across much of the United States, it is instructive to explore how the politics of memory have evolved for contentious monuments on another continent. In communist East Germany, oxidized brass and copper semblances of […]

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Let the world see

When Emmett Till’s body arrived at the Illinois Central train station in Chicago on 2 September 1955, the instructions from the authorities in Mississippi were clear: the casket containing the young boy must be buried unopened, intact and with the seal unbroken. Later that morning, Till’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley, instructed funeral home director Ahmed Rayner to defy this command.

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1617: commemorating the Reformation [excerpt from 1517]

Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg is one of the most famous events in Western history – but did it actually happen on 31 October 1517? In this shortened excerpt Peter Marshall looks at the commemoration of the Reformation’s centenary in 1617 that further cemented the idea that Martin Luther posted his theses on the 31 October 1517 precisely.

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The mystery behind Frances Coke Villiers [extract]

Frances Coke Villiers was raised in a world which demanded women to be obedient, silent, and chaste. At the age of fifteen, Frances was forced to marry John Villiers, the elder brother of the Duke of Buckingham, as a means to secure her father’s political status. Defying both social and religious convention, Frances had an affair with Sir Robert Howard, and soon became pregnant with his child. The aftermath of their affair set Frances against some of the most influential people in seventeenth century England.

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America’s darkest hour: a timeline of the My Lai Massacre

On the morning of 16 March 1968, soldiers from three platoons of Charlie Company entered a group of hamlets located in the Son Tinh district of South Vietnam on a search-and-destroy mission. Although no Viet Cong were present, the GIs proceeded to murder more than five hundred unarmed villagers.

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Invasion: Edwardian Britain’s nightmare

mages of future war were a prominent feature of British popular culture in the half century before the First World War. Writers like H.G. Wells thrilled their readers with tales of an extra-terrestrial attack in his 1897 The War of the Worlds, and numerous others wrote of French, German, or Russian invasions of Britain.

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Nikolai Trubetzkoy’s road to history

A century ago, the Russian Revolution broke out in November of 1917, followed by a bloody civil war lasting until the early 1920s. Millions of families were displaced, fleeing to Europe and Asia. One of the many emigrant stories was that of Prince Nikolai Trubetzkoy. Trubetzkoy was from a well-known aristocratic family in tsarist Russia, […]

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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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