Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • History

The hippie trail and the search for enlightenment

The Hippie Trail was one of the last, great expressions of the counterculture during the mid-1950s to late 1970s. Headed to the East, the most celebrated route was from London to Kathmandu, although many stopped in India or went on to Australasia, and there were subsidiary routes to the Mediterranean, to Morocco and to the Middle East.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Women in China, past and present

As we celebrate the lives and accomplishments of women around the world as part of Women’s History Month, we offer a brief look at changing gender roles in different periods of China’s past, and at a group of contemporary activists pushing for greater equality between men and women in the current era. In two excerpts on women from their forthcoming book, China in the 21 Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, Maura Elizabeth Cunningham and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom place events that have taken place since Xi Jinping took power into a long-term historical perspective.

Read More

Seven women you may not know from music history

The historical record of women making music extends back as far as the earliest histories and artifacts of musical performance. For example, artwork from Ancient Greece and Rome suggest that women’s choruses were featured in rituals and festivals. And throughout Chinese imperial history the courts, civil and military officials and wealthy households employed women to sing, dance, and play musical instruments.

Read More

Why the past is disputed and academic historians (don’t) matter

In all these instances, academic historians have either been sidelined, or have become the victims of politically motivated onslaughts. Still, the disputes per se are not a late modern phenomenon. Similar debates occur in any society that records its past. They form part of historical culture. Having a past and knowing it was considered to be a mark of civilisation. But where did this need for a past come from?

Read More

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.

Read More

Why so much fuss about the history of emotions?

The history of emotions has emerged as one of the fastest growing areas of historical study in recent years, no doubt helped by the fact that almost all historical topics have emotional aspects. Joanna Innes discusses newly established centres, publications, and the establishment of intellectual bridges between various subjects in furthering the promotion of this field of study.

Read More

Defiant rulers and (real) superheroes: Black History Month

The first incarnation of Black History Month began in 1926, when Carter G. Woodson, historian and author, established an observance during the second week of February coinciding with the birthdays of social reformer Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. The month-long celebration was then proposed at Kent State University, Ohio, in February 1969, beginning the following year.

Read More

Etymology gleanings: February 2018

Everybody’s path to etymology: From time to time I receive questions about etymology as a profession. Not long ago, someone from a faraway country even expressed the wish to get a degree in etymology. I can refer to my post of April 2, 2014. This month, a correspondent asked me to say something about why I became an etymologist. The history of my career cannot be interesting to too many of our readers, so I’ll be brief and rather tell a story.

Read More

In celebration of twentieth century African American literature

Since the first poems published by former slaves Phyllis Wheatley and Jupiter Hammon around the time of the American Revolution, African American literature has played a vital role in the history and culture of the United States. The slave narratives of figures such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Wilson became a driving force for abolitionism before the Civil War, and the tumultuous end of Reconstruction brought about the exploration of new genres and themes during the height of the Jim Crow era.

Read More

Prohibition: A strange idea

American politics is frequently absurd, often zany, and sometimes downright crazy. Among the most outrageous past ideas was the legal Prohibition of alcohol, which was put into the US Constitution as the Eighteenth Amendment in 1920. Prohibition lasted until 1933, when the Twenty-First Amendment brought repeal and tight government regulation of alcohol.

Read More

T.E. Lawrence and the forgotten men who shaped the Arab Revolt

T.E. Lawrence, known as “Lawrence of Arabia,” has provoked controversy for a hundred years. His legend was promoted in the 1920s by the American Lowell Thomas’s travelogue; renewed in 1935 through his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom; and revived in 1962 by the epic film Lawrence of Arabia. The hype should not blind us to the fact that Lawrence’s contribution to the Arab Revolt of 1916-18 against the Turks was indispensable.

Read More

Zhongguo and Tianxia: the central state and the Chinese world

China is playing an ever-increasing role on the world stage of international relations, and it is starting to bring its own vocabulary to the part. The terminology that comprises the core lexicon of international relations theory originates from Greek and Latin, and it was developed to describe and interpret the configurations of power that have been common in Western history. Chinese scholars are now actively mining the Chinese historical experience to develop new terms to apply both to their own past and to an ever-changing present.

Read More

Alain Locke, Charles S. Johnson, and the establishment of Black literature [excerpt]

In March of 1924, Charles S. Johnson, sociologist and editor of Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, approached Alain Locke with a proposal: a dinner was being organized with the intention to secure interracial support for Black literature. Locke, would attend the dinner as “master of ceremonies,” with the responsibility of finding a common language between Black writers and potential White allies.

Read More

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.

Read More