Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • History

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 […]

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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, […]

Read More

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.

Read More

Singing resistance on the border

At an early age, Américo Paredes was preoccupied with the inexorable passing of time, which would leave an imprint in his academic career. Devoting his academic career to preserving and displaying Mexican-American traditions through thorough analysis and recording of folk-songs, it is clear that Paredes kept his focus on beating back the forces of time and amnesia. Indeed, Paredes’ lessons are still very much relevant today.

Read More

William Dean Howells and the Gilded Age [excerpt]

Through his writing, novelist and critic William Dean Howells captured the political and social aftermath of the Civil War. Given his limited involvement in politics, Howells’ works focused on the lives of common people over the uncommon, whom he deemed “essentially unattractive and uninteresting.” In the following excerpt from The Republic For Which It Stands, […]

Read More

Diving into the OHR Archive

One of my favorite tasks as the OHR’s Social Media Coordinator is interviewing people for the blog. I get to talk to authors of recent articles from the OHR, oral historians using the power of conversation to create change, and a whole lot more.

Read More

Moses Mendelssohn’s Hebrew politics

How tolerant and diverse should a society be? Are there limits to the views that a society should accept? Can individuals from diverse backgrounds join together to contribute to the common good, and what happens when tensions arise between different groups? Given the events of 2016-2017, such questions stand at the forefront of American civic life. Questions relating to diversity and tolerance loomed large in Mendelssohn’s life.

Read More

Rebuilding New York City

In the weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York City’s position as the center of the financial world came into question. Now, 16-years after the day that could have permanently changed the course of New York’s history, downtown Manhattan rebuilt both its buildings and status of importance. Lynne B. Sagalyn examines the economic impact of the World Trade Center’s fall and rise in the following excerpt from Power at Ground Zero.

Read More

Allen Ginsberg and Ann Coulter walk into an auditorium…

Ann Coulter, a controversial right-wing author and commentator, was tentatively scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley on April 27 until pre-speech protests turned into violent clashes, and her speech was canceled. In response, Coulter tweeted, “It’s sickening when a radical thuggish institution like Berkeley can so easily snuff out the cherished American right to free speech.”

Read More

George Washington’s early love of literature [excerpt]

Unlike his contemporaries Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton—George Washington isn’t remembered as an intellectual. But for what he lacked in formal education, Washington made up for in enthusiasm for learning. His personal education began at an early age and continued throughout his adult life. In the following excerpt from George Washington: A Life in Books, historian Kevin J. Hayes gives insight into Washington’s early love of literature.

Read More

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.

Read More