Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

A Useful History of Britain

Beyond history and identity: what else can we learn from the past?

History is important to collective identity in the same way that memory is important to our sense of ourselves. It is difficult to explain who we are without reference to our past: place and date of birth, class background, education, and so on. A shared history can, by the same token, give us a shared identity—to be a Manchester United fan is to have a particular relationship to the Munich air disaster, the Busby babes, George Best, Eric Cantona, and so on.

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Charlie Brown's America

9 new books to explore our shared cultural history [reading list]

How did the Peanuts gang respond to–and shape–postwar American politics? How has a single game become a cultural touchstone for urban Chinese Americans in the 1930s, incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, and Jewish American suburban mothers? Were 19th Century Brits very deeply bored? Cultural and social history bring to life the beliefs, understandings, and motivations of peoples throughout time. Explore these nine books to expand your understanding of who we are.

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Corona and the crown: monarchy, religion, and disease from Victoria to Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family have featured prominently in the British state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The expectation that the monarch should articulate a spiritual response to the threat of disease has deep roots. It took its modern form with Queen Victoria, whose reign decisively transformed the relationship between religion, the sovereign, sickness, and health.

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Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt’s religious tolerance

Theodore Roosevelt is everywhere. Most famously, his stone face stares out from South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore. One of the most important but least recognized aspects of Roosevelt’s life are his ecumenical convictions and his promotion of marginalized religious groups. Through Roosevelt’s influence, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, and Unitarians moved a little closer toward the American religious mainstream.

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Beer: A Global Journey through the Past and Present

Ten refreshing books to read for National Beer Day [reading list]

Beer is one of the world’s oldest produced alcoholic beverages and since its invention some 13,000 years ago, people across the globe have been brewing, consuming, and even worshiping this amber nectar. Whether you prefer a pale ale, wheat beer, stout, or lager, from the cask or a humble bottle, beer enthusiasts can agree that the topic of beer is as complex as its taste.

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Picture World

Victorian 3D: virtual adventures in the stereoscope

We’re used to travelling long distances to explore exotic new locations—but that hasn’t always been possible. So how did people visit far-flung spots in times gone by? Rachel Teukolsky, author of “Picture World: Image, Aesthetics, and Victorian New Media”, takes us on a fascinating journey in glorious Victoriana 3D, introducing us to the must-have virtual reality tech of the 19th century: the stereoscope.

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Making Deep History

Turning geology into archaeology: how two businessmen changed the face of time

On the afternoon of 27 April 1859, two top-hatted businessmen, standing in a gravel pit outside the French city of Amiens, were about to change history. Joseph Prestwich and John Evans had brought with them a photographer, scientific witnesses, and a great deal of zeal and perseverance to answer a longstanding question: how old was humanity?

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Live after gravity

Isaac Newton’s London life: a quiz

Isaac Newton is known as the scientist who discovered gravity, but less well-known are the many years he spent in metropolitan London, and what precisely he got up to in that time…

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Love Lives

The evolution of women’s love lives: a timeline

Reaching from the middle of the twentieth century, when little girls dreamed of Prince Charming and Disney’s “Cinderella” graced movie screens, Carol Dyhouse charts the transformation of women’s love lives against radical social changes such as the passage of the Equal Pay Act, the acceleration of technological advancement, and improved access to contraception, bringing us up to the 2013 release of “Frozen.”

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Darwin's Historical Sketch: An Examination of the 'Preface' to the Origin of Species

Ten things you didn’t know about Darwin

Charles Darwin’s birthday on 12 February is widely celebrated in the scientific community and has come to be known as “Darwin day.” In recognition of Darwin’s 212th birthday this year we have put together a list of ten interesting facts about the father of evolution.

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After the Black Death

The Black Death: how did the world’s deadliest pandemic change society?

COVID-19 has ignited global interest in past pandemics, and the Black Death of 1346-53 is the worst in recorded history. Recent research has transformed our understanding of this lethal disease, which coincided with environmental stress and rapid climate change. But in the long term it proved a watershed in human history, triggering a range of institutional, economic, and social changes that opened up the route to liberal modernity.

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John Donne & the Conway Papers

Finding the Melford Hall Manuscript

The Melford Hall Manuscript is a large, expensively bound manuscript volume containing previously unknown witnesses of nearly 140 poems by John Donne (1572-1631), one of the most outstandingly significant poets and preachers of the early modern period. Discovered by Gabriel Heaton of Sotheby’s during a routine survey of Melford Hall in Suffolk, and restored by sale by the prestigious […]

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