Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Does war cause xenophobia?

Does war cause xenophobia? Or does xenophobia cause war? That’s a “chicken and egg” sort of question. The fact is, fear of “the other” had already prevailed in pre-World War I European society—even in more liberal polities such as Britain—later manifesting itself in various ways throughout the conflict.

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Yorkshire: the birthplace of film?

Any assertions of ‘firsts’ in cinema are open invitations to rebuttal, but the BBC has recently broken news of a claim that the West Yorkshire city of Leeds was in fact film’s birthplace. Louis Le Prince, a French engineer who moved to Leeds in 1866, became one of a number of late 19th-century innovators entering the race to conceive, launch, and patent moving image cameras and projectors.

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Florence Nightingale’s syphilis that wasn’t

Nursing lore has long maintained that the mysterious illness that sent Florence Nightingale to bed for 30 years after her return from the Crimea was syphilis. At least that’s what many nursing students were told in the 1960s, when my wife was working on her BSN. Syphilis, however, would be difficult to reconcile with the fact that Nightingale was likely celibate her entire life and had not a single sign or symptom typical of that venereal infection.

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Portrait of a lady – Episode 25 – The Oxford Comment

Much mystery surrounds Elizabeth I, the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. It’s said that the beloved Queen, for centuries immortalized in private letters and state papers, portraits and poetry, remains more myth than memory in the canon of British history. How, then, can we begin to uncover the personal and political dimensions that made up Elizabeth’s life? And what is it like—as writers, students, and scholars of history—to attempt to understand a legend of the royal kind?

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What is life?

Did you learn about Mrs Gren at school? She was a useful person to know when you wanted to remember that Movement, Respiration, Sensation, Growth, Reproduction, Excretion, and Nutrition were the defining signs of life. But did you ever wonder how accurate this classroom mnemonic really is, or where it comes from?

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The end of liberalism?

Following the disastrous performance of the Liberal Democrats in the recent British election, concern has been expressed that ‘core liberal values’ have to be kept alive in British politics. At the same time, the Labour Party has already begun a process of critical self-examination that would almost certainly move it to what they consider more centrist ground.

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A royal foxhunt: The abdication of Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Stewart became Queen of Scots aged only 6 days old after her father James V died in 1542. Her family, whose name was anglicised to Stuart in the seventeenth century, had ruled Scotland since 1371 and were to do so until the death of Queen Anne in 1714. Raised in France from 1548, she married the heir to the French throne (1558) and did not come to Scotland until after he died in 1561.

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10 things you may not know about Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys’s diary of the 1660s provides ample evidence that he enjoyed writing about himself. As a powerful naval administrator, he was also a great believer in the merits of official paperwork. The upshot is that he left behind many documents detailing the dangers and the pleasures of his life in London. Here are some facts about him that you may not know…

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How much do you know about Roman Britain? [quiz]

For four centuries Britain was an integral part of the Roman Empire, a political system stretching from Turkey to Portugal and from the Red Sea to the Tyne and beyond. Britain’s involvement with Rome started long before its Conquest, and it continued to be a part of the Roman world for some time after the final break with Roman rule. But how much do you know about this important period of British history?

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Did the League of Nations ultimately fail?

The First World War threw the imperial order into crisis. New states emerged, while German and Ottoman territories fell to the allies who wanted to keep their acquisitions. In the following three videos Susan Pedersen, author of The Guardians, discusses the emegence of the League of Nations and its role in imperial politics.

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Braddocks Defeat

Ten questions about Braddock’s Defeat

On 9 July 1755, British troops under the command of General Edward Braddock suffered one of the greatest disasters of military history. Braddock’s Defeat, or the Battle of the Monongahela, was the most important battle prior to the American Revolution, carrying with it enormous consequences for the British, French, and Native American peoples of North America.

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Prince Charles, George Peele, and the theatrics of monarchical ceremony

Today marks the forty-sixth anniversary of Prince Charles’s formal investiture as Prince of Wales. At the time of this investiture, Charles himself was just shy of his twenty-first birthday, and in a video clip from that year, the young prince looks lean and fresh-faced in his suit, his elbows resting on his knees, his hands clasping and unclasping as he speaks to the importance of the investiture.

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The Battle of Marston Moor and the English Revolution

As a schoolboy I was told that on the eve of the battle of Marston Moor in 1644, as the rival armies drew up, a sturdy yokel was found ploughing his fields. When brought up to speed about the war between King and parliament he asked, “What has they two fallen out again?”.

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Does everyone love the National Health Service? Uncovering history’s critics

The National Health Service (NHS) has never just been about the state’s provision of universal healthcare. Since 1948, it has been invested with a spectrum of ‘British values’, including decency, fairness, and respect. Featured in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and hailed in polls as the thing that makes people most proud of being British, the NHS enjoys widespread affection.

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How do we remember the Battle of Waterloo?

From the moment the news of the victory was announced in London, Waterloo was hailed as a victory of special significance, all the more precious for being won on land against England’s oldest rival, France. Press and politicians alike built Waterloo into something exceptional. Castlereagh in Parliament would claim, for instance, that Waterloo was Wellington’s victory over Napoleon and that ‘it was an achievement of such high merit, of such pre-eminent importance, as had never perhaps graced the annals of this or any other country till now’.

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A Magna Carta reading list

King John II of England ascended to the throne in 1199 after a tumultuous accession war with his nephew, Arthur of Brittany, and his ally Phillip II of France. His inheritance was the Angevin Empire, consisting of England, most of Wales and Ireland, and a large swathe of France stretching south to Toulouse and Aquitaine. And yet, this empire was crumbling. It is in this context that one of the greatest legal documents in the world was written.

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