Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Re-thinking post-war theatre architecture

The official opening on 14 June 2018 by the Queen and Duchess of Sussex of Chester’s new cultural ‘hub’, Storyhouse, offers a timely moment to consider the theatre as a building type. Storyhouse is an interesting re-thinking of what an Arts building can be. It combines a theatre, cinema, library, and café, in an attempt to break down boundaries between artistic and institutional structures.

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Teenage rebellions: families divided by religion in the Reformation

Teenage rebellion is nothing new and religion can be a powerful flashpoint between parents and their children, convinced that the older generation has got it all wrong. As radical Islam attracts teenagers in 21st century Europe, so in early modern England the Reformation produced versions of Protestantism and Catholicism that provided powerful ways for children to reject their parents’ beliefs.

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Celebrating the NHS at 70

On the 5th of July 2018, the National Health Service (NHS) celebrated its 70th anniversary. Aneurin Bevan, the Minister for Health, founded the NHS in 1948 with the aim of bringing together hospitals, doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and opticians under a single umbrella organisation for the first time.

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Isobel and me: medieval sanctuary and Whig history

For the last fifteen years I have been having an intense dialogue in my head with a long-dead historian, Isobel D. Thornley (1893-1941). Isobel is my best frenemy. Two pieces she wrote in 1924 and 1932 remain standard citations for one of my favourite subjects, medieval sanctuary; this is a feat of scholarly longevity that few of her contemporaries can boast.

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Who discovered Newton’s Laws?

Newton’s famous remark, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” is not in his published work, but comes from a letter to a colleague and competitor. In context, it reads simply as an elaborately polite acknowledgment of previous work on optics, especially the work of the recipient of the letter, Robert Hooke. 

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Did Muslims forget about the Crusades?

The crusades are so ubiquitous these days that it is hard to imagine anyone ever forgetting them. People play video games like Assassin’s Creed (starring the Templars) and Crusader Kings II in droves, newsfeeds are filled with images of young men marching around in places like Charlottesville holding shields bearing the old crusader slogan “Deus vult” (God wills it!), and every year books about the crusades are published in their dozens, informing readers about the latest developments in crusader studies.

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Refugees, citizens, and camps: a very British history

Today, very few people think of Britain as a land of camps. Instead, camps seem to happen “elsewhere,” from Greece to Palestine to the global South. Yet during the 20th century, dozens of camps in Britain housed tens of thousands of Belgians, Jews, Basques, Poles, Hungarians, Anglo-Egyptians, Ugandan Asians, and Vietnamese.

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Five things you might not know about Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke (1730-1797) was an Irishman and a prominent Whig politician in late 18th century England, but he is now most commonly known as “the founder of modern conservatism”—the canonical position which he has held since the beginning of the 20th century in Britain and the rest of the world.

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Secret history: uncovering stories that never officially happened

Spy fiction has been a popular genre for over 100 years. Tales of Bond and Bourne continue to fascinate audiences worldwide. Sometimes, however, the realities of the shadowy world of espionage can be just as engrossing. There is just one problem: finding out what actually happened. This is especially the case when writing about deniable interference in the affairs of others: intelligence officers know it as “covert action.”

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John Tyndall in America

The development of the world, and of scientific discovery, is highly contingent on the actions of individual people. The Irish-born John Tyndall (c. 1822–93), controversial scientist, mountaineer, and public intellectual, nearly emigrated to America in his early 20s, like so many of his fellow countrymen. Had he done so, the trajectory of nineteenth-century scientific discovery would have been different.

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The social importance of dance in the 17th and 18th centuries

In the 21st century, dance is a part of life—it can be an occupation, a part of traditional weddings, a hobby, and a pastime, among other things. However, it is regarded quite differently than it was in the time of the Enlightenment, when it was a much more important part of regular social life, especially for the wealthier classes. In this time, young adults went to dance instructors to make sure they were properly trained for the social activities they would soon be a part of. Read on for excerpts of correspondence from Electronic Enlightenment highlighting just how important dancing was to everyday life in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Air Power: how aerial warfare has changed and remained the same

This year is the centenary of the Royal Air Force (RAF), which was the first independent air force.  Before I started writing Aerial Warfare, I would have assumed the answer to the question, ‘what was the first air arm?’ to be an early 20th century affair, armed with rickety biplanes.

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Shaping the legacy of Dame Cicely Saunders [excerpt]

She arrived in 1938, at age twenty-one, for the Michaelmas term. In that year, there were 850 women studying at the University, making up a record 18.5% of the student body. Cicely elected to read Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (P.P.E.). This programme of study had been established at Oxford in the 1920s as an alternative to ‘Greats’ or Classics. It was generally known as ‘Modern Greats’.

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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.

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