Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Musical literacy in Shakespeare’s England

It is a commonplace to say that, in Renaissance England, music was everywhere. Yet, however true the statement is, it obscures the fact that music existed in many different forms, with very different functions and very different meanings.

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What would Shakespeare drive?

Like many Elizabethan gentlemen who had business in London but family in the provinces, Shakespeare would have spent a considerable amount of time on horseback. Few of his contemporaries, however, had Shakespeare’s talent for turning the vexations of travel into deathless verse. Sonnet 50 recounts a trip on horseback in which the poet’s reluctance to leave his beloved makes him keenly conscious of his body as a burden that increases the animal’s suffering: “The beast that bears me, tired with my woe, / Plods dully on to bear that weight in me”. According to Galenic medicine, black bile, or melancholy, was considered the heaviest of the four bodily humors.

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Culloden, tourism, and British memory

As the beginnings of large-scale travel and tourism through Scotland began within fifteen or twenty years of the battle of Culloden, it might have been expected that the conflict would become an early site of memory.

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The case of BHS and change on the UK High Street

BHS is, or perhaps that should read was, a familiar presence to shoppers across the UK, with over 160 stores in high streets and shopping centres. The general merchandise retailer combining clothing and home products had traded for nearly 90 years before it was placed into administration in April 2016.

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The EU referendum: a reading list

On 23rd June 2016, a referendum will be held in order to decide whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union. In light of this, we have put together this reading list.

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Lord Byron’s Passion

Two hundred years ago today Lord Byron wrote a brief, untitled Gothic fragment that is now known as ‘Augustus Darvell’, the name of its central character. The most famous author in the world at the time, Byron produced the tale when he was living at the Villa Diodati, on the shores of Lake Geneva, and in the daily company of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin (the future Mary Shelley), and John Polidori, Byron’s personal physician.

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Why study English? Literature, politics, and the university, 1932-1965

What is the purpose of studying English? How does language underpin politics? What role, if any, should the subject play within democratic society? Attempts to understand attitudes towards these questions in the early-to-mid-twentieth century have previously emphasized two hostile schools of thought. Firstly, an approach towards criticism influenced by the Cambridge critic F.R. Leavis, who emphasized both the moral seriousness of literature.

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Valuing sadness, past and present

In September 2013, the American comedian Louis C.K. talked to chat-show host Conan O’Brien about the value of sadness. His comments grew out of a discussion about mobile phones, and the way they may distract us from the reality of our emotions.

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Shakespeare: living in a world of witches

Since he was born a year after the Witchcraft and Conjuration Act of 1563 brought about the era of the witch trials in England, it is hardly a surprise that witches and witchcraft would come to feature in Shakespeare’s work.

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Revealing lives of women in science and technology: the case of Sarah Guppy

Guppy, as a patent-holding female inventor, is a rare type for the early 19th century but one that we are clearly eager to hear about today. It is the kind of life that (mostly women) historians have been researching since the 1970s and, more recently, has been transformed into popular role model: the archetypical example is Ada Lovelace, whose name has been adopted for a day celebrating and encouraging women in science and technology.

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The forgotten history of piracy in the Indian Ocean

Strangely enough, in this contest between sovereignty and piracy, law played a minor role. European sovereigns periodically made ritual invocations of the natural law that held pirates as enemies of all mankind, but in reality, the seas remained an unbounded realm. Thus, in the context of India’s western seaboard, piracy happened more in the littoral than on the high seas.

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The mysterious search for the Cardinal’s girlfriend

From the goosebump-producing thrills of Wilkie Collins’s fiction and the melodramas on offer at the Royal Princess’ Theatre to the headlines blaring in the Illustrated Police News, the Victorians savoured the sensational. The attention-seeking title above is patently untrue, yet, for more than five decades, John Henry Newman (the Cardinal) was emotionally, spiritually, and textually connected with Maria Rosina Giberne, a wholly intriguing figure.

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Bookselling and the feminist past

The ‘disappearance’ of booksellers from Hong Kong in recent months reminds us that the free circulation of print can be very directly challenging to the powerful. Within social movements ranging across civil rights, disability, anti-apartheid, socialism, and anti-colonial nationalisms, books, print presses, and bookshops have been central to the movements’ intellectual development and comradeship. The women’s movement has had a similarly close relationship to print; bookshops, periodicals, and presses were a thriving presence within Edwardian women’s suffrage circles.

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