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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The war on Christmas: a two thousand year history [timeline]

Is there a war on Christmas? Yes. And it’s been fought for almost two thousand years. Since their earliest incarnation, Christmas festivities have been criticized and even outlawed. In the timeline below, historian and Christmas expert Gerry Bowler takes a look at this long history—from nativity protests in 240 through the billboard wars of 2014.

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Historical Commemoration and Denial in Australia

Last month a statue commemorating Captain James Cook in Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia was attacked, the words ‘Change the date’ spray-painted on it. This act continues recent protests by indigenous people and their supporters which have called for the changing of the day upon which Australia celebrates its founding: 26 January 1788.

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The relevance of the Russian Revolution [video]

This year, 2017, marks the centennial of the Russian Revolution, a defining moment in time with ripple effects felt across the world to this day. In the following video, author Laura Engelstein sits down with Oxford University Press editor Tim Bent to discuss the history of the revolution, its global impact, and her book Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War, 1914-1921.

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Not finding Bigfoot

The Renaissance is remembered as a time of renewed interest in scientific investigation, yet it also brought a huge increase in sightings of fantastic creatures such as mermaids and sea serpents. One explanation for this apparent paradox is that the revival of classical art and literature inspired explorers to look for the creatures of Greco-Roman mythology. Another reason was the expansion of trade. Cryptids, fantastic creatures that elude established terms of description, tend to arise on the boundary of two or more cultures.

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100 years since the world shook [excerpt]

The fall of the Romanov dynasty may have occurred in an instant, but the wheels were set in motion long before 1917. The effects of the Russian revolution were felt far beyond the borders of Eastern Europe and changed the course of world history forever. In this centenary year, Laura Engelstein, author of Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War, 1914-1921, takes us back to the brutal battles that took place at the beginning of the 20th century, and gives us reason as to why we need to revisit it now.

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What drives displacement and refuge?

Global refugee numbers are at their highest levels since the end of World War II, but the system in place to deal with them, based upon a humanitarian list of imagined “basic needs,” has changed little. In this excerpt from Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, authors Paul Collier and Alexander Betts explain the cause and effect of mass violence, a far too common pre-cursor to refugee crises and global displacement.

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Warfare as the creator and destroyer of nations

There are at least four ways in which warfare in its changing forms has been formative in the rise and transformation of national collectivities. First, warfare has been central for much nation-state formation. Most nation-states that came into existence before the mid-20th century were created by war or had their boundaries defined by wars or internal violence.

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Why are world food problems so hard to solve?

More than 20 million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and northeast Nigeria are now facing extreme hunger, with the potential for not just widespread death, but also the deepening of long-term political and military crises in East Africa. United Nations humanitarian coordinator Stephen O’Brien has called this food crisis the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945.

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April 1917: the end of American neutrality in WWI

Mary Roberts Rinehart’s journey since 1914 perhaps best represents the mood and the moment of April 1917. She had been one of the first Americans to urge a more assertive posture toward the war. Two years earlier, Rinehart had written that although she supported the United States taking a more active pro-Allied stance in the wake of the Lusitania tragedy, she was glad that her sons were then too young to fight if it came to war.

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Are you an expert on international organizations? [quiz]

With the upcoming publication of Oppenheim’s International Law: United Nations and the highly anticipated launch of Oxford International Organizations (OXIO), international law has never been more relevant. From the United Nations to UNICEF, this quiz will put one’s international law knowledge to the test. Oppenheim’s International Law: United Nations is an authoritative and comprehensive study of the United Nations’ legal practice.

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Social History of Medicine Journal Cover

What not to expect when you’re expecting

Writing in 1990 about her experience attending antenatal classes in the 1950s, British mother and childbirth activist Heda Borton recalled her husband squirming as he watched a film of a baby being born in their antenatal education class: “My husband came to the evening under protest, and sat blowing his nose and hiding behind his handkerchief.”

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Gardens and cultural memory

Most gardens are in predictable places and are organised in predictable ways. On entering an English suburban garden, for example, one expects to see a lawn bordered by hedges and flowerbeds, a hard surface with a table for eating al fresco on England’s two days of summer, and a water feature quietly burbling in a corner.

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How historians have shaped military history [excerpt]

A widespread belief persisted, not for centuries but for at least two millennia, that when world history turned, it did so on a few days or hours of intense violence, in major battles waged and won by great captains of special courage and genius. The ascent or toppling of dynasties and empires could be explained by a singular clash of arms so complete that the winner dictated the political and cultural direction taken by the loser.

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How a comet crash on Jupiter may lead us to mine asteroids near Earth

This past December, millions of people around the world gazed in wonder at the rising of the so-called “super moon.” The moon looks super when it turns full on its closest approach to Earth, and variations in its orbit brought it nearer to us than it has been in almost 70 years. Yet even this extra super moon was scarcely bigger than a regular full moon, and few would have noticed the difference without breathless media reports that encouraged them to see it.

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Librarians’ favorite books around the world

Throughout 2016, Oxford University Press has traveled all around the world meeting and talking with librarians to learn about their favorite books. From a Colombian librarian who prefers a French author, to a French librarian who’s enamored with an American novel, the results from our year-long quest exemplify the universal reach of

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The Amazons ride again

The Amazons of Greek legend have fascinated humans for the past 3,000 years. The Amazon women were faster, smarter, and better than men, or so claimed the Greek author Lysias:
[The Amazons] alone of those dwelling around them were armed with iron, they were the first to ride horses, and, on account of the inexperience of their enemies, they overtook by

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