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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Flying kites: politics, elections, and The One Show

Apparently there is a Chinese proverb that says ‘unless there is opposing wind, a kite cannot rise’ but in the context of British politics it appears that only one kite is really rising, and the other is tumbling down. If truth be told the wind of opposition has arguably been so feeble that the Labour Party’s kite appears leaden rather than light.

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How to use repetition

A couple times a week, I hear someone remark “It is what it is,” accompanied by a weary sigh. I always puzzle over the expression a little bit, thinking What else could it be?

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Business as usual in Washington?

While these behaviors may be no more troubling to a large swath of the electorate in the United States than revolving door lobbyists or campaign finance run amok, they should be. Some legal scholars contend that cumulatively, Trump’s actions may well violate the emoluments clause of the US Constitution. Taken individually, however, none of his actions seem likely to be illegal or corrupt.

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The classics book club at Bryant Park Reading Room

Oxford University Press has once again teamed up with the Bryant Park Reading Room on their summer literary series. The Bryant Park Reading Room was first established in 1935 by the New York Public Library as a refuge for the thousands of unemployed New Yorkers during the Great Depression.

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From the life of words, part 2

I am picking up where I left off last week. At first sight, nothing could be more straightforward than the adjective still. It has always meant “fixed, not moving.” We sit still, come to a standstill, and enjoy still lifes (that is, pictures of living things in a state of rest).

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Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: an audio guide

2017 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. In honor of Austen, listen to Fiona Stafford of Somerville College, Oxford, as she introduces and discusses Pride and Prejudice. Pride and Prejudice has delighted generations of readers with its unforgettable cast of characters, carefully choreographed plot, and a hugely entertaining view of the world and […]

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Remembering veterans

With Memorial Day in the U.S. right around the corner, we’re bringing you a glimpse into a handful of oral history projects focused on collecting and preserving the memories of military veterans.

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Pandemics in the age of Trump

If Donald Trump’s administration maintains its commitments to stoking nationalism, reducing foreign aid, and ignoring or denying science, the United States and the world will be increasingly vulnerable to pandemics. History is not a blueprint for future action—history, after all, never offers perfect analogies. When it comes to pandemic disease focusing on nationalist interests is exactly the wrong approach to take.

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Looking forward to Hay Festival 2017

This year Hay Festival is celebrating its 30 anniversary – cooked up round the kitchen table all those years ago it is now a global phenomenon. As part of their celebrations this year they have scheduled 30 Reformation speakers, one of whom is Sarah Harper who will be focusing on ‘Ageing’. She will also be recording one of BBC Radio 3’s Essays. The festival is very good at celebrating not only new writers but also young writers who ‘inspire and astonish’ and I am thrilled that they have selected Devi Sridhar.

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From the life of words, part 1

From time to time, various organizations invite me to speak about the history of words. The main question I hear is why words change their meaning. Obviously, I have nothing new to say on this subject, for there is a chapter on semantic change in countless books, both popular and special.

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Aristophanes: Frogs and other plays [extract]

The Theatre of Dionysos in Athens, on the south-east slope of the Akropolis, was the location for the dramatic performances at both the City Dionysia and, almost certainly, the Lenaia too (cf.‘Aristophanes’ Career’, above).

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What everyone needs to know about Russian hacking

Hackers working on behalf of the Russian government have attacked a wide variety of American citizens and institutions. They include political targets of both parties, like the Democratic National Committee, and also the Republican National Committee, as well as prominent Democrat and Republican leaders, civil society groups like various American universities and academic research programs.

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Catching up with Nicole Piendel, Multimedia Producer

Another week, another great staff member to get to know. When you think of the world of publishing, the work of videos, podcasts, photography, and animated GIFs doesn’t immediately come to mind. But here at Oxford University Press we have Nicole Piendel, who joined the Social Media team as a Multimedia Producer at the start of this year.

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The illegitimate open-mindedness of arithmetic

We are often told that we should be open-minded. In other words, we should be open to the idea that even our most cherished, most certain, most secure, most well-justified beliefs might be wrong. But this is, in one sense, puzzling.

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Prime numbers and how to find them

Prime numbers have now become a crucial part of modern life, but they have been fascinating mathematicians for thousands of years. A prime number is always bigger than 1 and can only be divided by itself and 1 – no other number will divide in to it. So the number 2 is the first prime number, then 3, 5, 7, and so on. Non-prime numbers are defined as composite numbers (they are composed of other smaller numbers).

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At bay: where is that bay?

To keep somebody or something at bay means “to keep a dangerous opponent at a distance; to hold off, ward off a disaster, etc.” The very first interpreters of this idiom guessed its origin correctly. They stated that bay here means “to bark” and that at bay refers to hunting.

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