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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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15338592

Learning from disaster

As part of our 50th anniversary issue of the OHR, Abigail Perkiss explored the impact of oral history in the aftermath of a Hurricane Sandy in her article Staring Out to Sea and the Transformative Power of Oral History for Undergraduate Interviewers.

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What’s in a name?

In September 2015, the UK Met Office and Met Éireann (the Irish meteorological service) announced a project to give names to potentially damaging storms. The basis for naming any particular storm was the expectation that there would be major impacts on conditions over the British Isles and, in particular, of very high winds. The first storm, Abigail, brought high winds to northern Scotland and the Outer Hebrides.

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Approaching “brash”

Two weeks ago, I promised to deal with the word brash, but, before doing so, I would like to make it clear that we are approaching a minefield. Few people, except for professional etymologists, think of words in terms of phonetic or semantic groups.

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The making of Wells: from Bertie to H. G.

Youthful Bertie Wells was understandably depressed in the depths of winter in early 1888. He had escaped the drudgery of being a draper’s apprentice with a scholarship, only to flunk his second-year university exams and lose his funding to the Normal School of Science in Kensington.

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Caring about the past in the embattled present

Growing up in Manhattan meant that I didn’t live among ancient ruins – just subway stations, high-rise apartments, and Central Park’s relatively recent architectural confections. It took living for a year in Europe as a six-year old and for another year as a ten-year old to develop awareness about our collective heritage stretching back millennia. Visiting the vacant site of Stonehenge on a blustery fall day in the early 1960s

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What to keep in mind for the inauguration

Given our constitutional separation of powers, it seems odd that a presidential inauguration takes place on the Capitol steps. Like so much else in American history, the story begins with George Washington. In 1789, the First Congress met in New York City, where it proceeded to count the electoral ballots, an easy task since the vote had been unanimous.

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9780195387070

From good wine to ivy

Last week’s post was about the proverb: “Good wine needs no bush,” and something was said about ivy as an antidote to good and bad wine. So now it may not be entirely out of place to discuss the origin of the word ivy, even though I have an entry on it my dictionary.

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Three myths about the Electoral College

Since the election, we Americans have engaged in a healthy debate about the Electoral College. My instincts in this debate are those of an institutional conservative: Writing our Constitution from scratch today, we would not have designed the Electoral College as it has evolved. However, institutions become embedded in societies. To further this debate, consider these three contentions often heard today about the Electoral College.

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The language of chess

The dust has barely settled on last year’s world chess championship match in New York: Norway’s Magnus Carlson defended his title again the tough challenger Sergei Karjakin, in a close match. The event got me thinking about the language of chess strategy and tactics and the curious history and multicultural origins of chess terminology.

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Welcome to the year of living dangerously – 2017

I am not usually a worried man but today – New Year’s Day 2017 – I am a worried man. Gripped by an existential fear, my mind is restless, alert, and tired. The problem? A sense of foreboding that the impact of the political events of 2016 will shortly come home to roost on a world that is already short on collective good will or trust. There is also a sense that games are being played by a new uber-elite of political non-politicians.

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Learning from each other

Fate intervened this summer, giving me the opportunity to teach a History 201 class this fall at UW-Madison. Over the course of fifteen weeks I instructed 15 first-year undergraduates about oral history.

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How much capital?

Almost a decade after the global financial crisis, most regulators and commentators would agree that the banking industry is far more strongly capitalized than it was in the run-up to the crisis. Looking forward, there is less consensus as to how much capital banks should hold. Neel Kashkari, head of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, attracted attention recently by calling for huge increases in minimum capital requirements for banks.

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In one’s cups, or: good wine needs no bush

A Happy New Year! It has arrived, in full accordance with The Oxford Etymologist’s bold promise. Once upon a time, the ability to see into the future was called second sight (clairvoyance is too bookish).

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Globalization’s prospects, 2017

2016 was a rough year for globalization. And 2017 may get even rougher. By globalization, I mean the growing interconnectedness between economies through cross-border flows of goods and services, money, and people. The world has undergone two “eras of globalization” during the past century and a half. The first occurred during the 40 years or so before World War I.

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Reading War and Peace

Maybe you’ve read War and Peace; maybe you haven’t. Maybe you got part of the way through its 1,392 pages and lost the will to continue. (It happens to the best of us!) If you’re in one of the latter two camps, Brian E. Denton is here to change your mind. A freelance writer based in Queens, New York, Brian has read War and Peace seven times already and has no plans to stop there. I talked to Brian to find out what makes War and Peace so special

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Home: A Very Short Introduction

Why is home so important to us?

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” “Home is where the heart is.” These well-known expressions indicate that home is somewhere that is both desirable and that exists in the mind’s eye as much as in a particular physical location. Across cultures and over the centuries people of varied means have made homes for themselves and those they care about.

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