Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

What is biblical archaeology? [Extract]

“These were some of the original questions in biblical archaeology that intrigued the earliest pioneers of the field. They still resonate today but are far from being answered.” In the following excerpt from Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction, Eric H. Cline explains the interests of biblical archaeologists, and explores the types of questions that those in the field set out to answer.

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Facts about Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems

Of all Shakespeare’s great plays his most frequently published work in his lifetime his erotic poem, Venus and Adonis. Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Poems may often feel less familiar than his plays, but they have also seeped into our cultural history. Within them, they reveal much about the Bard himself and include a number of surprises. Here are a few lesser known facts about Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems.

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Freemasonry and the public sphere in the UK

Freemasonry once again hit the headlines of UK media on New Year’s Eve 2017, revealing the contentious nature of the place of secrecy in public life. Just having concluded the celebration of its tercentenary anniversary year, the United Grand Lodge of England found itself at the center of controversy. How far can membership in a masonic lodge be regarded as incompatible with the exercise of a public office?

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The Jewish experience in the United States [extract]

To a great extent, Jews have realized the promise of Washington’s America. They have been much admired, in no small part because of the belief that they are the progenitors of the biblical spirit on which America was built. It was this recognition that prompted Washington’s successor, John Adams, to declare of the Jews in 1808: “They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth.”

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How many ‘Earths’? Rich findings in the hunt for planets of other stars

Ever since it was realised that the stars are other suns, people have wondered whether any of them are accompanied by planets, or ‘exoplanets’ as we now call them. Speculation along these lines were among the charges that led to Giordano Bruno being burned at the stake in the year 1600. It is only since the 1930s that astronomers seriously thought they had the observational tools to be able to find out.

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Brexit versus UK higher education

Higher education has generally been reckoned to be one of the UK’s success stories, competing with the best American universities and setting the standard against which universities in other European countries measure themselves. UK universities receive roughly €1bn a year from European programs, as well as scooping up many of the brightest students from around Europe who want to study in Britain.

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Why do so many people believe in miracles?

Belief in miracles is widespread. According to recent surveys 72% of people in the USA and 59% of people in the UK believe that miracles take place. Why do so many people believe in miracles in the present age of advanced science and technology? Let us briefly consider three possible answers to this question. The first possible answer is simply that miracles actually do take place all the time.

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Eubulides and his paradoxes

Who was the greatest paradoxer in Ancient Western Philosophy? If one were to ask this question of a person who knows something of the history of logic and philosophy, they would probably say Zeno of Elea (c. 490-460 BCE). However, for my money, the answer would be wrong. The greatest paradoxer is not Zeno, but the Megarian philosopher Eubulides of Miletus (fl . 4c BCE).

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10 facts about fungi

Fungi play an important role for a balanced life of flora, fauna, and humans alike. But are they important for us humans, and how are fungi related to animals? Nicholas P. Money, author of Fungi: A Very Short Introduction, tells us 10 things everyone should know about fungi, and the role they play in the world.

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10 facts about spirituality

What does spirituality really mean? Is spirituality distinct from religion? Why is spirituality becoming increasingly popular and how has the term evolved and used today from its Christian roots? Philip Sheldrake, author of Spirituality: A Very Short Introduction, talks about what he thinks are the top 10 facts everyone should know about spirituality.

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How did the Jews survive? Two unlikely historical explanations

How have the Jews survived over the centuries? This is a question that has intrigued and perplexed many. While powerful world empires have risen and fallen, this miniscule, largely stateless, and often despised group has managed to ward off countless threats to its existence and survive for millennia. In seeking to answer the question, a wide range of theological, political, and sociological explanations have been proffered.

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How to measure social pain

Against the grain of much twentieth-century research on the nature and function of pain in humans, which tended to focus on injury and the bodily mechanics of pain signalling, recent neuroscientific research has opened a new front in the study of social and emotional pain.

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300 years of fraternal history

Around midsummer 1717 the first masonic Grand lodge is said to have been created in London. Although the event is not documented in any primary sources, freemasons across the globe – and there are between 2 and 3 millions of them – celebrate this tercentenary with a host of special events: concerts, exhibitions and parades. But what role has the fraternity played in history?

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9 facts about hermeneutics

Hermeneutics is the art of understanding and of making oneself understood. But what does ‘hermeneutics’ mean? Where did the term originate and how is it used in day-to-day life? Jens Zimmermann, author of Hermeneutics: A Very Short Introduction, tells us 9 things everyone should know about hermeneutics.

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Did branding predict Brexit?

Branding predicted Brexit. This bald assertion points to a fascinating truth about the art of branding. Because branding feeds on, and feeds into, popular culture, it’s often a leading indicator of bigger, political phenomena. Where branding leads, the rest of us follow. Let me explain. 2016 was the year of populism. Among other things, the phenomenon of Brexit and Trump was a popular backlash against the globalisation.

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10 facts about the animal kingdom

How many species of animals are there? What is the largest animal, and how are we related to rats? Peter Holland, the author of The Animal Kingdom: A Very Short Introduction, tells us 10 things everyone should know about the animal kingdom, and how we humans fit in.

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