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The Enlightenment and visual impairment

Blindness is a recurrent image in Enlightenment rhetoric. It is used in a political context to indicate a lack of awareness, seen in a letter from Edmund Burke to the chevalier de La Bintinnaye, in poetic rhetoric, with the stories of the blind poets Milton, Homer, and Ossian circulating among the intelligentsia of the time, or simply as a physical irritation, when writers with long lives and extensive correspondences frequently complained of their eyesight deteriorating.

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The social importance of dance in the 17th and 18th centuries

In the 21st century, dance is a part of life—it can be an occupation, a part of traditional weddings, a hobby, and a pastime, among other things. However, it is regarded quite differently than it was in the time of the Enlightenment, when it was a much more important part of regular social life, especially for the wealthier classes. In this time, young adults went to dance instructors to make sure they were properly trained for the social activities they would soon be a part of. Read on for excerpts of correspondence from Electronic Enlightenment highlighting just how important dancing was to everyday life in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Who were the Carlisle Commissioners? Part one

By Dr. Robert V. McNamee
In July, Electronic Enlightenment (EE) updated with materials taken from the Virginia Historical Society and the correspondence of Adam Ferguson, amongst others. These apparently disparate historical correspondences (and others already published in EE) are brought together within this unique digital framework so that students, scholars and the public can read, in this instance, “across the Atlantic”.

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The surviving letters of Jane Austen

Famed English novelist Jane Austen had an extensive, intimate correspondence with her older sister Cassandra throughout her life, writing thousands of letters before her untimely death at the age of 41 in July 1817. However, only 161 have survived to this day. Cassandra purged the letters in the 1840s, destroying a majority and censoring those that remained of any salacious gossip in a bid to protect Jane’s reputation.

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Preparing for APA Eastern Meeting 2014

Look out Philadelphia!Oxford University Press has been attending the American Philosophical Association-East conferences for decades. The conference has been held in various cities including Baltimore, MD, Newark, DE, New York, NY, and Boston, MA. This year, we’re gearing up to travel to Philadelphia, we’ve asked our staff across various divisions to see what they are looking forward to.

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Georges Pierre des Clozets: the 17th century conman

By Daniel Parker
However embarrassingly you may have been hoodwinked on April Fool’s Day in the past, it is incredibly unlikely that you’ll have ever been swindled by French confidence trickster Georges Pierre des Clozets, who represented a completely fictional secret Alchemy society called ‘The Asterism’. That dubious honour fell to Robert Boyle, philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor, who was duped in the latter part of the 17th century.

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A voyage in letters [infographic]

The 17th century saw great, heroic voyages of discovery — voyages into the unknown, voyages potentially into the abyss. The 18th century saw a slow transformation in travel — if for no other reason than the incremental improvement and progress in the methods of travel.

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Who were the Carlisle Commissioners? Part two: Jeremy Bentham

By Daniel Parker
Jeremy Bentham wanted to become a Carlisle Peace Commissioner but his application was wilfully ignored by Governor Johnstone. The Carlisle Peace Commissioners set out to the United States in 1778, three years into the American Revolutionary War, to negotiate a peace treaty.

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The marginalized Alexander Pope

By Dr. Robert V. McNamee
Spring 2013 marks two significant anniversaries for Alexander Pope, perhaps the most representative and alien English poet of the 18th century. Pope is memorialized both for the 325th anniversary of his birth, on 21 May 1688, and for the 300th anniversary of two significant literary acts: one a publication, the other a proposal to publish.

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Descartes’ dogs

By Robert V. McNamee and Daniel Parker
It is well known in the history of psychology that Descartes was an early thinker on what we would now call classical conditioning or Pavlovian conditioning, which he referred to as “reflex”. However, an early epistolary reference seems generally to be missed: his letter to his friend Marin Mersenne, 18 March 1630.

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Thomas Gray and Horace Walpole on Grand Tour, spread news of a papal election, 1739/1740

By Dr. Robert V. McNamee
On Sunday, 29 March 1739, two young men, aspiring authors and student friends from Eton College and Cambridge, departed Dover for the Continent. The twenty-two year old Horace Walpole, 4th earl of Orford (1717–1797), was setting out on his turn at the Grand Tour. Accompanying him on the journey, which would take them through France to Italy, was Thomas Gray (1716–1771), future author of the “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”.

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Voltaire on death

Voltaire, the French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, wrote over 20,000 letters over his lifetime. One can read through his letters to learn more about his views on democracy and religion, as well as the soul and afterlife. The following excerpts from his letters show how his thoughts and ideas about death and the soul evolved over time.

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Who wrote Gulliver’s Travels?

Originally published anonymously, Jonathan Swift sent the manuscript for the satirical masterpiece Gulliver’s Travels to his publisher under a pseudonym and handled any correspondence and corrections through friends. As such, even though close friends such as Alexander Pope knew about the publication, Swift still kept up the ruse of feigning ignorance about the book in his correspondence with them.

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How to educate your child in the seventeenth century

The end of summer and beginning of autumn mean that children and young adults worldwide are heading back to school. While much has changed since the time of the seventeenth century – which children were allowed to go to school and which weren’t, and what they were taught there, for example – one thing that has not changed is the worry a parent feels about their child getting the best education they can.

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David Hume: friendships, feuds, and faith

Who exactly was David Hume? He was a Scottish historian and philosopher (best known today for his radical empiricism), who prided himself on his reputation as a man of the utmost moral character.

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Why do we love our pets so much?

Since time immemorial, humans have kept animals for companions. Pets are known to provide physical and emotional benefits, not only in terms of companionship, but also in terms of outdoor adventure, exercise, and socializing with other pet owners. As Sigmund Feud once said, “Time spent with cats is never wasted.” Dogs and cats have been particular favourites throughout the ages, with cats commonly thought to have been domesticated in ancient Egypt, and dogs from the time of the hunter-gatherers.

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