Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

How Nations Remember: A Narrative Approach

The road from Berlin in 1989 to America today

In November 1989, the world watched with disbelief as crowds tore down the Berlin Wall. In America, we assumed that we were witnessing the end of communism and speculated about the rise of democracy in Eastern Europe and maybe even in the Soviet Union. These ideas guided our thinking for the next several years, but […]

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Seeing is believing (?)

Today I’ll try to say something about the verb “see.” Once again, we’ll have to admit that the more basic a word is, the less we know about its remote history.

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The Drama of History by Kristin Gjesdal

Staging philosophy: the relationship between philosophy and drama

Where does philosophy belong? In lecture halls, libraries, and campus offices? In town squares? In public life? One answer to this question, exceedingly popular from the Enlightenment onward, has been that philosophy belongs on stage—not in the sense that this is the only place we should find it, but that the relationship between philosophy and drama is particularly productive and promising.

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Colliding Worlds

Do Look Up! Could a comet really kill us all?

When it comes to catastrophic events for humans, a big nasty asteroid or comet colliding with Earth tops the chart, and several movies have exploited this scenario. The recent Netflix movie “Don’t Look Up” did that again, but as a satire and a warning. It is widely considered an allegory for climate change, but let’s consider the astronomical scenario as presented. Is such a scenario scientifically sound?

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Spying Through a Glass Darkly: The Ethics of Espionage and Counter-Intelligence

The morality of espionage: do we have a moral duty to spy?

Why spy? . . . For as long as rogues become leaders, we shall spy. For as long as there are bullies and liars and madmen in the world, we shall spy. For as long as nations compete, and politicians deceive, and tyrants launch conquests, and consumers need resources, and the homeless look for land, and the hungry for food, and the rich for excess, your chosen profession is perfectly secure, I can assure you. (John Le Carré, “The Secret Pilgrim”)

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Forms of Astonishment: Greek Myths of Metamorphosis by Richard Buxton

Charlie Chaplin and the art of metamorphosis

Charlie Chaplin was certainly the greatest mime, probably the greatest actor, and arguably the greatest artist in any medium in the twentieth century. As self-transformations go, his personal rags-to riches story is hard to match. But the theme of metamorphosis also permeates his movies.

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After a sun eclipse: bedposts and curtains in sex life and warfare

The phrase in a/the twinkling of a bedpost (with the archaic variant bedstaff) means the same as in a twinkling of an eye, that is, “very quickly,” because twinkle, when used metaphorically, refers to a rapid movement. Agreed: eyes and stars twinkle, but bedposts don’t, and here is the rub.

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Screening the Police: Film and Law Enforcement in the United States by Noah Tsika

Beyond “Copaganda”: Hollywood’s offscreen relationship with the police

Do Hollywood’s portrayals of policing matter as much as the industry’s material entwinement with law enforcement—as much as the working relationships pursued beyond the screen? Instead of conceding that the consumers of popular media are eminently capable of thinking for themselves (and thus of resisting flattering depictions of power), more and more commentators are calling for the complete elimination of cop shows, cinematic police chases, and other, ostensibly entertaining images of law enforcement.

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The Periodic Table: Its Story and its Significance by Eric Scerri

The tree of life and the table of the elements

Darwin’s tree of life and Mendeleev’s periodic table of the elements share a number of interesting parallels, the most meaningful of which lie in the central role that each plays in its respective domain.

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Getting English under control

Any large organization or bureaucracy is likely to have a style guide for its internal documents, publications, and web presence. Some organizations go a step further and develop what is known as a control language.

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Trust and Distrust: Corruption in Office in Britain and its Empire, 1600-1850

Britain’s long struggle with corruption

Corruption has risen to the top of the British political agenda. Even if we agree with Boris Johnson that the UK is “not remotely a corrupt country”, then Britain certainly did struggle with corruption in the past. Indeed it has had a long history of corruption and anti-corruption. This has some lessons for today.

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