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1. A conversation with Alodie Larson, Editor of Grove Art Online

We are delighted to present a Q&A with the Editor of Grove Art Online, Alodie Larson. She began at Oxford last June, coming from JSTOR, where she spent four years as part of their editorial team, acquiring new journals for the archive. In the below interview, you’ll get to know Alodie as Editor, and also learn her thoughts on art history research and publishing. You can also find her Letter from the Editor on Oxford Art Online.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

When I was young, I would draw house plans (with elevations in the shape of animals) and make artwork with whatever I could find. In college, I studied architecture and the history of art; I completed my MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art, focusing on the architecture of Georgian England. Afterward, I moved to New York and lived in a comically small apartment with my brilliant friend who studied with me in London. She worked at Christie’s, and she kept me from straying too far from the art world while I worked at Random House. I began in the audio/digital department and later moved to the children’s division; I was lucky to learn from talented editors who were generous with their time. I became intimately familiar with Louis L’Amour novels, and I read Twilight when it was a stack of 8 ½ x 11 copy paper. I joined JSTOR in 2009, where I managed their list of journals in art and architecture. I contributed to a project to digitize a group of rare art journals like 291 and The Crayon, as well as to an effort to build a database of historical auction catalogs, all of which JSTOR made freely available along with their other content in the public domain. I also worked on business and sociology, which helped me to appreciate how research methods differ between disciplines. I am delighted to be here at Oxford as the steward of the Grove Dictionary of Art. In my free time I like to travel, visit museums, go to the opera, and refinish furniture. I am still somewhat disappointed that my current house plan is not shaped like a giraffe.

What is your favorite piece of art, of all time, and why?

I love Bernini’s David – the artist’s skill and inventiveness make this sculpture a singularly perfect object. In Bernini’s hands, marble seems to melt, as if it could be smoothed and stretched to his design. Grove’s biography explains this gift: “He felt that one of his greatest achievements was to have made marble appear as malleable as wax and so, in a certain sense, to have combined painting and sculpture into a new medium, one in which the sculptor handles marble as freely as a painter handles oils or fresco.” Unlike Michelangelo’s calm, anticipatory David, Bernini’s figure projects determination and energy. His body twists in motion, and as you circle him, you feel you are both being wound up together. I leave this sculpture feeling as if I have been flung out of the gallery, propelled by his purposeful strength.

David stands in my favorite museum, the Galleria Borghese, which adds to its grandeur as it is the original location intended for the sculpture. In the early 17th< century, Cardinal Scipione Borghese oversaw construction of the building—then the Villa Borghese—and commissioned David as well as a number of other stellar works from Bernini including Apollo and Daphne and Pluto and Proserpina. I relish seeing these sculptures in the magnificent home of Scipione’s original collection.

NLW Larson

Galleria Borghese, Rome. Photo courtesy of the Alodie Larson.

Since it’s impossible to get someone with an art background to answer this question briefly, I must add that I also particularly admire the work of Eduard Vuillard, Mark Rothko, Grant Wood, James Turrell, William Morris, Daniel Burnham, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Franz Kline, Xu Bing, and McKim, Mead & White. Closer to home, I have two favorite works of art that belong to me. The first is a watercolor sketch of Piccadilly Circus that I bought at a market in the courtyard of the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan. With minimal strokes it evokes the London crossroads on a rainy night in the late 50s (back when Gordon’s Gin and Wrigley’s Chewing Gum took up prime real estate in the neon collage).


Piccadilly Circus in London, 1962. Photo by Andrew Eick. Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons.

The second is a watercolor illustration of “Dradpot the Inverted Drool” drawn by my grandfather, Max V. Exner. He devoted his life to music but was a terrific artist as well, and our family lore has it that he was offered a job with Walt Disney Studios in the 1930s when a member of the company saw him doodling in a restaurant.

Also, in a beautiful, financially responsible future, I will have enough disposable income to buy an original work by David Shrigley. I urge him to try to become less famous so that I can afford this.

What is your favorite article in Grove Art Online?

I’m grateful that this role allows me to learn about artists I’ve never studied, and my favorite articles to read are those on subjects with which I’m not particularly familiar. Our forthcoming update includes new biographies on an outstanding group of contemporary artists from Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, Ghana, Senegal, and South Africa, which I have enjoyed.

I am partial to the articles written by some of my favorite architectural historians, particularly Leland M. Roth, whose Understanding Architecture (1993) is, I think, one of the most engaging introductory texts. His Grove article on the urban development of Boston gives a great overview of the subject. I also like David Watkin’s article on Sir John Soane. An excellent summary of Soane’s life and work, it is an absorbing narrative with entertaining flourishes. (“Despite Soane’s high professional standing, his idiosyncratic style was often ridiculed by contemporaries in such phrases as ‘ribbed like loins of pork’.”) I have always admired Soane’s work and his unconventional museum.

The breakfast parlour at Sir John Soane's Museum as pictured in the Illustrated London News in 1864

The breakfast parlour at Sir John Soane’s Museum as pictured in the Illustrated London News in 1864. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

What are some of the challenges of transitioning art history resources to an online environment?

Together, Grove and Benezit contain over 200,000 entries and images, and it is a challenge to organize that much information online in a clear, intuitive way that ensures researchers will find the articles they need. Many Grove entries first appeared in the print publication, The Dictionary of Art, and the article titles weren’t designed to fit well with modern keyword searches. Important essays can be buried within several layers of subheadings in long articles, sometimes with only date ranges as section titles. For a print work, it makes sense; you’d want all of the articles on a topic or region to be gathered together and located within the same physical volume. However, in an online environment, ideal heading structure would aid successful keyword matches and avoid cumbersomely long entries.

Despite the challenges, an online environment offers more powerful research options. Both Grove and Benezit are organized under a robust taxonomy, and this information allows users to narrow content by categories such as art form, location, or period. Rich search functionality and linking helps users to move between topics more swiftly than print research would permit. An online environment also allows our resource to respond quickly to new developments. We constantly update and expand the body of articles in our encyclopedia (though updates are not instantaneous, as our content is peer-reviewed, supervised by our distinguished Editorial Board and Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Nicola Courtright).

Oxford Art Online hosts thousands of images. Are there any challenges in hosting these on the site?

Yes, as with our articles, the volume of objects presents a challenge. Grove Art contains over 7,000 images, including many well-known artworks that would be discussed as part of an introductory survey course. Keyword searches usually connect researchers with the images relevant to their work, but we’re working to develop more powerful tools with which to both search and view images.

Obtaining image permissions can also be a challenge, but we are grateful for our partnerships with organizations like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Resource, Bridgeman Art Library, and the National Gallery of Art, which have brought a rich group of images to GroveBenezit, too, benefits from important partnerships with the Frick Art Reference Library and ArtistSignatures.com, which provide thousands of artists’ portraits and signatures on Oxford Art Online.

How do you envision art history research being done in 20 years?

I believe research in art history will become more collaborative, interdisciplinary, and international. Art libraries have undertaken enormously useful digitization projects, making objects in their collections available to scholars in far flung locations. I’m impressed with primary source projects like the collaboration between the Met and the Frick libraries to digitize the exhibition materials of the Macbeth Gallery, and Yale’s Blue Mountain Project, which digitized a collection of avant-garde art, music, and literary periodicals from 1848-1923. A number of other university libraries have excellent digital collections for art research, including the University of Washington, the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin, Harvard University, University of Wisconsin, and Columbia University, which hosts the addictively interesting Robert Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery.

Courtesy of The Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Courtesy of The Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Whether through local collections or collaborative projects like the HathiTrust, JSTOR, and the DPLA, libraries and publishers are bringing a terrific breadth of important materials online. As content becomes more accessible, I think researchers will select online resources based on the caliber of their material and on the functionality provided the platform. Even as publishers’ brands may fall further behind the façade of library discovery services, I believe scholars will continue to value sources they can trust to maintain high standards of quality.

Art has always been an interdisciplinary field, involving history, politics, economics, and cultural exchange. In the coming years, I think it will be important to emphasize how art connects with these other fields. With the current national focus on careers in science and technology, art is sometimes cast as an academic luxury, but it is not. Its study involves issues fundamentally relevant to all of us. In the words of Albert Einstein: “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual toward freedom.”

Alodie Larson is the Editor of Grove Art and Oxford Art Online. Before joining Oxford, she studied the architecture of Georgian England at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and worked for Random House and JSTOR.

Libraries are a vital part of our communities. They feed our curiosity, bolster our professional knowledge, and provide a launchpad for intellectual discovery. In celebration of these cornerstone institutions, we are offering unprecedented free access to our Online Resources, including Oxford Art Online, in the United States and Canada to support our shared mission of education.

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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2. Leonardo da Vinci myths, explained

By Kandice Rawlings

Leonardo da Vinci was born 562 years ago today, and we’re still fascinated with his life and work. It’s no real mystery why – he was an extraordinary person, a genius and a celebrity in his own lifetime. He left behind some remarkable artifacts in the form of paintings and writings and drawings on all manner of subjects. But there’s much about Leonardo we don’t know, making him susceptible to a number myths, theories, and entertaining but inaccurate representations in popular culture. The following are some of my favorites.


Leonardo da Vinci, Presumed Self Portrait, circa 1512. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Myth #1 – Leonardo was gay.

Leonardo’s possible homosexuality is one of the more prevalent – and more plausible – myths circulating about the artist, and has the backing of none other than Sigmund Freud. There’s no way of knowing Leonardo’s sexual orientation for sure, but he isn’t known to have had romantic relationships with any women, never married, and in 1476 was accused (but later cleared) of charges of sodomy – then a capital crime in Florence. Scholars’ opinions on the issue fall along a spectrum between “maybe” and “very probably”.

Conclusion: Maybe true.

Myth #2 – Leonardo wrote backward to keep his ideas secret, and his notebooks weren’t “decoded” until long after his death.

For all his skill, Leonardo was not a prolific painter – the major part of his surviving output is in the form of his notebooks filled with theoretical and scientific writings, notes, and drawings. His strange habit of writing backward in these notebooks has been used to perpetuate the image of the artist as a mysterious, secretive person. But in fact it’s much more likely that Leonardo wrote this way simply because he was left-handed, and found it easier to write across the page from right to left and in reverse. No decoding is necessary – just a mirror. Leonardo’s theoretical writings and other notes were preserved by his follower and heir Francesco Melzi, and were widely known, at least in artistic circles, during the 16th and 17th centuries. Published extracts began appearing in 1651.

Conclusion: False.

Myth #3 – Leonardo put “secret” codes and symbols in his works.

I’d rather not get into all the problems with The Da Vinci Code too much, but I have to credit this 2003 book, by renowned author Dan Brown, for a lot of these theories. Aside from the fact that the book is full of factual errors (example: Leonardo’s “hundreds of Vatican commissions,” which actually number in the vicinity of zero) and twists the historical record, its readings of Leonardo’s artworks are based on some fundamentally flawed conceptions about the making, meaning, and purpose of art in the Italian Renaissance. In Leonardo’s world, paintings like the Last Supper in Milan were made according to patrons’ requirements, with very specific Christian meanings to be conveyed. Despite Leonardo’s artistic innovations, the content of his religious paintings and portrayal of religious figures (with the exception of some details in an altarpiece from the 1480s) were not untraditional.

Conclusion: False.


Leonardo da Vinci, The Mona Lisa, between 1503-1505. Louvre. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Myth #4 – The Mona Lisa is a self-portrait/male lover in disguise/woman with high cholesterol.

Martin Kemp has observed, “The silly season for the Mona Lisa never closes.” The ridiculous theories about this painting abound. Here’s what we can say with reasonable certainty: Leonardo started the painting, probably a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, a merchant’s wife, while in Florence around 1503. For unknown reasons, he didn’t deliver it to the patron, however, and it ended up in the possession of his workshop assistant Salai (who some think was Leonardo’s lover – again, without evidence). There’s no reason to think that Leonardo recorded in this painting his own features or those of Salai, even if, as many art historians believe, he continued to work on the painting after he left Florence for Milan and then France. In a theory that deviates from the usual speculation about the identity of the sitter, an Italian scientist thinks that the way Leonardo portrayed the sitter shows she had high cholesterol. Right, because Renaissance paintings are straightforward, scientific images, pretty much just like MRIs and X-rays.

Conclusion: False.

Myth #5 – Leonardo made the image of Christ on the Shroud of Turin.

The Shroud of Turin is a relic purported to be the shroud that Christ’s body was buried in after the Crucifixion. According to its legend, the image of his body was miraculously transferred to the cloth when he was resurrected. The idea that Leonardo forged it depends on claims that the proportions of Christ’s face as depicted on the shroud match those in a drawing that is thought to be a self-portrait by the artist, and that Leonardo devised a photographic process that transferred the image of his face to the shroud. The fact that the shroud dates to at least the mid-14th century, a hundred years before Leonardo’s birth, just makes this already kooky theory even harder to buy. I’ll admit, though, that I haven’t read the whole book explaining it … and I’m not going to.

Conclusion: False.

Myth #6 – Leonardo was a vegetarian.

Vegetarianism would have been pretty unthinkable in Renaissance Italy (and veganism just plain absurd); people probably ate about as much meat as they could afford. The most commonly cited quote used to back up this claim is taken from a novel (see p. 227) and often misattributed to Leonardo himself. None of Leonardo’s own writings or early biographies mentions any unconventional eating habits. There’s really only one documentary source that might be relevant, a letter written by a possible acquaintance of the artist, who compares Leonardo to people in India who don’t eat meat or allow others to harm living things. Pretty tenuous, but vegetarians love to claim him.

Conclusion: Probably false.

Myth #7 – Leonardo invented bicycles, helicopters, submarines, and parachutes.

It’s true that Leonardo was fascinated with mechanics, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, flight, and military engineering, which he touted in his famous letter to Ludovico Sforza seeking a position at the court of Milan. Leonardo’s notebooks contain many designs for machines and devices related to these explorations. But these were, for the most part, probably not ideas that Leonardo considered thoroughly enough to actually build and demonstrate. In the case of the bicycle, the drawing was likely made by someone else, and might even be a modern forgery.

Conclusion: Not so much.


Leonardo da Vinci, Design for a Flying Machine, 1488. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Myth #8 – Leonardo built robots.

While it sounds nutty, this one’s not so far off the mark, if you consider automatons – mechanical devices that seem to move on their own – to be robots. In a plot line of the cable fantasy drama Da Vinci’s Demons, Leonardo constructs a flying mechanical bird to dazzle the crowds gathered in the Cathedral piazza for Easter. A reliable historical record instead points to a lion that Leonardo made for the King of France’s triumphal entry into Milan in 1509. One observer’s description reads:

When the King entered Milan, besides the other entertainments, Lionardo da Vinci, the famous painter and our Florentine, devised the following intervention: he represented a lion above the gate, which, lying down, got onto its feet when the King came in, and with its paw opened up its chest and pulled out blue balls full of gold lilies, which he threw and strewed about on the ground. Afterwards he pulled out his heart and, pressing it, more gold lilies came out … Stopping beside this spectacle, [the King] liked it and took much pleasure in it.


Conclusion: True.

If you’re interested in learning more about Leonardo, including the current locations of his works, read his biography from the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, or, for a longer treatment, pick up the accessible but smart book by leading expert Martin Kemp.

Kandice Rawlings is Associate Editor of Oxford Art Online and the Benezit Dictionary of Artists. She holds a PhD in art history from Rutgers University.

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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3. 25 recent jazz albums you really ought to hear

By Ted Gioia

Jazz Appreciation Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate musical milestones of the past. But it also ought to serve as a reminder that jazz is a vibrant art form in the current day. Here are 25 recordings released during the last few months that are well worth hearing.

Ambrose Akinmusire1. Ambrose Akinmusire – The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier To Paint
Akinmusire is one of the most talented young trumpeters on the jazz scene. This release also represents a ‘return to its roots’ for the Blue Note label, which has increasingly strayed from mainstream jazz in recent years, but shows here that it hasn’t forgotten its heritage.

2. Greg Amirault – East of the Sun
Many of the most interesting new jazz albums are self-produced or issued by small indie labels. Montreal guitarist Amirault’s new CD is a case in point. He is hardly a household name in the jazz world, but this is one of the best guitar albums released in recent months.

3. The Bad Plus – The Rite of Spring
Stravinsky has been inspiring jazz artists for decades, but this ranks among the most creative reinterpretations of his work that I’ve heard.

4. Jeff Ballard – Time’s Tales
Check out the funky 9/4 groove that opens this leader date for drummer Jeff Ballard—joined byguitarist Lionel Loueke and saxophonist Miguel Zenon.

5. Joe Beck5. Joe Beck – Get Me
Guitarist Joe Beck died in 2008, but this posthumous release (coming out in a few days) is likely to reignite interest in a very talented and underrated artist.

6. George Cables – Icons and Influences
I’ve been a fan of Cables’ piano work since I was a teenager. He has been in poor health in recent years, but this new albums finds him playing at top form.

7. Regina Carter – Southern Comfort
Carter combines jazz with traditional Southern music on her latest release. Even listeners who don’t think they like jazz might find themselves enjoying this appealing album.

8. Matt Criscuolo – Blippity Blat
This is another self-produced album that merits close listening. Criscuolo is formidable saxophonist with a sweet tone and supple phrasing.

9. Karl Denson's Tiny Universe9. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe – New Ammo
With this high-octane funk-oriented release, Denson proves that jazz can still work as dance music. This album might make a good entry point into jazz for rock fans who want to broaden their tastes and expand their ears.

10. Nir Felder – Golden Age
The recently revived OKeh label is releasing a number of outstanding jazz albums, but this CD from up-and-coming guitarist Nir Felder may be its most ambitious project of 2014, pushing beyond conventional boundaries of jazz and popular music.

11. Craig Handy – Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith
Handy mixes elements of New Orleans party music and Hammond organ soul jazz in a very exciting hybrid. In a fair and hip world, this album (and the Denson release mentioned above) would be generating lots of radio airplay.

12. Vijay Iyer – Mutations
Iyer’s debut album with the ECM label is one of his best to date, revealing his maturity not just as a jazz player but also as a composer of jazz-oriented chamber music.

13. Christian Jacob13. Christian Jacob – Beautiful Jazz
Here’s another smart self-produced jazz album that you could easily miss. Pianist Jacob is a master at updating and reharmonizing the traditional jazz repertoire.

14. Erik Jekabson – Live at the Hillside Club
Jekabson is one of the most promising young trumpeters on the West Coast, and continues to impress with this new album.

15. John Lurie – The Invention of Animals
John Lurie has never gotten the respect he deserves for his jazz work with the Lounge Lizards. He subsequently abandoned music to focus on painting, but these rediscovered tracks testify to his brilliance as a jazz improviser.

16. Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra – Strength in Numbers
I have heard several outstanding jazz big band albums this year, but this one is the best of breed.

17. The North17. The North – Slow Down (This Isn’t the Mainland)
Fans of mid-period Keith Jarrett and E.S.T. will enjoy this trio album. This band is still a well-kept secret in the jazz world, but their music has clear crossover potential.

18. Danilo Pérez – Panama 500
Pérez has long ranked among the leading Latin jazz artists. Here he draws on the Panamanian music tradition for a theme album commemorating the 500th anniversary of Balboa crossing the Isthmus of Panama.

19. Matthew Shipp – Root of Things
Pianist Shipp possesses an expansive vision of jazz that, over the years, has encompassed everything from hip-hop to electronica. In his latest album, he returns to the acoustic trio format, where he is joined by bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey.

20. Revolutionary Snake Ensemble – Live Snakes
This Boston-based band is a throwback to the earliest roots of jazz, when hornplayers often performed in parades and brass bands entertained at social gatherings.

21. (718) – Sputnik
The group’s name comes from its phone area code, and the album title honors a 1950s spacecraft. But the music here is rock-oriented funk jazz in the spirit of the best 1970s fusion bands.

22. Helen Sung – Anthem for a New Day
I’ve been following Sung’s career with interest for a number of years, but this is her best album to date.

23. Daniel Szabo23. Daniel Szabo – A Song From There
Daniel Szabo is one of the most impressive young pianists on the scene today, but even in jazz circles most won’t recognize his name. I suspect they will soon. I highly recommend his new album.

24. Norma Winstone – Dance Without Answer
Norma Winstone has been a major force on the British jazz scene since the 1960s. At an age when many jazz singers start showing wear and tear in their voices, Winstone is recording some of her finest work.

25. John Zorn – Psychomagia
It’s easy to take John Zorn for granted. He records prolifically, and puts very little effort into marketing and promoting his projects. But this 2014 release deserves your attention.

Ted Gioia is a musician, author, and leading jazz critic and expert on American music. The first edition of his The History of Jazz was selected as one of the twenty best books of the year in The Washington Post, and was chosen as a notable book of the year in The New York Times. He is also the author of The Jazz Standards, Delta Blues, West Coast Jazz, Work Songs and The Birth (and Death) of the Cool.

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4. Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan from Grove Art Online

In celebration of World Art Day, we invite you to read the biography of Ludovico Sforza, patron of Leonardo Da Vinci among other artists, as it is presented in Grove Art Online.

(b Abbiategrasso, 3 Aug 1452; reg 1494–99; d Loches, Touraine, 27 May 1508).

Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. Sforza Altarpiece, 1495

Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. Sforza Altarpiece, 1495

Son of (1) Francesco I Sforza and (3) Bianca Maria Sforza. In 1480, several years after the death of his brother (4) Galeazzo Maria Sforza in 1476, he succeeded in gaining control of the regency but did not become duke in name until his nephew Gian Galeazzo Sforza died in 1494. His commissions, both public and private, were divided between Lombard and Tuscan masters. Milanese architects were responsible for many of his most important projects, including the construction of the Lazzaretto (1488–1513) and S Maria presso S Celso (begun 1491 by Giovanni Giacomo Dolcebuono) in Milan, and a farm complex, known as the Sforzesca, outside Vigevano. Several prominent Lombard sculptors, in particular Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, were commissioned to work on the façade of the Certosa di Pavia. Of the artists Ludovico encouraged to come to Lombardy, an undated letter reveals that he was considering Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, Perugino and Ghirlandaio as court artists. About 1482 Leonardo da Vinci arrived in Milan, where he remained as an intimate member of Ludovico’s household for 18 years. As court painter, Leonardo is documented as having portrayed two of Ludovico’s mistresses, Lucrezia Crivelli and Cecilia Gallerani. The latter may be identified with the painting Portrait of a Lady with an Ermine (c. 1490–91; Kraków, Czartoryski Col.). Much of his work was for such courtly ephemera as the designs for the spectacle Festa del Paradiso, composed in 1490. Another commission of which nothing survives was for a bronze equestrian statue honouring Ludovico’s father, which Leonardo worked on in the 1490s. A surviving work by Leonardo for the Duke is the Sala delle Asse (1498) in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan, where motifs of golden knots are interspersed among vegetation and heraldic shields.

Other Tuscans at work in Milan during the 1490s included Donato Bramante. As a painter, Bramante produced an allegorical figure of Argus (1490–93) in the Castello Sforzesco (in situ). The development of the piazza, tower and castle at Vigebano in the 1490s, one of the most important campaigns of urban planning in the Renaissance, was the work of Bramante, working perhaps with Leonardo, under Ludovico’s supervision. Ludovico also took day-to-day responsiblity for projects financed by his brother (6) Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza, for example Bramante’s work on the new cathedral in Pavia and the monastic quarters (commissioned 1497) at S Ambrogio, Milan. The illuminator Giovanni Pietro Birago was also active in Ludovico’s court, producing, among others, several copies (e.g. London, BL. Grenville MS. 7251) of Giovanni Simonetta’s life of Francesco Sforza I, the Sforziada.

Ludovico’s plans were destroyed by the invasion of Louis XII, King of France, in August 1499. Ludovico escaped, to return in February 1500, but following his final defeat and capture in April that year, he was confined to a prison in France for the remainder of his life.


E. Salmi: ‘La Festa del Paradiso di Leonardo da Vinci e Bernardo Bellincioni’, Archv Stor. Lombardo, xxxi/1 (1904), pp. 75–89
F. Malaguzzi Valeri: La corte di Ludovico il Moro: La vita privata e l’arte a Milano nella secunda metà del quattrocento, 4 vols (Milan, 1913–23)
S. Lang: ‘Leonardo’s Architectural Designs and the Sforza Mausoleum’, J. Warb. & Court. Inst., xxxi (1968), pp. 218–33
A. M. Brivio: ‘ Bramante e Leonardo alla corte di Ludovico il Moro’, Studi Bramanteschi. Atti del congresso internazionale: Roma, 1970, pp. 1–24
C. Pedretti: ‘The Sforza Sepulchre’, Gaz. B.-A., lxxxix (1977), pp. 121–31
R. Schofield: ‘Ludovico il Moro and Vigevano’, A. Lombarda, n. s., lxii/2 (1981), pp. 93–140
M. Garberi: Leonardo e il Castello Sforzesco di Milano (Florence, 1982)
Ludovico il Moro: La sua città e la sua corte (1480–1499) (exh. cat., Milan, Archv Stato, 1983)
Milano e gli Sforza: Gian Galeazzo Maria e Ludovico il Moro (1476–1499) (exh. cat., ed. G. Bologna; Milano, Castello Sforzesco, 1983)
Milano nell’età di Ludovico il Moro. Atti del convegno internazionale: Milano, 1983
C. J. Moffat: Urbanism and Political Discourse: Ludovico Sforza’s Architectural Plans and Emblematic Imagery at Vigevano (diss., Los Angeles, UCLA, 1992)
R. Schofield: ‘Ludovico il Moro’s Piazzas: New Sources and Observations’, Annali di architettura, iv–v (1992–3), pp.157–67
L. Giordano: ‘L’autolegittimazione di una dinastia: Gli Sforza e la politica dell’ immagine’, Artes [Pavia], i (1993), pp. 7–33
P. L. Mulas: ‘”Cum apparatu ac triumpho quo pagina in hoc licet aspicere”: I’investitura ducale di Ludovico Sforza, il messale Arcimboldi e alcuni problemi di miniatura Lombarda’, Artes [Pavia], ii (1994), pp. 5–38
V. L. Bush: ‘The Political Contexts of the Sforza Horse’, Leonardo da Vinci’s Sforza Monoument Horse: The Art and the Engineering, ed. D. C. Ahl (London, 1995), pp. 79–86
A. Cole: Virtue and Magnificence: Art of the Italian Renaissance Courts (New York, 1995)
L. Giordano, ed.: Lucovicus dux (Vigevano, 1995)
G. Lopez: ‘Un cavallo di Troia per Milano’, Achad. Leonardo Vinci: J. Leonardo Stud. & Bibliog. Vinciana, viii (1995), pp. 194–6
E. S. Welch: Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan (New Haven, 1995)
L. Giordano: ‘Ludovico Sforza, Bramante e il nuovo corso del Po 1492–1493′, Artes (Pavia), v (1997), pp. 198–205
G. Cislaghi: ‘Leonardo da Vinci: La misura del borgo di Porta Vercellina a Milano’, Dis. Archit., xxv–xxvi (2002), pp. 11–17
E. McGrath: ‘Ludovico il Moro and his Moors’, J. Warb. & Court. Inst., lxv (2002), pp. 67–94
L. Syson: ‘ Leonardo and Leonardism in Sforza Milan’, Artists at Court: Image-making and Identity: 1300–1550, ed. S. J. Campbell (Chicago, 2004), pp. 106–23
L. Giordano: ‘ In capella maiori: Il progetto di Ludovico Sforza per Santa Maria delle Grazie’, Demeures d’éternité: églises et chapelles funéraires aux XVe et XVIe siècles, ed. J. Guillaume (Paris, 2005), pp. 99–114

E. S. Welch

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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6. Leonardo da Vinci from the Benezit Dictionary of Artists

In celebration of World Art Day and Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday, we invite you to read the biography of da Vinci as it is presented in the Benezit Dictionary of Artists.

Italian, 15th – 16th century, male.

Active from 1515 in France.
Born 15 April 1452, in Anchiano, near Vinci; died 2 May 1519, in Clos-Lucé, near Amboise, France.
Painter, sculptor, draughtsman, architect, engineer. Religious subjects, mythological subjects, portraits, topographic subjects, anatomical studies.

Leonardo da Vinci was the illegitimate son of the Florentine notary Ser Piero da Vinci, who married Albiera di Giovanni Amadori, the daughter of a patrician family, in the year Leonardo was born. Little is known about the artist’s natural mother, Caterina, other than that five years after Leonardo’s birth she married an artisan from Vinci named Chartabriga di Piero del Veccha. Leonardo was raised in his father’s home in Vinci by his paternal grandfather, Ser Antonio. Giorgio Vasari discusses Leonardo’s childhood at length, noting his aptitude for drawing and his taste for natural history and mathematics. Probably around 1470, Leonardo’s father apprenticed him to Andrea del Verrocchio; two years later,Leonardo’s name appears in the register of Florentine painters. Although officially a painter in his own right, Leonardo remained for a further five years or so in Verrocchio’s workshop, where Lorenzo di Credi and Pietro Perugino numbered among his fellow students.

signature da vinci

In 1482, Leonardo went to Milan to work in the court of Duke Ludovico Sforza and remained there until 1499, returning to Florence after brief visits to Venice and Mantua. During his second Florentine period, Leonardo gained notoriety, primarily as the result of two cartoons he worked up and put on public display. In 1508, Leonardo returned to Milan to work for the French rulers there and complete an altarpiece commission he had begun during an earlier stay. The artist made his first trip to Rome in 1513 and was involved there with military projects for Giuliano de’ Medici (the duke of Nemours and brother of Pope Leo X). Through the pope, Leonardo may have met the French king Francis I, who was Leonardo’s patron in the last few years of his life. The artist died near Amboise and was buried there, in the church of St Florentin. Because of these circumstances, several of Leonardo’s most treasured works, including the Mona Lisa, ended up in the French royal collection and are now preserved in the Louvre.

A few works can be attributed to the period of Leonardo’s training with Verrocchio: a landscape drawing dated 1473 and part of Verrocchio’s Baptism of Christ (both Uffizi Gallery), namely the angel at the far left of the composition. In January 1478, now an independent painter, he was commissioned by the city of Florence to paint an altarpiece for the S Bernardo Chapel in the Palazzo Vecchio, which he did not complete. The following year, Leonardo made a drawing of the hanged body of an assassin involved in the Pazzi Conspiracy to overthrow the Medici government, which may have been connected with another state commission. In March 1480, he was retained to paint an altarpiece for the main altar in the monastery of S Donato a Scopeto, most likely the unfinished Adoration of the Magi, a dynamic reimagining of the subject. It appears that around this time he also produced numerous Madonna studies and his Portrait of Ginevra dei Benci, the first of his many captivating portraits of women.

In 1481, Leonardo wrote a letter to the new ruler of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, asking for a position at court. It is almost entirely devoted to his knowledge of military engineering and ideas for new weapons; the last paragraph briefly mentions that he is an able painter and can also assist in the completion of an equestrian monument of Ludovico’s father, Francesco, which had been planned but not begun. Leonardo arrived in Milan by 1483, perhaps with Medici assistance, and was contracted to paint an image of the Virgin for an altarpiece for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception’s chapel in S Francesco Grande. This commission resulted in a protracted legal battle and two versions of the painting, the so-called Virgin of the Rocks; the first version, painted between 1483 and 1486, is in the Louvre, and the second, painted primarily in the 1490s, is in the National Gallery, London. The history of the two paintings and the authorship of the later version are much disputed.

During this period, Leonardo received commissions across a wide spectrum. He built stage equipment and devices used for the marriage ceremony of Gian Galeazzo Sforza; he travelled to Padua to supervise construction of the cathedral; he designed costumes for the festivities arranged to celebrate the marriage of Ludovico Sforza to Beatrice d’Este; and he drew a design for the crossing tower of the Milan Cathedral (1487). He made two portraits of women supposed to be Ludovico’s mistresses, Cecilia Gallerani (or Lady with an Ermine) and Lucrezia Crivelli (or La Belle Ferronnière).

Around 1495, Leonardo set to work planning decorations for the Castello Sforzesco. At the start of 1496, Leonardo and Ludovico, by that time the duke of Milan, quarrelled, and the duke repeatedly tried to entice Pietro Perugino as a replacement for Leonardo. Some two years later, the duke andLeonardo reconciled, and Leonardo started working again on the ducal palace and supervising fresco decorations for the Sala delle Asse. While out of favour with the duke, Leonardo had occupied himself with painting a monumental fresco of the Last Supper for the refectory of the Milan monastery of S Maria delle Grazie. In his life of Leonardo, Vasari asserts that execution of this fresco was fraught with difficulty. Leonardo’s use of an experimental medium in order to achieve the naturalistic effects of oil painting caused the fresco to deteriorate rapidly, with much of the original composition quickly being lost. By 1545, it was reported to have already been partially destroyed; three centuries later it was evident that years of neglect, humidity, and inept restorations (attempts at complete restoration were recorded in 1726 and 1770) had only served to make matters worse. A further and more successful attempt at restoration was undertaken in the early years of the 20th century, and the spirit of the original was recaptured, at least partially. The most recent restoration, begun in 1979, was completed in 1999. Fortunately, the original appearance of the Last Supper survives in the form of excellent copies made by students of Leonardo, possibly under his supervision. Among these is a copy reproducing the dimensions of the original (15 by 28 feet [4.5 by 8.60 metres]), painted around 1510 by Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli for the Carthusian church in Pavia and now in London’s Royal Academy. Another detailed reproduction was made by Marco d’Oggiono, commissioned by Connétable de Montmorency for the chapel at the castle of Écouen and now in the Louvre. Despite the fresco’s condition problems, it is one of Leonardo’s best-known and most influential works. The painting is admired for the variety of expressions and poses, the mastery with which Leonardocaptured the most dramatic moment of the biblical story, and the mathematical clarity and regularity of the space, which is conceived as an extension of the refectory (dining hall) it decorates.

Although in 1483 Leonardo had made a clay model of an equestrian sculpture of Francesco Sforza that was erected for the wedding celebrations of Bianca Maria Sforza and Emperor Maximilian, he did not begin work in earnest on the bronze Sforza monument until the 1490s. In fact, Ludovico wrote in a 1489 letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici that he feared Leonardo would not be able to cast the sculpture and requested Lorenzo to provide him with expert bronze sculptors as replacements. Although no finished sculptures by Leonardo have been identified, his training in Verrocchio’s workshop meant he would have received some degree of instruction on techniques of bronze casting; during the 1470s and 1480s, Verrocchio was occupied with various projects in bronze, including an equestrian monument in Venice. Later, during a stay in Florence in 1506–1507, Leonardo may have been involved the design of Giovanni Francesco Rustici’s bronze group St John the Baptist Preaching for the exterior of the Florence Baptistery. In any case, the Sforza monument was never cast, and the largest clay model that Leonardo completed suffered serious damage when French troops entered Milan in September 1499 and archers elected to use it for target practice. However, many drawings, both studies for the composition and technical designs for the casting, survive. The monument, if completed, would no doubt have been a major achievement, both artistically and technically.Leonardo planned a dynamic and highly innovative composition with a rearing horse and a fallen enemy beneath its forelegs, and the statue was to be colossal in scale. The project was abandoned when Leonardo fled the French invasion.

In December 1499, Leonardo went to Mantua with the mathematician Fra Luca Pacioli. There,Leonardo produced a highly finished drawing for a portrait of Isabella d’Este that was either never executed or has been lost. He then spent a short time in Venice before returning to Florence in April 1500. That same month, he finished a cartoon for a major work entitled Virgin and Child with St Anneand displayed it to adoring crowds at SS Annunziata. The cartoon is untraced but is thought the have been related to a drawing now in the National Gallery, London, and a painting of the same subject now in the Louvre. It was around this period (1500-1503) that Leonardo also began painting the portrait of Mona Lisa (or La Gioconda), generally believed to have been the wife of the Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo. According to Vasari, Leonardo worked on the Mona Lisa for the better part of four years, but he never delivered it to its patron, bringing it with him to France and perhaps working on it intermittently into his late years. He also made studies for Leda and the Swanthat were copied by his students and Raphael; the final painting is untraced and may have been finished much later, during Leonardo’s sojourn in Rome.

The end of 1502 saw Leonardo inspecting fortifications in the Romagna in his new capacity as senior military architect and general engineer in the service of Cesare Borgia. He was abruptly removed from this post in October of the same year when a rebellion broke out in the duchy. April 1503 foundLeonardo back in Florence and, in July of that year, the Republic of Florence dispatched him to an encampment near Pisa to conduct a survey on how the Arno River could be diverted behind Pisa (so that the city, then under siege by Florence, could be deprived of access to the sea). Later that year, in October, he embarked on a major decorative composition for the new Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred) in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The chosen theme was the victory of Florence over Milan at the Battle of Anghiari in 1440. This monumental work, like its intended complementary painting by Michelangelo of the Battle of Cascina, remained unfinished. Leonardowas commissioned to paint the mural in 1502 and was working on the fresco by 1504. Once again, technical problems frustrated him, notably the poor state of the wall surface he painted and again another experimental technique using oils, and he abandoned the project in 1506. Both the cartoon and the mural were avidly studied by younger artists and some of its appearance can be surmised from drawn and engraved studies. In 1563, Vasari covered the ruinous painting with a new fresco. A project to discover Leonardo’s painting beneath the later fresco using infrared and laser technology was launched in 2005, in the hopes that Vasari preserved it by leaving a gap between the Battle of Anghiari and the plaster for his own fresco.

Leonardo then spent a short time in Milan, perhaps to settle his long-standing commission for theVirgin of the Rocks, before returning to Florence, where he painted a Virgin and Child commissioned by a secretary of the French king Louis XII. At the insistence of Chaumont, the French governor of Milan, Leonardo returned to the Lombard capital and remained there until 1507, when he was obliged to return to Florence to assert his rights of inheritance under the terms of an uncle’s will. During this time, he painted two Madonnas that he took with him on his return to Milan. Leonardo was still in Milan when Louis XII arrived in that city after his victory at Agnadello. Based on a manuscript sketch, he probably also painted around this time the St John the Baptist now in the Louvre. Not least, he is believed to have painted around this date (and possibly in collaboration with one of his pupils) theVirgin and Child with St Anne, also in the Louvre. His preparatory sketches for the work strongly suggest that his initial intention was to paint an intimate ‘family portrait’, but that he subsequently elected for a composition that became widely acclaimed for the innovative contrapposto technique whereby Leonardo twisted a figure on its own axis, with a movement to the left counterbalanced by an equal and opposite movement to the right. The result is a pleasing dynamic symmetry.

During this period, Leonardo also began designing another equestrian monument, this one to commemorate Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, the governor of Milan under the French. When the Sforza returned to power, the project was abandoned. Leonardo remained in Milan after the withdrawal of the French in 1512 and it has often been speculated that Massimiliano Sforza may have been displeased and bitter at Leonardo’s decision to work there for the French occupiers. Whether that was the case,Leonardo recorded in his journal on 24 September 1513 that he was about to leave for Rome in the company of his pupils Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Francesco Melzi, Lorenzo, and Il Fanoia. In Rome, he was made very welcome by Pope Leo X and duly housed in the Belvedere. Demand for his services proved slight, however, and his output during this period seems inconsiderable. He may have worked there on his Leda and the Swan, together with a Madonna and Child and a Portrait of a Young Boy. There was also a rumour that his preoccupation with scientific studies, notably anatomy, did not endear him to the pontiff.

July 1515 saw Leonardo in the train of the papal army commanded by Giulio de’ Medici, and there are indications that he travelled with the army as far as Piacenza and that he was in Bologna in December 1515 for the signing of the concordat between the pope and Francis I of France. Shortly afterwards, Leonardo’s services as ‘first painter, architect and mechanic of the King’ were retained by Francis I in exchange for a pension amounting to 700 gold crowns and a private residence at Clos-Lucé (Cloux) near Amboise. After settling in Clos-Lucé, Leonardo’s artistic output came to a virtual standstill. He drew up plans for the canal and gardens at the palace of Romorantin and for the construction of a palace near Amboise; he was also credited with having had a major hand in the plans for the Château of Chambord. Much of Leonardo’s time in France seemed to have been devoted to scientific studies and writings in his notebooks.

Leonardo was an avid and highly skilled draughtsman, and the large quantity of his surviving drawings (approximately 4,000 sheets) and notebooks far outweigh his finished paintings and sculptures. These drawings reveal the breadth of Leonardo’s intellect, his innovative mind, and his artistic process. In addition to many technical drawings for machines; anatomical, zoological, and botanical studies; sketches; and figural studies, Leonardo also made architectural drawings of centrally planned churches, many of them contemporary with Donato Bramante’s remodeling of S Maria delle Grazie and Leonardo’s execution of the Last Supper at the same complex. The notebooks also include fragments of a planned treatise on painting, which were compiled by Leonardo’s student Francesco Melzi after his death (Codex Urbinas) and first printed in 1651. Leonardo’s practice of writing backwards has been proposed as either motivated by secrecy or, perhaps more plausibly, a practical solution to the difficulty of writing left-handed.

Leonardo da Vinci’s genius extended across many fields: painting, sculpture, architecture, and various complex scientific research disciplines, including not only anatomy and physics but also highly specialised areas such as military technology and civil engineering. One might have expected that such a technically oriented mind would have been reflected in an artistic style that was precise, not to say meticulous. In effect, quite the contrary is true. Leonardo preferred to render the subtleties and vagaries of light and shade and the mysterious sfumato that is the basis of his style. He strove to create the effect of light not in terms of colour but rather as form so there is no sharp contrast between light and shade but, instead, a long and sustained transition from light towards shade. His figures are bathed in an ‘atmosphere’ that has a presence of its own; they emerge and merge back into the whole without sacrificing the constructive value of their form. In addition to his rendering of spontaneous movement and his ability to capture the serenity of facial expression, Leonardo achieves monumentality by often eliminating detailed settings. Leonardo’s commitment to naturalism in his painting goes hand in hand with his intense scientific study of all aspects of the natural world. Although he is considered the first of the ‘high’ Renaissance artists, in his scientific approach to painting he is quite distinct from his contemporaries, whose naturalism was so often tied to antique precedents.

Group Exhibitions

1979, From Leonardo to Titian: Italian Renaissance Paintings from the Hermitage, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Knoedler Gallery, New York
2001, Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo’s Ginevra de’ Benci and Renaissance Portraits of Women, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
2004, Painters of Reality: The Legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Solo Exhibitions

1989, Leonardo da Vinci, Hayward Gallery, London
1989, Leonardo da Vinci: Studies of Drapery, Louvre, Paris
1996–1997, Leonardo’s Codex Leicester: A Masterpiece of Science, American Museum of Natural History, New York
1997, Leonardo da Vinci: Scientist, Inventor, Artist, Institut für Kulturaustausch, Tübingen, Museum of Science, Boston
2000, Leonardo da Vinci: The Codex Leicester, Notebook of a Genius, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
2002, Leonardo da Vinci: Inventor (Léonard de Vinci: l’inventeur), Pierre Gianadda Foundation, Martigny, Switzerland
2003, Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
2003, Leonardo da Vinci: Drawings and Notebooks (Léonard de Vinci. Dessins et Manuscrits) Louvre, Paris
2006, The Treatise on Painting: Manuscripts and Editions between the 16th and 19th Century, Castello Sforzesco, Milan
2006–2007, Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, and Design, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
2007, The Mind of Leonardo: The Universal Genius at Work, Uffizi Gallery, Florence
2011, Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Cambridge (Fitzwilliam Mus.): A Rider on a Rearing Horse (c. 1481, metalpoint reinforced with pen and brown ink/pinkish prepared surface)
Edinburgh (Nat. Gal. of Scotland): Studies of Paws of a Dog or Wolf (c. 1400-1495, silverpoint drawing)
Florence (Gal. dell’Accademia): Vitruvian Man(c. 1487, pen and ink with metalpoint on paper)
Florence (Uffizi): Adoration of the Magi (c. 1480, oil/wood); Annunciation (1470s, oil/wood)
Krakow (Czartoryski Mus.): Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (or Lady with an Ermine)
London (British Library): Arundel Codex
London (NG): Virgin of the Rocks (or Virgin with the Infant Saint John Adoring the Infant Christ Accompanied by an Angel) (c. 1491-1508, oil/wood);Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist (c. 1499-1500, black and white chalk/brownish paper/canvas)
London (Victoria and Albert Mus): Forster Codex
Madrid (Biblioteca Nacional): two codices
Milan (Ambrosiana): Portrait of a Musician (c. 1485, oil/wood); Codex Atlantico
Milan (Biblioteca Trivulziano): Trivulziano Codex
Milan (S Maria delle Grazie): Last Supper
Holy Family
Munich (Alte Pinakothek): Madonna with the Carnation (1470s, oil/wood)
New York (Metropolitan MA): several drawings
Oxford (Christ Church College): seven drawings
Paris (Institut de France): Codices A through M; Ashburnham Codex
Paris (Louvre): La Gioconda (or Mona Lisa);St John the Baptist;Virgin and Child with St AnneVirgin of the RocksLa Belle Ferronnière (Lucrezia Crivelli?)Virgin Offering a Bowl of Fruit to the Infant Jesus (drawing); Isabella d’Este(drawing)
Parma (NG): Female Head
St Petersburg (Hermitage): Virgin and Child (Litta Madonna); Benois Madonna
Turin (Royal Library): Study for the Angel for ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’ (drawing)
Vatican (Pinacoteca Vaticana): St Jerome(1480s, tempera and oil/wood); Urbanis Codex
Washington, DC (NGA): Ginevra de’ Benci (c. 1474-1478, oil/panel, two-sided portrait)
Windsor (Windsor Castle, Royal Collection): Study for St James the Elder; notebooks

Auction Records

Paris, 1742: St Jerome, FRF 1,900
London, 1773: Christ and the Virgin with St Joseph, FRF 7,075
London, 1801: Laughing Infant, FRF 34,120
London, 1811: Female Portrait, FRF 78,700
Paris, June 1825: Leda and the Twins Castor and Helen, Pollux and Clytemnestra, FRF 175,000
Paris, 1850: La Colombine (Mistress of Francis I), FRF 81,200; Various Saints: Study for ‘The Last Supper’ (red and black chalk) FRF 16,600
Paris, 1865: Virgin Stooping towards Her Son, FRF 83,500
Paris, 1875: Initial Study for ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ (pen drawing) FRF 12,900; Study for ‘st Anne’ (black chalk, Indian ink, and wash) FRF 13,000
London, 1881: Virgin of the Rocks, FRF 225,000
London, 1888: Virgin in Low Relief, FRF 63,000
Paris, 1900: Draperies (study), FRF 12,500
Paris, 26-27 May 1919: Head of Old Man (silverpoint drawing heightened with white) FRF 6,000
London, 22 May 1925: Infant Jesus and Saint with a Lamb, GBP 1,890
London, 29 June 1926: Hermina: Emblem of Purety (pen) GBP 800; Study Folio (pen) GBP 760
London, 15 July 1927: Virgin with Flowers, GBP 2,100; Head of Leda, GBP 1,785
Paris, 25 Feb 1929: Profile Study of Old Man (pen) FRF 15,400
London, 10-14 July 1936: Wild Horse (pen) GBP 4,305
London, 23 May 1951: Head of the Virgin (charcoal, heightened with colour, study for the painting in the Louvre of The Virgin and St Anne) GBP 8,000
London, 26 March 1963: Head of an Old Man (caricature) (ink drawing with bistre wash) GNS 44,000
London, 21 May 1963: Virgin and Child with a Dog (pen drawing and wash) GBP 19,000
Paris, 12 June 1973: Horse (patinated bronze) FRF 160,000
New York, 17 Nov 1986: Three Child Studies and (recto) Three Lines of TextStudies: Child, Head of Old Man, and Machine with (verso) Several Lines of Text (black chalk, pen, and brown ink, 8 × 5½ ins/20.3 × 13.8 cm) USD 3,300,000
Monaco, 1 Dec 1989: Draperies with Kneeling Figure Facing Left (brush and brown-grey wash, heightened with white gouache, 11¼ × 7¼ ins/28.8 × 18.1 cm) FRF 35,520,000; Draperies: Study with Figure Standing and Facing Right(brush and brown-grey wash, heightened with white gouache on canvas prepared with grey gouache, 11 × 7¼ ins/28.2 × 18.1 cm) FRF 31,080,000
London, 10 July 2001: Horse and Rider (silverpoint, 5 × 3 ins/12 × 8 cm) GBP 7,400,000


Bode, Wilhem von: Studien über Leonardo da Vinci, G. Grote, Berlin, 1921.
Sirén, Osvald: Leonardo da Vinci, G. Van Oest, Paris, 1928.
Suida, Wilhem: Leonardo und sein Kreis, F. Bruckmann, Munich, 1929.
Verga, Ettore: Bibliografia Vinciana 1493-1930, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1930.
Richter, Jean Paul: The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, Oxford University Press, London and New York, 1939.
Goldschieder, Ludwig: Leonardo da Vinci, Phaidon, London: Oxford University Press, New York, 1943.
Popham, Arthur Ewart: The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Reynal and Hitchcock, New York, 1945 (2nd ed., Jonathan Cape, London, 1946).
Heydenreich, Heinrich Ludwig: Leonardo da Vinci, 2 vols., Holbein-Verlag, Basel, 1954.
Freud, Sigmund: Leonardo da Vinci: A Memory of His Childhood, Routledge, London, 1957 (reprinted2006).
Chastel, André (ed.)/Callmann, Ellen (trans.): The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci: Leonardo da Vinci on Art and the Artist, Orion Press, New York, 1961.
Huard, Pierre/Grmek, Mirko Dražen: Léonard de Vinci. Dessins scientifiques et techniques, R. Dacosta, Paris, 1962.
Pedretti, Carlo: A Chronology of Leonardo da Vinci’s Architectural Studies after 1500, E. Droz, Geneva,1962.
Gombrich, Ernst Hans: ‘Leonardo’s Methods of Working Out Compositions’, in Norm and Form: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance, Phaidon, London, 1966.
Clark, Kenneth: The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, Phaidon, London, 1968–1969.
Panofsky, Erwin: The Codex Huygens and Leonardo da Vinci’s Art Theory, Greenwood, Westport (CT),1971.
Pedretti, Carlo: Leonardo da Vinci: A Study in Chronology and Style, Thames and Hudson, London, 1973.
Kemp, Martin: Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man, Dent, London, 1981 (2nd rev. ed. 1988).
Calvi, Gerolamo: I Manoscritti di Leonardo da Vinci: dal punto di vista cronologica, storico e biografico,Bramante Editrice, Busto Arsizio, 1982.
Clark, Kenneth/Kemp, Martin: Leonardo da Vinci: An Account of His Development as an Artist,Harmondsworth, Middlesex; Viking, New York, 1988 (new rev. ed.).
Batkin, Leonid M.: Leonardo da Vinci, Laterza, Rome, 1988.
Viatte, Françoisee/Pedretti, Carlo/Chastel, André: Leonardo da Vinci: les études de draperies, exhibition catalogue, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 1989.
Maiorino, Giancarlo: Leonardo da Vinci: The Daedalian Mythmaker, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, 1992.
Turner, Richard: Inventing Leonardo, Alfred A. Kopf, New York, 1993.
Frère, Jean Claude: Léonard de Vinci, Du Terrail, Paris, 1994.
Cole Ahl, Diane (ed.): Leonardo da Vinci’s Sforza Monument Horse: The Art and the Engineering, Lehigh University Press, Bethlehem (PA), Associated University Presses, Cranbury (NJ) and London, 1995.
Letze, Otto/Buchsteiner, Thomas/Guttmann, Nathalie: Leonardo da Vinci: Scientist, Inventor, Artist, exhibition catalogue, Institut für Kulturaustausch, Tübingen; G. Hatje, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1997.
Arasse, Daniel: Leonardo da Vinci: The Rhythm of the World, Konecky and Konecky, New York, 1998(French ed., Hazan, Paris, 1997).
Zöllner, Frank: La ‘Battaglia di Anghiari’ di Leonardo da Vinci fra mitologia e politica, Giunti, Florence,1998.
Zwijnenberg, Ribert: The Writings and Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci: Order and Chaos in Early Modern Thought, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1999.
Chastel, André: Leonardo da Vinci. Studi e ricerche 1952-1990, Phaidon, London, 1999.
Villata, Edoardo/Marani, Pietro C.: Leonardo da Vinci: i documenti e le testimonianze contemporanee,Castallo Sforzesco, Milan, 1999.
Farago, Claire: Leonardo da Vinci: Selected Scholarship, 5 vols, Garland, New York, 1999.
Brown, David Alan: Leonardo da Vinci: Origins of a Genius, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 1998.
Desmond, Michael/Pedretti, Carlo: Leonardo da Vinci: The Codex Leicester, Notebook of a Genius, exhibition catalogue, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; Powerhouse Publishing, Haymarket (Australia),2000.
Nuland, Sherwin: Leonardo da Vinci, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 2000.
Léonard de Vinci: l’inventeur, exhibition catalogue, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, 2002.
Goffen, Rona: Renaissance Rivals: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2002.
Bambach, Carmen C. (ed.), and others: Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman, exhibition catalogue,Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2003.
Zöllner, Frank/Nathan, Johannes: Leonardo da Vinci, 1452–1519: The Complete Paintings and Drawings, catalogue raisonné, Taschen, Cologne and London, 2003.
Kemp, Martin: Leonardo, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004.
Kemp, Martin: Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment and Design, exhibition catalogue, Princeton University Press, Princeton (NJ), 2006.
Bernardoni, Andrea: Leonardo e il monumento equestre a Francesco Sforza: Storia di un’opera mai realizzata, Giunti, Florence, 2007.
Farago, Claire (ed.): Re-reading Leonardo: The Treatise on Painting across Europe, 1550–1900, Ashgate, Burlington (VT) and Farnham (England), 2009.
Syson, Luke, and others: Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London, 2011.

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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7. Parent practices: change to develop successful, motivated readers

Oxford University Press is a proud sponsor of the 2014 World Literacy Summit, taking place this April. The Summit will provide a central platform for champions of literacy from around the globe to come together and exchange points of view, knowledge, and ideas. We asked literacy experts Jamie Zibulsky and Anne E. Cunningham to discuss the importance of literacy on this occasion.

By Jamie Zibulsky and Anne E. Cunningham

Being literate involves much more than the ability to sound out the words on a page, but acquiring that skill requires years of development and exposure to the world of words. Once children possess the ability to sound out words, read fluently, and comprehend the words on a page, they have limitless opportunities to learn about new concepts, places, and people. To say that becoming a reader gives one the power to change is an understatement. In fact, attempting to detail the many ways that reading can foster personal growth and development without writing an entire book on the topic is truly challenging!

Children’s capacities to build the many skills required to access text are, to a large degree, determined by their environments. Parents and teachers play a critical role in introducing children to the sounds of words, the print on a page, the ideas and concepts that provide the background for comprehension, and the structure of stories. For these reasons, if we want to ensure that all children have the opportunity to become successful, motivated readers, we need to think about the power the adults in their lives have to change children’s literacy trajectories.

The language and literacy experiences of young children are largely social in nature, and both the environment and the adults that care for them initially guide children’s development. In fact, psychologists point out that language development occurs first as a social act between people and then later as an individual act, as we gradually internalize the directions, strategies, and advice of more skilled others by verbalizing them to ourselves. Similarly, to make sense of the written symbols used to convey any language, children need guidance from the adults in their lives. Talking and reading together with children is a powerful way to help them gain entry to the world of words, and doing so most effectively may require parents to change their current practices.

The kids reading together. photo by Valerie Everett. CC BY-SA 2.0 via valeriebb Flickr.

The kids reading together. Photo by Valerie Everett. CC BY-SA 2.0 via valeriebb Flickr.

Here are some powerful tips that families can use to make shared reading time supportive and effective for young children learning a variety of languages:

  • Let your child take the lead during reading time. We often think of reading together as a time when a parent reads a story to a child straight through, page by page. Instead, let your child take more of an active role by using the pictures to narrate the story, answering your questions about aspects of the book, or sounding out some words independently. This may feel like you and your child are swapping your regular reading roles. And that’s exactly what we want you to do. Even before children are able to read independently, they are ready to be active participants in book reading experiences. Giving them these opportunities helps children build stronger language skills, and provides some insight into their skills and interests.
  • Give your child hints, rather than providing the answer, when he is struggling. This support helps the child solve the problem in a way that allows him to feel competent and to learn from the situation, but also lets the adult to guide the child through the problem-solving process. In addition, it gives him the chance to successfully experience tasks he would not have been able to tackle alone, or that would otherwise make him become frustrated and give up.
  • Identify your child’s strengths, and those reading skills he or she already possesses. Providing experiences that build on the skills your child already possesses will allow her to enhance her learning capacities. If you think about almost any activity you expect your child to complete, you can probably think back to a time when you completed that activity for her. Gradually, over time, she took more responsibility and was able to do more of the task independently. This is not only true for activities like getting dressed and tying shoes, but also for language and literacy tasks, as well as tasks that require memory and concentration.
  • Label the behavior that you want your child to display, and praise it specifically.  Praise and encouragement from parents is a powerful motivational tool. Because shared reading is such a social activity, much of your child’s initial pleasure in reading together may come not primarily from the stories that he hears, but from the joy of sitting in your lap and spending time together. Your child values the time you spend together and will, over time, begin to value the books in front of him and the strategies needed to make sense of them. You can help him build his reading motivation by praising specific skills he displays, like listening carefully, sounding out words, and making great predictions.

Each of these tips helps set the stage for a successful shared reading experience, but may require change on the part of parents to help foster a powerful and engaged reader. These changes, though, help empower children to identify themselves as readers from the time they are young. And this strong foundation prepares them for so many challenges they will face in the future, so doing everything one can to raise a successful, motivated reader is one of the best gifts a parent can give any child.

Anne E. Cunningham, Ph.D. and Jamie Zibulsky, Ph.D. are the authors of Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers. Anne Cunningham is Professor of Cognition and Development at University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Education and Jamie Zibulsky is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Learn more at Book Smart Family.

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8. The quest for ‘real’ protection for indigenous intangible property rights

By Keri Johnston and Marion Heathcote

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) and the regimes of protection and enforcement surrounding them have often been the subject of debate, a debate fuelled in the past year by the increased emphasis on free-trade negotiations and multi-lateral treaties including the now-rejected Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and its Goliath cousin, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The significant media coverage afforded to these treaties, however, risks thrusting certain perspectives of IPR protection and enforcement into the spotlight, while eclipsing alternative, but equally crucial voices that are perhaps in greater need of legitimate dialogue to safeguard their own collection of intangible rights. Caught in the vortex of inadequate recognition and ineffective protection, are the communal intellectual property rights of indigenous communities, centred on traditional knowledge (TK), traditional cultural expressions (TCE), expressions of folklore (EoF), and genetic resources (GR).

The fundamental incompatibility between current intellectual property rights regimes and the rights of indigenous peoples stems largely from the lack of understanding of the driving forces that have led to the development of traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions, expressions of folklore, and genetic resources – that of the protection of whole indigenous cultures through the preservation of the traditional knowledge acquired by these communities as a whole.

The issues are complex. Professor James Anaya’s 2014 keynote speech at the 26th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore at WIPO highlighted the differences governing the intangible rights of indigenous peoples generally, and why these world views have so often been left out of the current mainframe of intellectual property rights. Whereas, the majority view of IPRs tends to focus on the rights of the individual and their protection as such, indigenous cultures are inherently built over centuries and across generations on communal understandings and organic exchanges of knowledge, making it practically impossible to ascribe the ownership of a certain set of IPRs to one or a few individuals.

Apache Dancers at the Exhibit 'Dignity - Tribes in Transition'. United States Mission Geneva Photo: Eric Bridiers. CC-BY-ND-2.0 via US Mission Geneva Flickr.

Apache Dancers at the exhibit ‘Dignity – Tribes in Transition’. United States Mission Geneva Photo: Eric Bridiers. CC-BY-ND-2.0 via US Mission Geneva Flickr.

As Professor Anaya articulates and the other contemplate, the similarities between the inadequacies of the protection of tangible rights of indigenous peoples (e.g. indigenous land rights) and that of their intangible rights protection (including intellectual property rights) tend to stem from a common source – the failure to acknowledge the “inherent logic of indigenous peoples’ world views”.

Perhaps the solutions lie not just in finding ways to include indigenous intellectual property rights in current IPR regimes, but through the facilitation of an entire paradigm shift to capture the nuances of these issues both effectively and precisely. How, for instance, can indigenous IPRs be valued commercially, and how may adequate compensation models be developed in exchange for the commercial use of these rights? A key to increasing the recognition of the inherent value of indigenous IPRs within their traditional cultural settings may lie in developing methods to properly value this worth in tangible terms. What seems necessary is a model to adequately measure the significance of indigenous IPRs, starting at the source (the indigenous community), and finding ways of translating this value into benefit systems that can be returned to the communities from which the IPRs were sourced. Hence recognition is attributed to the crucial part these IPRs play within the cultures from which they are derived.

The strength of intellectual property law lies in its ability to meet the demands of a frenetically changing world, thus affording it vast amounts of power in shaping the law of the future; but this brings with it the challenge – can that power be harnessed to adequately protect rights of the past? Even if the answer is in the affirmative, it does not necessarily follow that the purpose of intellectual property rights protection should be to reduce IPRs to protectable commodities solely for the purpose of commercial exploitation. Protection of IPRs might be secured for any number of reasons, including the recognition of the right for ownership of those rights to be retained within the community. IPRs thus have the capacity to function both as shields and swords. Such weaponry however brings with it obligations: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

Keri Johnston and Marion Heathcote are the guest editors of the Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice special issue on “The Quest for ‘Real’ Protection for Indigenous Intangible Property Rights”. The authors would like to thank Mekhala Chaubal, student-at-law, for her assistance. It is reassuring to know that a new generation of lawyers is willing and able. Keri AF Johnston is managing partner of Johnston Law in Toronto and Marion Heathcote is a partner with Davies Collison Cave in Sydney.

The Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice (JIPLP) is a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to intellectual property law and practice. Published monthly, coverage includes the full range of substantive IP topics, practice-related matters such as litigation, enforcement, drafting and transactions, plus relevant aspects of related subjects such as competition and world trade law.

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9. The Defamation Act 2013: reflections and reforms

How can a society balance both the freedom of expression, including the freedom of the press, with the individual’s right to reputation? Defamation law seeks to address precisely this delicate equation. Especially in the age of the internet, where it is possible to publish immediately and anonymously, these concerns have become even more pressing and complex. The Defamation Act 2013 has introduced some of the most important changes to this area in recent times, including the defence for honest opinion, new internet-specific reforms protecting internet publishers, and attempts to curb an industry of “libel tourism” in the U.K.

Dr Matthew Collins SC introduces the Defamation Act 2013, and discusses the most important reforms and their subsequent implications.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Dr Matthew Collins SC is a barrister based in Melbourne, Australia. He is a Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne, a door tenant at One Brick Court chambers in London, and the author of Collins On Defamation.

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10. An interview with Brian Hughes, digital strategist

Library Week banner

This week is National Library Week in the United States. Oxford University Press is celebrating the contributions of these institutions to communities around the world in a variety of ways, including granting free access to online products in the United States and Canada. To better understand the work that goes into these reference works, we sat down with Senior Marketing Manager Brian Hughes to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the digital space; how Oxford strives to provide knowledge to students, scholars, and researchers; and the hidden considerations that must be made.

What do you do here at Oxford University Press?

I’ve been with OUP for 14 years now and have seen many of our products develop from ideas on paper to the dynamic research and teaching tools they are today. After working in academic marketing for well over a decade, I moved to the global online team and I’m extremely lucky that my current role is diverse and ever-changing. That’s the exciting part of working with digital products.

Much of my time does involve working with the User Experience Platform Management (UXPM) Group, which looks at the functionality and design enhancements for our digital products. I’m also very involved in the Future Business Models Group, which looks at how we can better serve our customers in the near and distant future. The group discusses options and scopes out pilots that will help the business make evidence-based decisions about viable new sales models. For example, later this year we’ll be piloting a Pay-Per-View option on some of our products. In this case we are partnering with a third party but we will have reliable data that will aid us in determining whether building the option ourselves would be feasible. I’m also working with a group that’s looking to make our presence at academic conferences more efficient and further integrate our digital products in the day-to-day discipline marketing. It’s rewarding to work in so many areas and see how the digital program impacts them in a positive way.

What’s the dynamic of the product marketing team?

The biggest difference from my previous positions in academic marketing is that my daily interactions are strictly with those within OUP. Each of the groups and teams that I work with now are made up of an impressive cross-section of the organization: sales, market research, technology, finance, and design. Whether it’s deciding on a site change to Oxford Bibliographies or testing a new price for Grove Art, there’s a team of people helping to ensure the decision is the right one for the Press, both now and in the future.

How do you choose which enhancements to make or prioritize?

There’s a small assessment group that reviews all enhancement requests that come from different parts of the business. First and foremost, we think about how the enhancement is going to help the user. We ask ourselves a lot of questions:

  • Will this change improve the user journey?
  • How will it impact users coming from other Oxford digital products?
  • Are users expecting this functionality because it’s common on competitors’ products?

Of course, we always have to look at the cost. Generally the business case is strong and the benefits will outweigh the cost and the enhancement is approved. But when that’s not the case, it’s important that we in the assessment group provide context for the rejection and provide feedback. Just saying no isn’t fair. But in the end, if it’s good for the user and is cost effective, the change does get approved. Implementation isn’t always immediate. We have to design, test, and schedule the enhancement, which can take a few months, so it’s also important to explain that timeline to my colleagues throughout the business.

What makes excellent online reference from a user experience or web perspective?

Users expect digital products to be intuitive, information to be served up quickly, and finally, information to be as relevant as possible. It’s important once a user engages with any of our digital products that they are able stay within the OUP ecosystem. They came to us as a trusted resource, so we try to create connections between our online products — giving them all the information they need. We have a very short window in which to capture the users’ attention before they move on in their research. We are constantly working to provide them with the best online experience possible. It sounds like a simple task, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of people to make it happen.

What kinds of new tools or technologies would you love to explore further?

One very exciting tool we’re looking to implement within the next six months is an A/B testing system. This will be a very important piece of business intelligence that we’ll be able to use when it comes to enhancements and product development. Currently, we’re unable to test in a live environment, and being able to serve up attributes like availability markers or style changes to different groups will help us make the right decision for our users. I think this is going to be one of the most exciting and important pieces of UX in the next year for the digital program.

What should new users of Oxford’s online resources should know?

Oxford digital products are extremely dynamic. Not just when it comes to functionality or technology, but also content. Our content is being updated on a regular basis; we don’t just replicate the print in an online environment. New types of content are also being added, for instance, we’re adding timelines and commentary to supplement what has appeared in print.

Is there anything loyal users would be surprised to learn about our online resources?

One thing I was surprised to learn is just how much goes on “behind the scenes” to make our digital products better for users. Helping students and researchers along their digital journeys involves a lot more than site design. The team of people working to improve search results, linking, and deliver the best and most relevant content to our users. There’s a lot more than data feeds and style sheets when it comes to digital products.

Professionally speaking, I come from a print background and until I started in my new role, I had no idea how much work and effort went into any one of our products. In 2003, when Oxford Scholarship Online launched, there was nothing like it in the market. Someone once commented that “Oxford has the ability to see around the corner” when it comes to digital publishing. I think that’s pretty telling when it comes to our development and commitment to academic research.

Brian Hughes is Senior Marketing Manager for Oxford University Press’s online program, and oversees advancements on over 40 online products. He has worked at Oxford for 14 years.

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11. A bookish slideshow

From ancient times to the creation of eBooks, books have a long and vast history that spans the globe. Although a book may only seem like a collection of pages with words, they are also an art form that have survived for centuries. In honor of National Library Week, we couldn’t think of a more fitting book to share than The Book: A Global History. The slideshow below highlights the fascinating evolution of the book.

In celebration of National Library Week we’re giving away 10 copies of The Book: A Global History, edited by Michael F. Suarez, S.J. and H.R. Woudhuysen. Learn more and enter for a chance to win.

Michael F. Suarez, S.J. and H. R. Woudhuysen are the authors of The Book: A Global History. Michael F. Suarez S.J. is Professor and Director of the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. H. R. Woudhuysen is Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford.

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12. Shakespeare’s 450th birthday quiz

480px-Shakespeare_Droeshout_1623William Shakespeare was born 450 years ago this month, in April 1564, and to celebrate Oxford Scholarly Editions Online is testing your knowledge on Shakespeare quotes. Do you know your sonnets from your speeches? Find out…

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

Need a clue or two? Then take a look at our Shakespeare birthday infographic!

Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO) is a major publishing initiative from Oxford University Press, providing an interlinked collection of authoritative Oxford editions of major works from the humanities, including the complete Oxford Shakespeare series.

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Image credit: The Droeshout portrait of William Shakespeare. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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13. Jus post bellum and the ethics of peace

By Carsten Stahn, Jennifer S. Easterday, and Jens Iverson

Whenever there is armed conflict, international lawyers inevitably discuss the legality of the use of armed force and the conduct of the warring parties. Less common is a comprehensive legal analysis, informed by ethics and policy concerns, of the transition from armed conflict to peace. The restoration of peace after conflict is often sidelined in post-conflict legal analysis. Interventions and peace operations seeking to build a just and sustainable peace frequently suffer from a misalignment between ‘means’ and ‘ends.’ There can be stark discrepancies between the immediate reaction to conflict and post-conflict engagement. It is true that concepts such as ‘humanitarian intervention,’ the ‘Responsibility to Protect,’ (R2P) or the ‘protection of civilians’ (POC) have been used to establish capacity and political will to respond to atrocity situations. But attention shifts quickly to other situations of crisis once a cease-fire or peace agreement has been reached. Some of the underlying premises of engagement, such as ideas of responsibility or the ethics of care, receive limited attention in the aftermath of crisis and during the lengthy process of peacebuilding.

An old idea that seeks to mitigate these dilemmas is the concept of jus post bellum. The basic idea emerged in classical writings (e.g., Alberico Gentili, Francisco Suarez, Immanuel Kant) and has its most traditional and systemic rooting in just war theory. In this context, it is part of a structural ‘framework’ to evaluate the morality of warfare, and in particular the ‘right way to end a war’, including ’post-war-justice’ (Michael Walzer, Brian Orend). Outside just war theory, jus post bellum is largely unexplored. The notion was used sporadically in different contexts over the past decade: peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction, transformative occupation, transitional justice, and the law of peace (lex pacificatoria) more generally. But the concept has lacked consistency; there are almost as many conceptions of jus post bellum as scholars, within and across disciplines.

A modern understanding of jus post bellum requires a fresh look at each of the core components of the classical concept, namely the meanings of ‘jus,’ ‘post,’ and ‘bellum.’ In traditional scholarship, jus post bellum has mostly been understood as ‘justice after war’. However, in modern scholarship, the concept of ‘jus’ is debated. Does it mean ‘law,’ ‘justice,’ or a complicated mix of the two? The concept of time and what it means to be ‘post’ conflict, and even that of ‘war’ itself, with blurred distinctions between modern armed conflicts, are now more and more contested.

Functions of jus post bellum

Classical scholarship tied jus post bellum to the vindication of ‘rights’ and ‘duties,’ military victory, and the distinction between ‘victors’ and ‘vanquished’. Today, such conceptions require re-consideration. The experience of the two World Wars has confirmed the Kantian postulate that peace remains fragile if it contains tacitly reserved matter for a future war’ (Perpetual Peace). But in modern conflicts (e.g. Afghanistan, Iraq), the entire concept of ‘victory’ has become open to challenge.

Insights from contemporary conflict research indicate that it is not enough to deal with the formal ending of conflict or the ‘pacification’ of violence. Distinctions between ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ become muddied, making it more difficult to mitigate the risk of a return to violence. Structural approaches to peacebuilding require engagement with social injustices, the ‘violence of peace,’ the establishment of ‘trust’ in norms and institutions and other factors that make a society more  ‘resilient’ against conflict.

This makes it necessary to re-think the concept of ‘jus’ beyond its traditional focus on rights and post-war justice (i.e. punishment, responsibility). Past decades have witnessed a rapid rise of the ‘liberal justice model’ and norms and instruments of criminal justice. Core challenges of modern transitions lie therefore not so much in the definition of proper accountability mechanisms, but rather in their coordination with other rationales and priorities (i.e. protection of socio-economic rights) and their perception as elements of ‘just peace.’ This creates space for a modern function of jus post bellum. A modern jus post bellum may pursue different rationales beyond rights vindication or punishment:

(i) it may have a certain preventive function, by requiring actors to look into the consequences of action before, rather than ‘in’ and ‘after’ intervention.
(ii) it may serve as a constraint on violence in armed conflict; and
(iii) it may facilitate a succession to peace, rather than a mere ‘exit’ from conflict.

System, framework, or interpretative device?

The branding of jus post bellum as a modern concept comes with its own problems and politics. The very use of the label creates some risks (e.g. fears of abuse and instrumentalization) and concerns relating to the function and reach of law. But there is some space to ‘think outside the box.’ A modern jus post bellum does not necessarily have to be framed in the structure and form of established concepts, such as jus ad bellum or jus in bello. There is virtue in diversifying the foundations of jus post bellum.

First, Jus post bellum may be said to form a system of norms and principles applicable to transitions from conflict to peace. It provides, in particular, substantive norms and guidance for the organization of post-conflict peace. Some voices have even called for new codification, i.e. a fifth Geneva Convention. But more law and abstract regulation do not necessarily suffice to address tensions arising in the aftermath of conflict. There may a greater need for a better application of the existing law, and its adjustment to context, rather than the articulation of new norms and standards. Some promise may lie in the strengthening of informal mechanisms and flexible principles.

A second and more ‘modest’ conception of jus post bellum is its qualification as a ‘framework.’ This conception emphasizes the functionality of jus post bellum, such as its capacity to serve an instrument to evaluate action (e.g., legitimate ending of conflict) and to establish a public context for debate. Jus post bellum might be construed as an ‘ordering framework,’ or as a tool to coordinate the application of laws, solve conflicts of norms, and balance conflicting interests.

Thirdly, jus post bellum may constitute an interpretative device. The concept might inform a context-specific interpretation of certain normative concepts, such as ‘military necessity’ or the principle of proportionality. It might, for instance introduce a novel end in relation to the conduct of hostilities, namely the objective not to defeat the goal of sustainable peace through the conduct of warfare.

In moral philosophy, the idea of jus post bellum has been associated with the struggle for ‘justice’ and ‘just peace’ for centuries. It has been driven by ambitions to reconcile ideas of justice and punishment with moderation towards the vanquished. These dilemmas continue today. But underlying tensions have received increased attention in the legal arena since the 1990s. Many of the unexplored strengths and new opportunities lie in the broader role of the concept in relation to peacebuilding. It is here where the concept provides new prospects to rethink some of the fundamental elements of the table of contents and institutions of international law, not necessarily in the form of the ‘liberal’ peace idea, but in a novel, pluralistic way.

Carsten Stahn, Jennifer S. Easterday, and Jens Iverson are the editors of Jus Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations. Carsten Stahn is Professor of International Criminal Law and Global Justice and Programme Director of the Grotius Centre for International Studies, Universiteit Leiden. Jennifer S. Easterday is a Ph.D Researcher, Faculteit Rechtsgeleerdheid, Instituut voor Publiekrecht, Internationaal Publiekrecht, Universiteit Leiden. Jens Iverson is a Researcher for the ‘Jus Post Bellum’ project and an attorney specializing in public international law, Universiteit Leiden.

Oxford University Press is a leading publisher in international law, including the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, latest titles from thought leaders in the field, and a wide range of law journals and online products. We publish original works across key areas of study, from humanitarian to international economic to environmental law, developing outstanding resources to support students, scholars, and practitioners worldwide. For the latest news, commentary, and insights follow the International Law team on Twitter @OUPIntLaw.

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14. Passover in Jewish Eastern Europe

By Glenn Dynner

Today, observant Jews the world over are selling off their leavened foodstuffs (chametz) in preparation for the Passover holiday, which begins with a seder this evening and is followed by eight days of eating matzah, macaroons, and other unleavened products.

But in Eastern Europe, where the vast majority of American Jews have roots, the sale of leavened products not only used to be more widespread, it was more complicated. Many East European Jews—almost 40%—made their living selling beer, wine, and rye-based vodka in taverns leased from the Polish nobility. Passover was a forced holiday for them.

Henryk Rodakowski, “Karczmarz Jasio,” z cyklu Album Pałahickie, 1867, akwarela na papierze, 32 x 23 cm.

Henryk Rodakowski, “Karczmarz Jasio,” z cyklu Album Pałahickie, 1867, akwarela na papierze, 32 x 23 cm.

During the eight days of Passover, Jewish tavernkeepers had to “sell” all of their leavened products to non-Jewish neighbors. Rabbis drew up contracts for the fictitious sales similar to those utilized today, a loophole meant to prevent economic ruin.

Problems emerged in the early nineteenth century, when the government attempted to drive Jews out of rural tavernkeeping (ostensibly to protect the peasants from drunkenness and ruin) by imposing heavy concession fees on them. The Hasidic master Moses Eliyakim Beriyah of Kozienice lamented that “several of the [Jewish] villagers were forced to apostatize because of their need to make a living.”

The main issue for the numerous traveling Jewish merchants, who relied on Jewish-run taverns for hospitality, was not that those proprietors had converted to Christianity. It was that, according to Jewish law, the proprietors were technically still Jewish. Yet who could be sure that they were “selling off” their leaven products to gentiles during the intermediate days of Passover? This cast doubt on the ritual fitness of everything they sold. A governmental investigation, preserved in Polish archival records, confirms that most Jewish customers refused to purchase liquor from apostate tavernkeepers on these grounds.

Thus, conversion to Christianity did not turn out to be much of a solution for Jewish tavernkeepers struggling under the weight of discriminatory legislation. Instead, many began to evade concession fees by going underground—permanently installing Christians as “fronts” for their taverns. They did this with the full knowledge and participation of their Christian neighbors, a beautiful reflection of Jewish-Christian coexistence at the local level during the rise of absolutism!

Glenn Dynner is Professor of Jewish Studies at Sarah Lawrence College and the author of Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in the Kingdom of Poland. He has been a Fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, and is currently the NEH Senior Scholar at the Center for Jewish History in New York.

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15. Disposable captives

By Lori Gruen

The decision by the administrators of the Copenhagen Zoo to kill a two-year-old giraffe named Marius by shooting him in the head in February 2014, then autopsy his body in public and feed Marius’ body parts to the lions held captive at the zoo created quite an uproar. When the same zoo then killed the lions (an adult pair and their two cubs) a month later to make room for a more genetically-worthy captive, the uproar became more ferocious.

Animal lovers across the globe were shocked and sickened by these killings and couldn’t understand why this bloodshed was being carried out at a zoo.

The zoo’s justification for killing Marius was that he had genes that were already “well represented” in the captive giraffe population in Europe. The justification for killing the lions was that the zoo was planning to introduce a younger male who was not genetically related to any of the females in the group.

Sacrificing the well-being and even the lives of individual animals in the name of conserving a diverse gene pool is commonplace in zoos. Euthanasia, usually by means less grotesque than a shotgun to the head, is quite common in European zoos. In US zoos, contraception is often used to prevent “over-representation” of certain gene lines. The European zoos’ reason for not using birth control the way most American zoos do is that they believe allowing animals to reproduce provides the animals with the opportunity to engage the fuller range of species typical behaviors, but that also means killing the undesirable offspring. In both European and US zoos, families are broken up and individuals are shipped to other facilities to diversify and manage the captive gene pool.

If this all has a ring of eugenic reasoning, consider what the executive director of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Gerald Dick, had to say: “In Europe, there is a strict attempt to maintain genetically pure animals and not waste space in a zoo for genetically useless specimens.”

A stuffed giraffe, representing Marius, at a protest against zoos and the confinement of animals in Lisbon, 2014

A stuffed giraffe, representing Marius, at a protest against zoos and the confinement of animals in Lisbon, 2014

The high-profile slaughter of Marius and the lions that ate his body focus attention on an important debate about the purpose of zoos and more generally the ethics of captivity. Originally, zoos were designed to amuse, amaze, and entertain visitors. As public awareness of the plight of endangered species and their diminishing habitats grew, zoos increasingly saw their roles as conservation and education. But just what is being conserved and what are the educational lessons that zoo-goers take away from their experiences at the zoo?

A recent study suggests that zoo-goers learn about biodiversity by visiting zoos. Critics have suggested that the study is not particularly convincing in linking the small increase in understanding of biodiversity with the complex demands of conservation. Some zoos are committed to direct conservation efforts; the Wildlife Conservation Society (aka the Bronx Zoo) and the Lincoln Park Zoo are just two examples of zoos that have extensive and successful conservation programs. Despite these laudable programs, these WAZA-accredited zoos, like the European zoos, are also in the business of gene management and a central tenet of the current management ethos is to value genetic diversity over individual well-being.

Awe-inspiring animals such as giraffes and gorillas and cheetahs and chimpanzees are not seen as individuals, with distinct perspectives, when viewed, as Dick says, as either useful or useless “specimens.” They are valued, if at all, as representative carriers of their species’ genes.

This distorts our understanding of other animals and our relationships to them. Part of the problem is that zoos are not places in which animals can be seen as dignified. Zoos are designed to satisfy human interests and desires, even though they largely fail at this. A trip to the zoo creates a relationship in which the observer, often a child, has a feeling of dominant distance over the animals being looked at. It is hard to respect and admire a being that is captive in every respect and viewed as a disposable specimen, one who can be killed to satisfy a mission that is hard for the zoo-going public to fully understand, let alone endorse.

Causing death is what zoos do. It is not all that they do, but it is a big part of what happens at zoos, even if this is usually hidden from the public. Zoos are institutions that not only purposely kill animals, they are also places that in holding certain animals captive, shorten their lives. Some animals, such as elephants and orca whales, cannot thrive in captivity and holding them in zoos and aquaria causes them to die prematurely.

Death is a natural part of life, and perhaps we would do well to have a less fearful, more accepting attitude about death. But those who purposefully bring about premature death run the risk of perpetuating the notion that some lives are disposable. It is that very idea that we can use and dispose of other animals as we please that has led to the problems that have zoos and others thinking about conservation in the first place. When institutions of captivity promote the idea that some animals are disposable by killing “genetically useless specimens” like young Marius and the lions, they may very well be undermining the tenuous conservation claims that are meant to justify their existence.

Lori Gruen is Professor of Philosophy, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Environmental Studies at Wesleyan University where she also coordinates Wesleyan Animal Studies and directs the Ethics in Society Project. She is the author of The Ethics of Captivity.

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Image credit: Sit-in protest in Lisbon. Photo by Mattia Luigi Nappi, 2014. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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16. BICEP2 finds gravitational waves from near the dawn of time

By Andrew Liddle

The cosmology community is abuzz with news from the BICEP2 experiment of the discovery of primordial gravitational waves, through their signature in the cosmic microwave background. If verified, this will be a clear indication that the very young universe underwent a period of acceleration, known as cosmic inflation. During this period, it is thought that the seeds were laid down for all the structures to form later in the universe, including galaxies, stars, and indeed ourselves.

The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is radiation left over from the Hot Big Bang, first discovered in 1965 and corresponding to a temperature only about 2.7 degrees above absolute zero. In 1992 the COBE satellite made the first detection of temperature variations in the CMB, and successive experiments, including satellite missions WMAP and Planck, have been accurately measuring these variations which have become the key tool to understanding our universe.

In addition to its brightness, radiation can have a polarisation, meaning that the electromagnetic oscillations that make up the light have a preferred orientation, e.g. horizontal or vertical. This same effect is used in 3D cinemas, where light of different polarisations reaches your left or right eye, the lenses in the glasses blocking out one or other from each eye. In the CMB the polarisation signal is very small, and moreover comes in two types, known as E-mode and B-mode polarisation. The second of these, corresponding to a twisting pattern of polarisation on the sky, is what BICEP2 has discovered for the first time. This twisting pattern is the signature of gravitational waves, created in the early universe and whose presence causes space-time itself to ‘wobble’ as the light from the CMB crosses the Universe.

The Dark Sector Laboratory at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. At left is the South Pole Telescope. At right is the BICEP2 telescope. Photo by Amble, 2009. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Dark Sector Laboratory at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. At left is the South Pole Telescope. At right is the BICEP2 telescope. Photo by Amble, 2009. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The BICEP2 team have been working for several years with the single aim of measuring this signal; inflation predicted it to be there but said nothing about its strength. Based at the South Pole, where the unusually clear and dry air creates an ideal viewpoint for accurate measurement, three years of observations were carried out from 2010 to 2012. Their experiment differs from others measuring the CMB polarisation because they focussed on covering as large an area of the sky as possible, at relatively moderate angular resolution, in order to specifically target the B-mode signal.

While the discovery of gravitational waves had been widely rumoured in the days leading up to the announcement, including even the size of the measured signal, what took everyone’s breath away was the significance of the signal. At 6 to 7-sigma, it exceeds even the gold-standard 5-sigma used at CERN for the Higgs particle detection. Most would have expected something tentative, 2 or 3-sigma perhaps. We will want verification, of course, especially because the use of just a single wavelength of observation (the microwave equivalent of using just one colour of the rainbow) means the experiment is a little vulnerable to radiation from sources other than the CMB, such as intervening galaxies or emission caused by particles spiralling around our own Milky Way’s magnetic fields. The strength of the detection suggests that will not be an issue, but for sure we want to see independent confirmation by other experiments and at other wavelengths. Some may have announcements even before the end of the year, including the Planck satellite mission.

The response of the cosmology community to BICEP2 has been staggeringly swift. Early communication and discussion was already underway during the web-streamed BICEP2 press conference, via a Facebook discussion group set up by Scott Dodelson at Fermilab. The first science papers using the results were already appearing on arXiv.org database within the next couple of days (including these ones by me!). By the end of March, only two weeks after the announcement, there were already almost 50 available papers with ‘BICEP’ in the title, written by researchers all around the world. Papers on BICEP2 are clearly going to be a main theme for astronomy journals, including MNRAS, for the remainder of the year as we all try to figure out what, in detail, it all means.

Andrew Liddle is Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh. He is an editor of the OUP astronomy journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS) is one of the world’s leading primary research journals in astronomy and astrophysics, as well as one of the longest established. It publishes the results of original research in astronomy and astrophysics, both observational and theoretical.

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17. Writing as technology

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In honor of the beginning of National Library Week this Sunday, 13 April 2014, we’re sharing this interesting excerpt from Contemporary Fiction: A Very Short Introduction. As technology continues to evolve, the way we access books and information is changing, and libraries are continuously working to keep up-to-date with the latest resources available. Here, Robert Eaglestone presents the idea of the seemingly simple act of writing as a form of technology.

The essential thing about technology is that, despite our iPhones and computers and digital cameras and constant change, it is not new at all. In fact, human civilization over the longest possible time grew up not just hand in hand with technology but because of technology. Technology isn’t just something added to ‘being human’ the way we might acquire another gadget: the essence of technology is in the creation of tools, technology in the creation of farming and in buildings, cities, roads, and machines. (p. 87) And perhaps the most important form of technology is right here in front of you, you’re looking at it right now, this second: writing. It too—these very letters here, now—is, of course, a technology. Writing is a ‘machine’ to supplement both the fallible and limited nature of our memory (it stores information over time) and our bodies over space (it carries information over distances). So it’s not so much that we humans made technology: technology also made us. As we write, so writing makes us. It is technology that allows us history, as a recorded past and so a present, and so, perhaps a future. So to think about technology, and changes in technology, is to think about the very core of what we, as a species, are and about how we are changing. As we change technology, we change ourselves. And all novels, because they are a form of technology, implicitly or explicitly, do this.

The word ‘technology’ comes from the Greek word ‘techne’: techne is the skill of the craftsman or woman at building things (ships, tables, tapestries) but also, interestingly, the skill of crafting art and poetry. ‘Techne’ is the skill of seeing how, say, these pieces of wood would make a good table if sanded and used in just that way, or seeing the shape of David in the block of marble, or in hearing how these phrases will best represent the sadness you imagine Queen Hecuba feels in mourning her husband and sons. It’s also the skill, in our age, of working out how best to use resources to eliminate a disease globally, or to deliver high-quality education. But ‘techne’ has become more than just skill: it is a whole way of thinking about the world. In this ‘technological thinking’, everything in the world is turned into a potential resource for use, everything is a tool for doing something. Rocks become sources of ore; trees become potential timber for carpentry or pulp for paper; the wind itself is captured by a windmill or, in a more contemporary idiom, ‘farmed’ in a wind farm. Companies have departments of ‘human resources’. Even an undeveloped piece of natural land, purposely left undisturbed by buildings and agriculture, becomes a ‘wilderness park’, a ‘machine’ in which to relax and recharge (p. 88) oneself from the strains of everyday life. Great works of literature are turned into a resource through which to measure people, by exams or in quizzes. This is the point of the old saw, ‘To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail’: to a technological way of thinking, everything looks like a resource to be used (just as to a carpenter, all trees look like potential timber; to a university academic, all fiction is a source of exam questions). More than this, the modern networks which use these resources are bigger and more complex. Where once the windmill ground the miller’s corn to make bread, now a huge global food system moves food resources about internationally: understanding and using these networks are a career in themselves. This technological thinking, rather than the tools it produces, is a taken-for-granted ‘framework’ in which we come to see and understand everything. Although many people have made this sort of observation about the world, the influential and contentious German philosopher Martin Heidegger, from whom much of the above is drawn, made it most keenly.

Is this a bad thing? It certainly sounds as if it might be. Who wants, after all, to be seen only as a ‘human resource’? It’s precisely technological thinking that has put the world at risk of total destruction. On the other hand, technology has offered so much to so many: in curing illness and alleviating pain, for example. The question is too big to answer in these simple terms of ‘bad’ or ‘good’. However, contemporary fiction seems very negative about technology, positing dystopias and awful ends for humanity. However, I want to suggest that contemporary fiction doesn’t find the world utterly without hope, precisely because of technology.

Robert Eaglestone is Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is Deputy Director (and formerly Director) of the Holocaust Research Centre. His research interests are in contemporary literature and literary theory, contemporary philosophy, and on Holocaust and genocide studies. He is the author of Contemporary Fiction: A Very Short Introduction and Doing English: A Guide for Literature Students (third revised edition) (Routledge, 2009).

The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday, subscribe to Very Short Introductions articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS, and like Very Short Introductions on Facebook.

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18. “The Mouth that roared”: Peter Benchley’s Jaws at 40

By Kirk Curnutt

The novel that scared a generation out of the ocean and inspired everything from Shark Week to Sharknado recently turned forty. Commemorations of Peter Benchley’s Jaws have been as rare as megalodon sightings, however. Ballantine has released a new paperback edition featuring an amusing list of the author’s potential titles (The Grinning Fish, Pisces Redux), and in February an LA fundraiser for Shark Savers/Wildaid performed excerpts promising “an evening of relentless terror (and really awkward sex).” Otherwise, silence.

The reason is obvious. Steven Spielberg’s 1975 adaptation is so totemic that the novel is considered glorified source material, despite selling twenty-million copies. Rare is the commentator who doesn’t harp on its faults, and rarer still the fan who defends it. Critics dismiss the book as “airport literature,” while genre lovers complain it lacks “virtually every single thing that makes the movie great.” Negative perceptions arguably begin with Spielberg himself. Amid the legendary production problems that plagued the making of the movie—pneumatic sharks that didn’t work, uncooperative ocean conditions that tripled the shooting schedule—the director managed to suggest that his biggest obstacle was Benchley’s original narrative: “If we don’t succeed in making this picture better than the book,” he said, “we’re in real trouble.”

Jaws by Peter Benchley, first edition paperback, 1975.

Jaws by Peter Benchley, first edition paperback, 1975.

It’s unfortunate that Benchley gets so little love. In the mid-seventies book-Jaws didn’t simply inspire a movie but was integral to the overall phenomenon. My mother brought home the hardback months before Spielberg even began filming. As the pre-release hype roiled throughout spring 1975, her ten-year old cobbled together $1.95 for his very own paperback, which featured Roger Kastel’s iconic illustration of a massive beast with a mouthful of stalactites and stalagmites speeding toward a naked woman. (The hardback’s cover was toothless, both literally and figuratively; the shark looks like an index finger with a paper cut aiming to tickle its prey). Shortly after seeing Jaws I owned the soundtrack with John Williams’s ominous dun-dun theme; co-screenwriter Carl Gottlieb’s The Jaws Log, which detailed the torturous filming; and a Jaws beach towel, which made me the envy of the pool, if only briefly.

Obsessed, I collected newspaper and magazine clippings on sharks. Following the loony lead of Mad, Cracked, and Sick, I drew goofy, pun-laden parodies (Paws) and became a connoisseur of gory rip-offs (Grizzly, Orca). My paperback was essential to feeding my frenzy. I managed only three matinees before the movie left town. That was as many times per hour as I probably pored over Benchley’s bloodier passages. The urge to revisit scenes would today send a young fan to YouTube for clips or to Google for GIFs and memes. For a pre-Internet, pre-computer kid, however, rereading was the original refresh and replay. I knew Jaws so inside out I could cite the page number where the legs of the boy my age “were severed at the hips” and “sank, spinning slowly,” and I could flip straight to the bizarre moment when the shark hunter Quint insults his quarry’s penis.

I also detailed differences between the book and movie in my journal. (I was an only child; I had free time). The first change beguiled the beginning writer in me: “[Benchley] didn’t like any of his characters,” Spielberg declared, “so none of them were very likable. He put them in a situation where you were rooting for the shark to eat the people—in alphabetical order.”

The director flattened Benchley’s characters into eminently relatable archetypes: the everyman-cop with a near-fatal fear of water, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider); Quint, the aged fisherman (Robert Shaw); and the cocky scientist, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss). Their counterparts on the page admittedly lack both their comic relief (Scheider’s famous deadpan “You’re going to need a bigger boat” upon first seeing the shark) and their riveting monologues (especially Quint’s tale of surviving the 1945 sinking of the USS Indianapolis, brilliantly if soddenly delivered by Shaw). Benchley preferred his people perturbing, not heroic. His insecure, snockered Brody belligerently spoils his wife’s dinner party; Hooper beds Mrs. Brody; and for bait Quint uses a dolphin fetus he brags of carving from its mother’s womb.

Despite its armrest-gripping terror, Spielberg’s movie is cathartic because man ultimately conquers nature. Like most audiences, I fist-pumped and cheered when Brody blew the shark to smithereens by exploding an oxygen tank. The book’s battle is less intense and yet more primal. Benchley’s captain hurls his harpoons as Queequeg or Tashtego would instead of firing them from a gun, while Quint’s and Hooper’s deaths are cruelly ironic. Maybe it’s because my friends and I had great fun sneaking ketchup packets into the pool to reenact it, but Shaw’s blood-belching final close-up never haunted me as much as the novel’s Ahab-inspired image of Quint dragged to a watery grave snared in his own harpoon line. Hooper’s fate is even more macabre. As the ichthyologist is turned into a human toothpick Brody attempts an ill-conceived rescue by strafing the water with rifle fire. He manages to miss the shark completely yet land a bullet in Hooper’s neck. Long before reading Melville, I intuited that this was how a naturalistic universe mocked humanity.

Jaws remains a very seventies-novel. I rather like that quality, much as, by contrast, I like that Spielberg’s movie hasn’t aged a day. (Thanks to Deep Blue Sea and Sharknado, we know how un-scary CGI sharks are compared to life-size pneumatic ones). Benchley’s book feels the way the first half of its decade did: amorphous and off-center, dubious of heroes, titillated by dirty talk.

Perhaps I might feel differently if I hadn’t read it on the cusp of adolescence, but Jaws reminds me of how novels attuned me to adult frailties. It’s going overboard to say it exposed me to the sharkish side of humanity, but I could recognize Brody’s resentments, Quint’s unapologetic violence, and Hooper’s sense of sexual entitlement in men I knew. A year after I outgrew my obsession I was berated for entering a community-theater dressing room and discovering a very Mrs. Brody-like friend of my family’s kissing a man I knew wasn’t her husband.

Benchley’s novel certainly made me afraid of the water, but unlike the movie, it did nothing to convince me I was any safer on dry land.

Kirk Curnutt is professor and chair of English at Troy University’s Montgomery, Alabama, campus, where Scott Fitzgerald met Zelda Sayre in 1918. His publications include A Historical Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald (2004), the novels Breathing Out the Ghost (2008) and Dixie Noir (2009), and Brian Wilson (2012). He is currently at work on a reader’s guide to Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not.

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19. A call for oral history bloggers

By Caitlin Tyler-Richards

Over the past few months, the Oral History Review has become rather demanding. In February, we asked readers to experiment with the short form article. A few weeks ago, our upcoming interim editor Dr. Stephanie Gilmore sent out a call for papers for our special Winter/Spring 2016 issue, “Listening to and for LGBTQ Lives.” Now, we’d like you to also take over our OUPBlog posting duties.

retro microphoneWell, “take over” might be a hyperbole. However, we have always hoped to use this and our other social media platforms to encourage discussion within the oral history discipline, and to spark exchanges with those working with oral histories outside the field. We like to imagine that through our podcasts, interviews and book reviews, we have brought about some conversations or inspired new ways to approach oral history. However, we can do better.

Towards that end, we are putting out a “call for blog posts” for this summer. These posts should fall in line with the aforementioned goal to promote the engagement between and beyond those in oral history field. Like our hardcopy counterpart, we are especially interested in posts that explore oral history in the digital age. As you might have gathered, we thrive on puns and the occasional, outdated pop culture reference. These are even more appreciated when coupled with clean and thoughtful insights into oral history work.

We are currently looking for posts between 500-800 words and 15-20 minutes of audio or video. Though, because we operate on the wonderful worldwide web, we are open to negotiation in terms of media and format. We should also stress that while we welcome posts that showcase a particular project, we do not want to serve as landing page for anyone’s kickstarter.

Please direct any additional questions, pitches or submissions to the social media coordinator, Caitlin Tyler-Richards, at ohreview[at]gmail[dot]com. You may also message us on Twitter (@oralhistreview) or Facebook.

We can’t wait to see what you all have to say.

Caitlin Tyler-Richards is the editorial/media assistant at the Oral History Review. When not sharing profound witticisms at @OralHistReview, Caitlin pursues a PhD in African History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research revolves around the intersection of West African history, literature and identity construction, as well as a fledgling interest in digital humanities. Before coming to Madison, Caitlin worked for the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University.

The Oral History Review, published by the Oral History Association, is the U.S. journal of record for the theory and practice of oral history. Its primary mission is to explore the nature and significance of oral history and advance understanding of the field among scholars, educators, practitioners, and the general public. Follow them on Twitter at @oralhistreview, like them on Facebook, add them to your circles on Google Plus, follow them on Tumblr, listen to them on Soundcloud, or follow the latest OUPblog posts via email or RSS to preview, learn, connect, discover, and study oral history.

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20. Street Photography from Grove Art Online

In honor of World Art Day on 15 April 2014, Oxford is hosting a street photography competition. But what exactly is street photography? The below article from Grove Art Online by Lisa Hostetler explores the history of street photography, as well as its relationship to contemporary art.  As Dr. Hostetler explains, this type of art includes “photographs exposed in and of an urban environment and made with artistic intent.”

Street photography

Genre of photography that can be understood as the product of an artistic interaction between a photographer and an urban public space. It is distinguished from documentary photography in that the photographer is not necessarily motivated by the evidentiary value or socio-political function of the resulting photographs. Unlike photojournalism, a street photographer’s images are not intended to illustrate a news story or other narrative. Instead, their primary goal is expressive and communicates a subjective impression of the experience of everyday life in a city. Thus neither the locale nor the subject-matter defines street photography; it is the photographer’s approach to the medium and movement through public space that differentiate street photography from related forms of photography.

1. Technological factors and the roots of street photography

Photographs made in or of an urban environment are as old as the history of the medium itself, but street photography did not coalesce into a distinct form of photographic practice until the 20th century. Louis Daguerre‘s view of the Boulevard du Temple (1838), made from the window of his studio, suggests one reason why: the daguerreotype’s relatively long exposure time meant that the majority of people on the street were invisible in the photograph; the only person who stood still long enough to register on the plate was a man who stopped to get a shoeshine. In the first decade after the announcement of photography’s invention, photographic optics and chemistry were not fast enough to capture bustling crowds—a hallmark of urban life and a key element in street photography. The wet collodion negatives that dominated photographic practice in the 1850s and 1860s continued to involve significant time, requiring the photographer to prepare, expose, and develop negatives all in the space of about ten minutes. This made immersion in the experience of the street difficult and did not lend itself easily to spontaneity—a quality upon which later street photography thrived. With the introduction of dry-plate negatives in the 1870s and then gelatin silver roll film in the 1880s, photographic technology became more conducive to street photography. In addition, the launch and dissemination of the 35mm camera beginning in the mid-1920s was a particular boon to street photography; its hand-held size allowed for candid, easy movement through well-populated spaces, and many of the films developed for it were sensitive enough to record images even in situations with limited light. Unlike earlier snapshot cameras, the photographer held the camera up to his or her eye to look through the viewfinder instead of peering down into it from above. This facilitated the sense of the camera as an extension of the mind’s eye and permitted photographers to move along with the rhythm of street life more fully. With such technological developments in place, street photography flourished, particularly in the decades immediately after World War II.

Before that time, much of the photography that has come to be associated with the genre had its roots in another form of the medium. For example, Charles Marville’s photographs of French architecture and condemned roads in Paris suggest urban life in the 1850s and 1860s, but they were produced primarily to record the existence of culturally significant buildings and infrastructure slated for demolition. Similarly, Eugène Atget‘s images of Paris from the late 19th century and early 20th were originally intended as documents for artists rather than as independent works of art. Nevertheless, their collective impression of the city as a place with a specific mood—one in which ageing building façades and reflective store windows combine to evoke the mien of an anonymous urban populace—established Atget as a godfather of street photography for generations of subsequent artists.

The seeds of street photography are also present in photographs from the early years of the 20th century by Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand. Stieglitz’s Winter, Fifth Avenue (1893) and The Terminal (1893) record quotidian scenes of New York life, employing snow and smoke to enhance the pictorial power of the image. In photographs such as Wall Street, New York (1915), Strand created an image that defines the experience of scale in the city’s financial district while juxtaposing the structural geometry of the built environment with the pattern of figures and shadows on the sidewalk. Blind (1916) depicts an unfortunately common feature of urban life, a blind beggar on the street, but the image may also be interpreted as a comment on the voyeurism of candid photography in public. Thus, both Stieglitz and Strand made photographs on New York streets that contributed to the development of the genre, but street photography was not their primary pursuit.

2. Development and fruition

In the years between World War I and World War II, several photographers had a formidable impact on the subsequent maturation of street photography. Hungarian photographer André Kertész‘s images of Paris made after his adoption of the 35mm camera in 1928, such asMeudon (1928) and Carrefour Blois (1930), communicate the everyday surrealism and graphic élan characteristic of metropolitan life. Kertész was an important figure for both Brassaï and Henri Cartier-Bresson—two photographers whose work fundamentally shaped the practice of street photography after World War II. Brassaï, whom Kertész introduced to photography, became especially well known for his photographs of Paris at night. His images of the characters, sights, and activities endemic to the nocturnal life of France’s capital city were published in book form asParis de nuit (1933), a foundational book of street photographs. Kertész was also a mentor to Cartier-Bresson, whose concept of the ‘decisive moment’—the instant when subject-matter and compositional form align, as in Behind the Gare Saint Lazare (1932)—guided his photographs of everyday life in Paris, Madrid, New York, and other cities beginning in the 1930s. Famous for his devotion to the Leica camera, rejection of flash photography, and purported refusal to crop his images, Cartier-Bresson advocated spontaneity and intuition as the driving forces of creative photography. His 1952 book Images à la sauvette laid out these principles and became a touchstone for subsequent generations of street photographers.

The immediate post-war years inaugurated a particularly rich era in the history of street photography in the United States. Several key street photographers—including Lisette ModelHelen LevittLouis FaurerWilliam Klein, Saul Leiter (b 1923), and Robert Frank—produced their best-known images between 1940 and 1959. Some, such as Helen Levitt, distilled decisive moments from city life into universal human images. Others, such as William Klein, transformed restless glances and brash gestures into grainy, often blurry images that embodied the frantic pace and aggressive rhythm of post-war New York City. Meanwhile, Louis Faurer trained his camera on the idiosyncratic characters, gritty nightlife, and poignant personal interactions that were common to the urban scene but absent from mainstream representations of American social life. Such photographs imparted a particularly subjective view of public space, underscoring the expressive possibilities of photography. In 1955–6, Robert Frank travelled throughout the United States making the photographs that would eventually become The Americans, a book of his work published in France in 1958 and in the United States in 1959. Although not composed exclusively of street photographs, the book established street photography as a legitimate creative pursuit and launched Frank as one of the consummate American photographers of his generation.

Street photography flourished outside the United States during the post-war period as well. In France it was dominated by three figures: Robert DoisneauWilly Ronis, and Izis. Doisneau’s The Kiss (1950), which depicts a sailor passionately kissing a woman in front of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, captured the energy and optimism to which many aspired after the devastation of World War II. It became one of the best-known photographs of the era. In England, Roger Mayne photographed everyday life on working-class streets after the war. His perceptive impressions of Teddy Boys and working ‘stiffs’ sharing the pavement in London foreshadowed generational tensions that would erupt in the 1960s. Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama also turned to street photography during these years. His images suggest an undercurrent of restlessness and repression in a society shattered by war and caught between tradition and modernity.

By the 1960s the snapshot aesthetic had become a prominent motif in American photography, thanks in large part to curator John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. A master of this mode, Garry Winogrand applied his talents to the streets of New York and other cities throughout the 1960s and 1970s. His street photographs, in which titled horizon lines, apparently haphazard framing, and bold movements make frequent appearances, seem to channel the kinetic energy of his subjects, making many of his images iconic examples of the genre.

3. Street photography and contemporary art

As conceptual artists began to incorporate photographs into their work in the late 1960s and 1970s, the presence of photography in contemporary art expanded, and street photography became a form of performance art. Douglas Huebler (1924–97) and Sophie Calle created work that shared street photography’s embrace of chance interactions in public space. However, their work replaced street photography’s spontaneous, subjective edge with the prescriptive procedural frameworks characteristic of conceptual art.

In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, as the world became increasingly saturated by photographic imagery that was ever easier to manipulate, street photography found new contexts. Its emphasis on spontaneity and intuition promised an inherent authenticity, making it an appealing genre for a number of contemporary artists. Some, like Philip-Lorca diCorcia (b 1951), used it to question photography’s axiomatic association with truth. DiCorcia’s photographs on international city streets in the 1990s appear to be extemporaneous examples of street photography, but in fact, the scenarios were carefully arranged and lit. Other artists, such as Zoe Strauss (b 1970), continued to pursue street photography in its straightforward form. Her images, made in South Philadelphia, extended the accessibility, sincerity, and sense of personal exposure associated with classic street photography into the contemporary age. Outside the United States, artists such as Alexey Titarenko (b 1962) and Graeme Williams have also brought the genre of street photography into the 21st century.


J. Livingston: The New York School: Photographs, 1936–1963 (New York, 1992)
J. Meyerowitz and C. Westerbeck: Bystander: A History of Street Photography (New York, 1994)
K. Brougher and R. Ferguson: Open City: Street Photographs since 1950 (Oxford and Ostfildern, 2001)
U. Eskildsen: Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography (London and New York, 2008)
L. Lee and W. Rugg, eds: Street Art, Street Life: from the 1950s to Now (New York, 2008)
L. Hostetler: Street Seen: The Psychological Gesture in Photography 1940–1959 (Milwaukee, 2010)

Lisa Hostetler

Oxford Art Online offers access to the most authoritative, inclusive, and easily searchable online art resources available today. Through a single, elegant gateway users can access — and simultaneously cross-search — an expanding range of Oxford’s acclaimed art reference works: Grove Art Online, the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to Western Art, and The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, as well as many specially commissioned articles and bibliographies available exclusively online.

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21. Overcoming everyday violence [infographic]

The struggle for food, water, and shelter are problems commonly associated with the poor. Not as widely addressed is the violence that surrounds poor communities. Corrupt law enforcement, rape, and slavery (to name a few), separate families, destroys homes, ruins lives, and imprisons the poor in their current situations. Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros, authors of The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, have experience in the slums, back alleys, and streets where violence is a living, breathing being — and the work to turn those situations around. Delve into the infographic below and learn how solutions like media coverage and business intervention have begun to positively change countries like the Congo, Cambodia, Peru, and Brazil.

Infographic Locust Effect

Download a copy of the infographic.

Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros are co-authors of The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. Gary Haugen is the founder and president of International Justice Mission, a global human rights agency that protects the poor from violence. The largest organization of its kind, IJM has partnered with law enforcement to rescue thousands of victims of violence. Victor Boutros is a federal prosecutor who investigates and tries nationally significant cases of police misconduct, hate crimes, and international human trafficking around the country on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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22. A publisher before wartime

This year marks the centenary of the start of the First World War. This cataclysmic event in world history has been examined by many scholars with different angles over the intervening years, but the academic community hopes to gain fresh insight into the struggles of war on this anniversary. From newly digitized diaries to never-before-seen artifacts, new stories of the war are taking shape.

Oxford University Press has its own war story. With publishing dating back to the fifteenth century, the Press also felt the effects of the war: the rupture of a strong community and culture in the Jericho neighborhood of Oxford, the broken lives of the men and women of the Press who enlisted, the shadow of the Press still operating on the homefront in Oxford, and the disastrous return home — for those who did. We present the first in a series of videos with Oxford University Press Archivist Martin Maw, examining how life at the Press irrevocably changed between 1914-1919. Here he sets the stage for life in Jericho before the outbreak of war.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Martin Maw is an Archivist at Oxford University Press. The Archive Department also manages the Press Museum at OUP in Oxford. Read his previous blog posts: “Jericho: The community at the heart of Oxford University Press” and “Sir Robert Dudley, midwife of Oxford University Press.”

In the centenary of World War I, Oxford University Press has gathered together resources to offer depth, detail, perspective, and insight. There are specially commissioned contributions from historians and writers, free resources from OUP’s world-class research projects, and exclusive archival materials. Visit the First World War Centenary Hub each month for fresh updates.

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23. Does torture really (still) matter?

By Rebecca Gordon

The US military involvement in Iraq has more or less ended, and the war in Afghanistan is limping to a conclusion. Don’t the problems of torture really belong to the bad old days of an earlier administration? Why bring it up again? Why keep harping on something that is over and done with? Because it’s not over, and it’s not done with.

Torture is still happening. Shortly after his first inauguration in 2009, President Obama issued an executive order forbidding the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” and closing the CIA’s so-called “black sites.” But the order didn’t end “extraordinary rendition”—the practice of sending prisoners to other countries to be tortured. (This is actually forbidden under the UN Convention against Torture, which the United States signed in 1994.) The president’s order didn’t close the prison at Guantánamo, where to this day, prisoners are held in solitary confinement. Periodic hunger strikes are met with brutal force feeding. Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel described the experience in a New York Times op-ed in April 2013:

I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before.

Nor did Obama’s order address the abusive interrogation practices of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) which operates with considerably less oversight than the CIA. Jeremy Scahill has ably documented JSOC’s reign of terror in Iraq in Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. At JSOC’s Battlefield Interrogation Facility at Camp NAMA (which reportedly stood for “Nasty-Ass Military Area”) the motto—prominently displayed on posters around the camp—was “No blood, no foul.”

Torture also continues daily, hidden in plain sight, in US prisons. It is no accident that the Army reservists responsible for the outrages at Abu Ghraib worked as prison guards in civilian life. As Spec. Charles A. Graner wrote in an email about his work at Abu Ghraib, “The Christian in me says it’s wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, ‘I love to make a grown man piss himself.’” Solitary confinement and the ever-present threat of rape are just two forms of institutionalized torture suffered by the people who make up the world’s largest prison population. In fact, the latter is so common that on TV police procedurals like Law & Order, it is the staple threat interrogators use to prevent a “perp” from “lawyering up.”

We still don’t have a full, official accounting. As yet we have no official government accounting of how the United States has used torture in the “war on terror.” This is partly because so many different agencies, clandestine and otherwise, have been involved in one way or another. The Senate Intelligence Committee has written a 6,000-page report just on the CIA’s involvement, which has never been made public, although recent days have seen moves in this direction. Nor has the Committee been able to shake loose the CIA’s own report on its interrogation program. Most of what we do know is the result of leaks, and the dogged work of dedicated journalists and human rights lawyers. But we have nothing official, on the level, say, of the 1975 Church Committee report on the CIA’s activities in the Vietnam War.

Frustrated because both Congress and the Obama administration seemed unwilling to demand a full accounting, the Constitution Project convened a blue-ribbon bipartisan committee, which produced its own damning report. Members included former DEA head Asa Hutchinson, former FBI chief William Sessions, and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering. The report reached two important conclusions: (1) “[I]t is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture,” and (2) “[T]he nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture.”

No high-level officials have been held accountable for US torture. Only enlisted soldiers like Charles Graner and Lynndie England have done jail time for prisoner abuse in the “war on terror.” None of the “highest officials” mentioned in the Detainee Task Force report (people like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush) have faced any consequences for their part in a program of institutionalized state torture. Early in his first administration, President Obama argued that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past,” but this is not true. Laying blame for the past (and the present) is a precondition for preventing torture in the future, because it would represent a public repudiation of the practice. What “will be gained” is the possibility of developing a public consensus that the United States should not practice torture any longer. Such a consensus about torture does not exist today.

Tolerating torture corrupts the moral character of the nation. We tend to think of torture as a set of isolated actions—things desperate people do under desperate circumstances. But institutionalized state torture is not an action. It is an ongoing, socially-embedded practice. It requires an infrastructure and training. It has its own history, traditions, and rituals of initiation. And—importantly—it creates particular ethical habits in those who practice it, and in any democratic nation that allows it.

Since the brutal attacks of 9/11/2001, people in this country have been encouraged to be afraid. Knowing that our government has been forced to torture people in order to keep us safe confirms the belief that each of us must be in terrible danger—a danger from which only that same government can protect us. We have been encouraged to accept any cruelty done to others as the price of our personal survival. There is a word for the moral attitude that sets personal safety as its highest value: cowardice. If as a nation we do not act to end torture, if we do not demand a full accounting from and full accountability for those responsible, we ourselves are responsible. And we risk becoming a nation of cowards.

Rebecca Gordon received her B.A. from Reed College and her M.Div. and Ph.D. in Ethics and Social Theory from Graduate Theological Union. She teaches in the Department of Philosophy and for the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of Letters From NicaraguaCruel and Usual: How Welfare “Reform” Punishes Poor People, and Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States.

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24. The Mexican-American War and the making of American identity

By John C. Pinheiro

Few Americans today would have difficulty imagining a United States where the citizens disagree over the wisdom of immigration, question the degree to which Mexicans can be fully American, and dispute about the value of religious pluralism. But what if the America in question was not that of 2014 but rather the 1830s and 1840s? Along with being a high point of anti-Catholic nativism, these two decades witnessed the Texas Revolution, the US annexation of Texas, violence in US cities against Catholic immigrants, and the Mexican-American War. As Americans struggled to negotiate their identity as a people in terms of race, religion, and political culture, the war with Mexico clarified and for one century afterward cemented American identity as a Protestant, Anglo-Saxon republic.

Manifest Destiny held that American Anglo-Saxons, by reason of their cultural and racial superiority, were destined to overtake the western hemisphere. This Anglo-Saxonism was not so much based on attributes like skin color, as it was on unique attitudinal traits that predisposed Anglo-Saxons to be the most effective guardians of liberty. From this innate love of freedom had sprung Protestantism and republicanism—the religion and government for free men.

While the majority of Americans condemned a series of mob attacks against Catholic convents, churches, and schools in Boston and in Philadelphia, they nevertheless agreed with nativists that Catholicism was incompatible with representative—or what they called, “republican”—government. Politically unstable Mexico, they said, was proof of this.

When the United States and Mexico went to war in 1846, doubts quickly surfaced about the patriotic fortitude of foreign-born, Irish-Americans in a war against a Catholic nation. Irish immigrant soldier John Riley fled the US army on 12 April 1846, about two weeks before the first battle of the war. American authorities suspected that in September 1846 he was the leader of a group of mostly Irish and Catholic deserters at the Battle of Monterey. These rumors were true, and in late 1847 the US Army captured the San Patricios, or Saint Patrick Battalion. In the United States, debate ensued over the San Patricios’ motives and goals. At stake was the question of immigrant Catholic loyalty to the United States.

So, what were the factors in the San Patricio desertion? Abuse by nativist American officers was one of them. For a given crime, officers would sometimes merely demote native-born soldiers while imprisoning, whipping, or dishonorably discharging foreign-born men. Atrocities, church looting, and violence against priests by some American troops aggravated the fear that the Protestant United States was attacking not just Mexico but the Catholic faith.

The causes of this desertion, however, were not a one-sided affair. Mexican propaganda enticed Americans to leave their ranks. One broadside was addressed to “Catholic Irishmen” by General Antonio López de Santa Anna but the writer probably was Riley. It beckoned Americans to “Come over to us; you will be received under the laws of that truly Christian hospitality and good faith which Irish guests are entitled to expect and obtain from a Catholic nation.” It then asked, “Is religion no longer the strongest of all human bonds? Can you fight by the side of those who put fire to your temples in Boston and Philadelphia”?

It is most accurate, then, to say that while religion was involved in the defection, most of the San Patricios deserted because of intense abuse by officers, not for love of Mexico or the Catholic Church. This includes Riley. In all, 27 San Patricios were hanged.

Image of the hanging of the San Patricios

Hanging of the San Patricios following the Battle of Chapultepec. Painted in the 1840s by Sam Chamberlain. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The capture and punishment of the San Patricios may have been dramatic, but the questioning of Catholic loyalty was just one small part of religion’s interplay with the war. Religious rhetoric constituted an integral piece of nearly every major argument for or against the war. This civil religious discourse was so universally understood that recruiters, politicians, diplomats, journalists, soldiers, evangelical activists, abolitionists, and pacifists used it. It helped shape everything from debates over annexation to the treatment of enemy soldiers and civilians. Religion also was the primary tool used by Americans to interpret Mexico’s fascinating but alien culture.

More than any other event during the nineteenth century, the Mexican-American War clarified the anti-Catholic assumptions inherent to American identity. At the same time, from the crucible of war emerged an American civil religion that can only be described as a triumphalist Protestant and white, anti-Catholic republicanism. That civil religion lasted well into the twentieth century. The degree to which it is still alive today in current debates over Latino immigration is debatable, but one can hardly miss the resemblance and connection between the issues of the 1840s and those of 2014.

John C. Pinheiro is Associate Professor of History at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has written two books on the Mexican-American War. His newest book is Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War.

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25. What is clinical reasoning?

By Lloyd A. Wells

It is easy to delineate what clinical decision-making is not. It is not evidence-based medicine; it is not critical thinking; it is not eminence-based medicine; it is not one of many other of its many attributes; and it stands alone, with many contributions from all these fields. It is far more difficult to characterize what clinical reasoning is and very difficult to define.

But the clinicians among us deal with it every day and, I think, recognize it when we do it and observe it.

Evidence-based medicine is a mantra. But it is a difficult mantra. No one wants to say, “I reject evidence: I am a quack.” But it is complex and difficult. Evidence from the research in psychiatry comes from clinical trials, neural imaging, genetics, and other fields. Clinical trials can be read and understood. They are viewed as the sine qua non of evidence-based medicine. But the trials are conducted on patients without any other clinical conditions and are usually of very brief duration. The clinician, on the other hand, is often dealing with patients with many other syndromes and a great deal of chronicity. It is hard to make a claim, based on evidence, that the excellent clinical trial of Drug X applies to such a patient.

Neural imaging is far more difficult. It is a very complex methodology, and psychiatric studies which use it include as investigators physicists, neuroradiologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and others. The work is so interdisciplinary that, usually, none of the authors understands the entire paper. This is a huge question, I believe, for philosophy of science. Most of these studies are conducted on a small N, with very complex statistics, and few have been replicated. What is the clinician to do with them? Many clinicians make the assumption that the spectroscopic findings somehow translate to clinical “facts”, but that is generally not a safe assumption, nor one on which to base treatment decisions as yet.

Similarly, genetics studies are also very difficult, especially because of the completely central statistical analyses which are necessary to understanding the papers — and which few clinicians have time to read or sufficient training to understand.


Many clinicians try hard to be “evidence-based”, but it is very difficult for anyone to truly sort through the evidence in order to make an on-the-spot clinical decision which will affect the health of a patient. Some journals and digests attempt to do this in order to assist clinicians, but reliance on them implies a trust in their employees which may or may not be justified.

For all these reasons, “eminence-based” reasoning has some attraction. The clinician should base his decisions on recommendations of experts rather than her or his own scrutiny of the literature. But many of the experts are quite old and have been removed from day-to-day clinical interactions for many years.

A couple of years ago I encountered a young patient with a severe, atypical depression. My immediate response was, “This patient reminds me of another patient, who had a superb response to a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, so perhaps I should try one.” This is a poor rationale for a clinical decision until it is parsed, but, in fact, the young man’s depression was categorically similar to that of the other patient, neither had responded to more traditional treatment, and there was a supportive literature for the use of a monoamine oxidase inhibitor in this type of clinical situation. The patient in fact responded well to this treatment. I believe that this type of clinical decision-making is common and that it is based on science and evidence, though sometimes the science and evidence are not immediately apparent unless the clinician thinks about it.


Clinical reasoning requires consideration of the evidence and efforts to assess it, good critical thinking, and also, in my view, the experience of interacting with and treating many patients over time. It is not a laboratory exercise but one which involves a doctor, a patient, and the world around them.

Lloyd A. Wells, Ph.D., M.D., is Consultant Emeritus at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA. While there, he chaired the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for nineteen years and was the Department of Psychiatry’s Education Chair for twelve years. He is co-editor, with Christian Perring, of Diagnostic Dilemmas in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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Image credits: (1) Wooden Sculpture of Science Genetics, by epSos.de, CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Sorrowing Old Man, by Vincent van Gogh, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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