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“EU flags at the European Commission Berlaymont building” by Guillaume Périgois. Public domain via Unsplash.

Dan Robinson’s new book, Natural and Necessary Unions, is a history for our time, and tells the story of how the quest for autonomy shaped the history of three communities: Scotland, Ireland, and Northumbria. This excerpt, from chapter 5 of the book, touches on the battle of the unions, and discusses the results of the 2016 referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

‘Independence in Europe’ was the most powerful argument to appear in the nationalist arsenal since the 1920s. It offered moderates a comfortable transition to greater regional autonomy, to be catalysed by a benign process of European integration through which the old union would simply cease to matter. By the end of the 1990s, some of its presumptions had slipped into constitutional law. But it was also a hostage to fortune, as some of its advocates recognized. Christopher Harvie warned of a change of direction, driven by Britain’s accession to the EEC, through which European institutions would go from ‘promoting the autonomy of regional communities’ to reasserting ‘the privileges of existing nation-states’. …


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“Infant looking at shiny object” by Mehregan Javanmard. CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

This excerpt from The Oxford Handbook of Language Prosody, edited by Carlos Gussenhoven and Aoju Chen, is drawn from an article entitled “Development of phrase-level prosody from infancy to late childhood.” It explores the current research regarding infants’ ability to discern tonal patterns and rhythms in speech. This article and Handbook will be available on Oxford Handbooks Online in March 2021.

Infants are sensitive to prosodic variation within and across languages from birth. This sensitivity undergirds early perceptual attunement to ambient language patterns. Infant vocalizations incorporate prosody from a very early age. …


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“People Talking” by Francisco Restivo from Porto, Portugal, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In this excerpt from Pragmatics: A Slim Guide, Betty J. Birner looks at the Maxim of Quantity and various examples of how implicature can function in several different situations. This title will be available on Oxford Scholarship Online in March 2021.

The Maxim of Quantity has two parts:

1. Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange).

2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

This presents a nice tension: Say enough, but don’t say too much. Most of the Quantity-based implicatures discussed in the literature are based on the first submaxim (in part because of an interesting relationship between the second submaxim and the maxim of Relation, which we’ll discuss shortly). Because a speaker is assumed to be saying as much as is required, the hearer will assume that the speaker could not have said more without being uncooperative in some other way. …


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Photo by Lianhao Qu on Unsplash.

At the heart of T. K. Wilson’s new book Killing Strangers lies a simple ambition — to explore how forms of political violence have changed over time. How have such acts evolved in conjunction with other forces? Why do some forms fade and other emerge? Above all, why do so many contemporary horrors have the distinctively impersonal cast that they do?

For the past 200 years the defining feature of most domestic contests between Western governments and armed opponents has tended to be their lopsided asymmetry. We shall understand very little about the dynamics of recent political violence if we do not recognize this reality squarely from the outset. Rebel ideology is indeed often a worthwhile object of study in its own right. But the study of rebel ideas — however innately fascinating to intellectuals — only takes us a certain distance in explaining why the limited violence that does occur, tends to take certain forms (but not others). …


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Figure 9.2 Liotta and Cooley with Haskell Karp following implantation of the artificial heart. Note large external power and control mechanism, Courtesy of Baylor College Medicine Archives. Featured in A Time for All Things: The Life of Michael E. DeBakey

When an operation is performed for the first time, or a medical therapy given its initial testing, the identity of the first human subject is only rarely revealed, or even of interest. But the comfortable anonymity that surrounded the life of the first total artificial heart recipient, Haskell Karp, was shattered forever by the spectacular publicity that surrounded his decidedly unnatural death. Chapter Nine from A Time for All Things: The Life of Michael E. DeBakey explores the decidedly unethical circumstances in which this procedure was initiated.

Haskell Karp

By early April 1969, Karp had been an inpatient on Denton Cooley’s service at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital for a full month. He was 47 years old, and had been married for 23 of those years to his wife, Shirley. The couple had three sons, ranging in age from 11 to 22. The Karps had come to Houston, like so many others, because he was suffering from severe heart disease. Haskell had endured four known heart attacks over the previous 10 years, and these had damaged so much of his myocardium that he dwelt in a sort of constant unstable congestive heart failure, liable to drift over the edge at the slightest provocation. As a consequence, Karp’s level of activity was extremely curtailed. This profound fatigability was a source of immense frustration for Karp, beyond the obvious threat to his life. …


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“Arial shot of island” (Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom) by Annie Spratt. Public domain via Unsplash.

In this excerpt from England’s Islands in a Sea of Troubles, David Cressy considers the vulnerability of England’s islands to foreign invasion and their utility as bases of English power. The excerpt concludes with a section from the last chapter of the book, and explores the problem of anomalous and competing jurisdictions in a world of quickening economy, expanding global ambition, and extended foreign wars.

7 | Fortress Islands

Island isolation allowed inhabitants a measure of security, but also exposed them to danger. Responsible English governments fortified their islands against external threats, and developed them as outliers of dynastic and national power. Frontier islands served the state as bastions and bases, protecting the homeland and its periphery of force. Island harbours and roadsteads sheltered commercial shipping and served as springboards for naval operations. Their castles, garrisons, and munitions represented the kingdom’s honour as well as its strength. Part of their task was to deny such facilities to England’s enemies as the international situation unfolded. Islanders had to acknowledge their place in the imperial dynastic project, though their local view was less strategic than the wider concerns of London. This chapter examines the never-ending effort of councillors, captains, and governors to maintain readiness in islands at risk of attack. It recognizes the difficulties of access, as well as the urgency of supply, that affected both defence and communication from Elizabethan times to the English civil war. …


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Photo by Margarita Zueva on Unsplash. The story of Persephone, and the significance of pomegranate seeds, is introduced in the prologue to “Philosophy for Girls”.

In this excerpt from Philosophy for Girls, volume editors Melissa M. Shew and Kimberly K. Garchar discuss the origins of the gender gap in philosophy and suggest strategies for overcoming it in the future.

There are a number of theories about why girls and women do not partici­pate equally in undergraduate philosophy courses and studies. Some have suggested that women are not good at philosophy, or at least not as good as men, just because they are women. Empirical evidence does not support this claim, however; there simply is no measurable difference between the sexes in the capacity for abstract thought. Moreover, this claim is false in other ways. We can, for example, look to the excellent contributions contained here and the regular outstanding performances of our students who are girls. …


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Man in black outside the Vienna State Opera, Austria by Nick Shandra. Public domain via Unsplash.

This year marks the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven. This extract from The New Book of Opera Anecdotes describes the only meeting of Beethoven with Gioachino Rossini in April 1822.

Rossini was in Vienna, fêted as the king of Italian music, though all he wanted to do was to visit Beethoven.

Consider: Rossini led opera beyond Cherubini into an art of at times marvelous dramatic penetration. Worldly, socially popular, and diplomatic unless offended, Rossini all but created modern Italian opera. A genius.

Beethoven, too, was a great leader, taking the symphony out of the Classical Era into the Romantic. Introverted, socially difficult, and catastrophically blunt, Beethoven created modern music altogether. …


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Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Sir Roger Penrose, author of the award-winning The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (part of the Oxford Landmark Science series) and his own six-part series of collected works, has been jointly awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity.

Announcing the Prize, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences wrote of the “ingenious mathematical methods” used by Penrose in his proof that black holes are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, going on to state that “his groundbreaking article is still regarded as the most important contribution to the general theory of relativity since Einstein.” …


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Image: public domain via Pixabay

for the development of a method for genome editing”

This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded jointly to Emmanuelle Charpentier (Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens) and Jennifer Doudna (University of California, Berkeley) for their development of the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tool.

“One of the most exciting recent developments in biomedical research goes by the name of CRISPR, which stands for ‘clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats’. CRISPRs exist naturally in the genomes of bacteria and archaea, where they form part of what has been described as a prokaryotic immune system…CRISPR is in fact one of several DNA editing methods that have been developed in recent years, but it is faster, more flexible, and more accurate than the others; it has thus become the tool of choice. …

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