University Press Week: Scholarship Makes a Difference


Must scholarship be difficult and full of jargon? Are experts fated to be dismissed as out of touch because their writing is unintelligible?

Chief Justice Roberts seems to think so. Earlier this month, while hearing oral arguments in Gill v Whitford on gerrymandering, Roberts dismissed political science research on the effects of redistricting as “sociological gobbledygook.” Leaving aside for one moment Roberts’ conflation of sociology and political science, let’s look at Roberts’ reasoning.

In oral arguments he posed the “intelligent man on the street” test:

“. . . [If] you’re the intelligent man on the street and the court issues a decision, and let’s say, okay, the Democrats win, and that person will say: “Well, why did the Democrats win?” And the answer is going to be because EG was greater than 7 percent, where EG is the sigma of party X wasted votes minus the sigma of party Y wasted votes over the sigma of party X votes plus party Y votes. And the intelligent man on the street is going to say that’s a bunch of baloney.”

Implicit in Roberts’ view is the seemingly common sense notion that it would be absurd to expect the intelligent person on the street to read and understand the view of scholarly experts in the politics of gerrymandering.

In fact, Roberts poses a false choice between expert knowledge and intelligibility. We know this at Princeton University Press because we routinely publish the work of outstanding scholarship that contributes both to the advancement of discourse and influences the public on the most pressing issues facing the U.S. and the world.

Take Democracy for Realists by Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels. Based on painstaking research conducted over many years, Achen and Bartels forcefully present the case that voters choose candidates based on deep social identities and loyalties, often adjusting their policy preferences to match those loyalties.

If true, their thesis both overturns much of academic democratic theory as well as common beliefs about democracy. But can anyone understand this stuff? Roberts’ “intelligent man on the street?” Perhaps I’m cheating by translating their academic gobbledygook into plain English?

Hardly. Yes, Achen and Bartels’ book has been reviewed in the Political Studies Review and Political Science Quarterly. But it has also been reviewed in the Washington Post and the Financial Times, as well as the Ottawa Citizen, Tulsa World, and New York Magazine.

Or look at another recent publication by PUP, this time in sociology, Rachel Sherman’s Uneasy Street. This book challenges a simple depiction of the wealthy as materialistic, arguing that the rich have deeply conflicting feelings about their wealth. Such research could have been presented as gobbledygook. But it wasn’t. Instead, Sherman tells 50 stories based on personal interviews. The result? A book that has been excerpted in the New York Times, garnering over 3,000 reader responses in the online edition.

Journalists and readers are drawn to such books by their rigor and the expertise of their authors. In a world of “alternative facts,” journalists and readers want real expertise, the kind which comes from career-long immersion in a subject. But journalists only write about such books—and readers only spend precious time on them—when authors present expertise clearly and compellingly.

As publishers, we work hard at helping our authors achieve this balance of rigor and accessibility. We believe you don’t have to choose between the two. Expertise is not shameful, an embarrassment to be hidden from the “intelligent man on the street.” As academic publishers, let’s promote expertise and help make it central to public discourse again.  If Justice Roberts were reading these books, he would understand how great social science books are far from gobbledygook. They are essential to creating an informed public and to the health of our democracy.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, Princeton University Press launches books by Hanoch Gutfreund and Jürgen Renn

The Road to RelativityOn July 15th, Princeton University Press proudly launched two books by Professor Hanoch Gutfreund and Jürgen Renn, Relativity and The Road to Relativity, at the 14th Marcel Grossman meeting on relativistic physics in Rome.

The two books are being published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s formulation of the theory of general relativity in 1915, and so it was fitting to launch them at a conference that demonstrates the ongoing influence of Einstein’s theory on cutting edge work on black holes, pulsars, quantum gravity, and other areas fundamental to our understanding of the universe.

The launch took place at the Besso Foundation, the family home of Albert Einstein’s friend and colleague, Michele Besso, during an exhibition, organized by Professor Gutfreund, of original Einstein letters and notebooks from the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

relativity jacketMore than 150 distinguished physicists and invited guests, including the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, and members of the Besso and Grossman families, listened to Professor Gutfreund and Professor Renn provide a compelling overview of their research and of the new insights it has brought to the history of the development of general relativity. Professor Gutfreund stressed the fundamental insights into Einstein’s work provided by the rich Archives in Jerusalem, while Renn dismissed the notion of Albert Einstein as an isolated and idiosyncratic genius, stressing his network of collaborators and colleagues, including Besso.


Renn and Gutfreund

Professor Hanoch Gutfreund and Jürgen Renn at the book launch in Rome

Photo from Renn and Gutfreund launch

Launch for Relativity and The Road to Relativity, at the 14th Marcel Grossman meeting on relativistic physics in Rome


A report from the floor of The London Book Fair

Despite difficult global economic conditions, there has been strong interest in our foreign rights catalogue at the London Book Fair. Our economics and social science titles, from Justin Lin’s timely The Quest for Prosperity to James Scott’s Two Cheers for Anarchism, have received a great deal of attention, as have our popular science titles, especially Ostriker and Mitton’s Heart of Darkness and Paul Nahin’s The Logician and the Engineer. Peter Brown’s magnum opus Through the Eye of the Needle and Burger and Starbird’s The Five Elements of Effective Thinking have also proved a hit.

All in all, a very successful fair, which bodes well for the continued spread of PUP authors and ideas around the globe.

[Please note that these books are not yet available on our web site. The links here take you to the PDFs of their individual catalog pages.]

Paul Seabright “On Lying, Risk-Taking and the Implosion of the Euro” – The Princeton in Europe annual lecture

The launch of the Euro was a promise of prosperity made by Europe’s political élites to the citizens of the Euro area. But it has gone badly and dangerously wrong. Why? Much has been written about the causes of the Euro crisis and much ink spilt on trying to assign blame among the active participants in the drama: financiers, politicians, regulators, central bankers.

In this lecture Paul Seabright asks a different question: why did the rest of us play along? The active participants needed our money, our bank deposits, our votes – our trust, in short – in order to construct the Euro project. Trust in the project, like trust in the financial system and in many of the projects of modern democracy, required us to deploy psychological capacities that proved quite inadequate to the task.

Behavioural economics and neuroscience are starting to illuminate just why we have such difficulty evaluating complex financial promises like those made by the founders of the Euro project. In particular we have an evolved tendency to deal in dichotomies – such as risk/safety and truth/lies – that are quite unsuited to the continuous gradations of the modern economic landscape. Drawing on a wide range of sources, from neuroscientific experiments to air accident reports, Seabright brings home to us how much our collective illusions contributed to a major financial disaster with potentially serious consequences for democracy in Europe.

Paul Seabright is professor of economics at the Toulouse School of Economics. He has been a fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford, and Churchill College, University of Cambridge. The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life (Revised Edition) was published by Princeton in 2010 and his new book ‘The War of the Sexes: How Conflict and Cooperation Have Shaped Men and Women from Prehistory to the Present’ will be published on 14 May 2012.

The lecture takes place on 18 April 2012 in the Great Hall at Goodenough College from 6.30pm.

For further information, or to register for the event, please contact

Riding the airwaves with Diaconis, Rajan, and Scheffer, and an update from the European Advisory Board

Here in the UK we’ve been treated to a number of radio appearances from PUP authors in recent weeks:










Persi Diaconis, Stanford Professor of Statistics and Mathematics and co-author of the hugely entertaining Magical Mathematics, provided BBC Radio 4’s More or Less listeners with a special Christmas treat when he dropped in on Tim Harford to discuss the maths behind the magic. Listen again to the interview via the BBC iPlayer.

Welcoming in the new year, we tuned in to an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Analysis to hear Raghuram Rajan take part in the debate over society’s increasing moral aversion to the exploits of the ‘super-rich’. Catch up on-line here to listen to the Chicaco Booth Professor of Economics, and author of Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy, share his thoughts on bonuses and bail-outs.

At the end of last month, David Scheffer was interviewed by Matthew Sweet for BBC Radio 3’s Night Waves. Scheffer was appointed by President Clinton as the first U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, and led American initiatives on war crimes tribunals during the 1990s. His new book, All the Missing Souls, provides a detailed personal account of investigations into such attrocities as the killing fields of Sierra Leone and the Rwandan genocide. To hear his account of all that led to bringing those responsible to justice, listen on-line here:

We’ve also tuned in to hear European Advisory Board members Rana Mitter and Margaret MacMillan take to the airwaves. Last week saw two important anniversaries of events in world history: the 70th aniversary of the fall of Singapore (15th February 1942) and the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s visit to meet Mao in China (17th February 1972). On Wednesday, Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China (Oxford), was welcomed on to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to discuss the lasting impact of the event described by Winston Churchill as the “largest capitulation in British history”.  On Friday morning, Margaret MacMillan, Professor of International History (Oxford), joined Lord Charles Powell, also on Today, to reflect on Nixon’s visit to China and discuss its influence upon the United States’ relationship with China today.

A few more announcements from the European Advisory Board: our congratulations go out to Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford, who received a knighthood from Her Majesty, the Queen, for his services to scholarship in the 2012 New Year Honours list.  Secondly, we send our warmest regards to Ann Mroz, former Editor in Chief of the Times Higher Education, who is now stepping up to the role of Digital Publishing Director of the TSL Group.

Paul Seabright, “On Lying, Risk-Taking and the Implosion of the Euro”


We are delighted to announce that Professor Paul Seabright will deliver the second annual Princeton University Press in Europe lecture during the London Book Fair.

This year’s lecture, which marks our annual celebration of the Princeton University Press European Advisory Board, will take place on Wednesday 18th April at Goodenough College in London, under the title: “On Lying, Risk-Taking and the Implosion of the Euro”.

Paul Seabright is Professor of Economics at the University of Toulouse, and the author of two PUP books: The Company of Strangers (2nd edition, 2010) and The War of the Sexes (forthcoming, May 2012).

For more information on this event and how to attend, please contact Hannah Paul.

When was Medieval philosophy?

On Wednesday night, philosopher John Marenbon gave his inaugural lecture as Honorary Professor of Medieval Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.  Marenbon is also Senior Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, and is preparing a book for PUP on Pagans and Philosophers from Augustine to Leibniz.

In his lecture, Professor Marenbon argued against the usual chronological division, according to which there was a period of ‘medieval philosophy’ corresponding roughly to the Middle Ages.  In a highly entertaining and wide ranging talk, Marenbon suggested that the title of his lecture – “When was medieval philosophy”? – could be answered in five ways – a) during the middle ages, b) who cares, c) never, d) now or e) AD 200-1700.

Robert Frank’s book tour in London, Day 3

On Day 3 of his London tour, Robert Frank, author of The Darwin Economy, recorded an episode of the BBC Radio 4 Analysis program before a live audience of more than 400 at the London School of Economics.

Hosted by Paul Mason, BBC Economics editor, Analysis has an audience of more than 1 million, and the live crowd was filled with luminaries of the London political scene, including “Blue Labour” architect Maurice Glassman and FT commentator Samuel Brittan.  The program will air on Monday (

Robert Frank’s book tour in London, Day 2

Day 2 of his London tour saw Robert Frank record a podcast at the Guardian with Economics editor Larry Elliott and leader writer Tom Clark, and deliver a talk on The Darwin Economy at NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts, the UK’s leader in studying and funding innovation. Frank was also interviewed for the BBC World Service program, The Forum, with environmental scientist Peter Liss (pictured) and singer Claron McFadden. The interview which will air on Saturday.

Read about Day 1 here.

Robert Frank’s book tour in London, Day 1

Robert Frank began his London tour today with an appearance on CNBC Europe’s Squawk Box and lunch at the Financial Times with a group of senior journalists, including columnist Martin Wolf and Economics leader writer, Martin Sandbu. At the FT, Frank discussed the recent Congressional Budget Office report which showed that the US now has one of the lowest rates of social mobility on the world and an alarming level of inequality. Frank argued for progressive measures to reduce this inequality, including a new consumption tax to redirect income toward savings and investment.


Source: Congressional Budget Office,

(hat tip to Take the 5th)

Update from PUP Europe

COMING UP in the UK this month…

Robert H. Frank on The Darwin Economy

For those of you who were unable to attend Robert Frank’s recent lecture at Merton College, Oxford, why not catch him when he returns to the UK this month? Bob will be lecturing at NESTA (1 Plough PLace, London) on Wednesday 9th November at 5.30pm, The RSA (8 John Adam Street, London) on Thursday 10th November at 1pm and will be in conversation with BBC Newsnight’s economics editor, Paul Mason, at The London School of Economics (in the Old Theatre, Old Building) on Thursday 10th November at 6.30pm. The LSE event will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Analysis on Monday 14th November at 8.30pm, with a repeat at 9.30pm on Sunday 20th November.
For further information about Bob’s November trip to the UK, please contact Caroline Priday.


Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson at The LSE

In celebration of their new book, Pillars of Prosperity: The Political Economics of Development Clusters, the authors will be taking part in a public discussion at the London School of Economics later this month. Join them, on Monday 7th November at 6.30pm as they explore their reinterpretation of Smith’s ‘pillars of prosperity’ to explain the existence of development clusters — places that tend to combine effective state institutions, the absence of political violence, and high percapita incomes. European Advisory Board member, Robert Wade, along with Professor Francesco Caselli, will be responding.
Contact the LSE press office.


RECENT EVENTS you might have missed…

Ian Goldin on Exceptional People

In a series of appearances at the London School of Economics (11th October), the BBC (Thinking Allowed, 12th October) and Blackwell’s, Oxford (13th October) last month, Professor Ian Goldin, former Vice President of the World Bank (2003-2006) and current Director of the Oxford Martin School, explored the essential role that immigration has played in shaping human history. Based on research published in his recent co-authored book, Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future, Goldin described how migrants in today’s world connect markets, fill labour gaps, and enrich social diversity.
To find out more, watch the LSE lecture here, or listen to the Thinking Allowed podcast here.


Sheldon Gardon at SOAS, University of London

Sheldon Garon, Nissan Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Princeton University and author of Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves (published 30th November), gave an open lecture this week at the School of Oriental and African Studies. In his forthcoming book, Garon dissects the reasons behind the global financial cris and tells the story of how other nations aggressively encouraged their citizens to save by means of special savings institutions and savings campaigns, while the U.S. government promoted mass consumption and reliance on credit. Tracing the development of such behaviour across three continents from the nineteenth century to today, Garon highlights the role of institutions and moral suasion in shaping habits of saving and spending.

Sheldon was also interviewed by Tom Clark this week for the Guardian’s Business podcast this week. Download it via the Guardian website.


CATCH UP with our European Advisory Board…

Kai Brodersen has recently published Das Geburtstagsbuch, a German translation of Censorinus’ De die natali – a wonderfully idiosyncratic collection of ancient wisdom on life, the universe, and everything. A bilingual edition, with a freshly established Latin text, is due for publication soon.

Andrew McNeillie’s Clutag Press – which has published work by John Fuller, Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, Andrew Motion and many others of note, also in the visual arts, including Norman Ackroyd RA – celebrates its tenth birthday on 11th November in Convocation House, Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Rana Mitter will be hosting a series of events at this year’s BBC Free Thinking Festival from the 4th-6th November 2011 – including a debate on the legacy of the Luddites, and a talk by Princeton professor Linda Colley.

David Runciman made a guest apperance on the new Radio 4 comedy show, Tonight, earlier this month, and a revised version of his Princeton in Europe lecture, ‘Can Democracy Cope?’ is published this month in Political Quarterly.

Danny Quah gave a very successful lecture in Beijing on Friday 28th October, entitled: ‘China and the Global Public Good’. His talk was delivered jointly to the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, Peking University, and Tsinghua University, and described how the shifting global economy is generating tensions in international relations across the major economic powers in the world; in it, Danny sketched a framework to seek more globalized consensus forming, moving away from purely nationalistic motivation.


Robert H. Frank and the PUP European Advisory Board discuss The Darwin Economy

Was Charles Darwin the true founder of economics?  Can understanding evolutionary biology lead to better tax policies and greater investment in the most productive sectors of the economy? Cornell economist Professor Robert H. Frank argues for Darwin’s foundational role.

In a wide ranging and provocative talk on Monday at Merton College, Oxford, in honour of the PUP European Advisory Board, Frank suggested that Darwin had a fundamental insight which is crucial for understanding the modern economy – that unbridled competition often leads to arms races that do harm to society.

Two members of the board gave lively responses to Frank’s talk.  Economist and Financial Times columnist John Kay demonstrated how Darwin’s concept of reproductive fitness provides powerful insights lacking in both the behavioural and standard approaches to economics. Biologist Sunetra Gupta described how Frank’s analysis of arms races produced by economic competition matches the insights of evolutionary biology. If unchecked, both competitions can lead to the “grotesque” – whether the gargantuan antlers of the Irish elk which led to their extinction, or the 20,000 square foot homes of today’s investment bankers.

It was a truly exciting interdisciplinary discussion and a fitting tribute to the work of our European Advisory Board.

Al Bertrand
Publishing Director, Europe