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Oxford History

Oxford

Oxford: the City

The city's roots trace back to 700 when a priory was formed "where oxen were wont to ford the Thames" (thus "Ox-ford"). In 1214 the University received a charter from the Pope. Influxes of Dominican friars in 1221, and then Franciscans in 1224, contributed Oxford's strong Catholic traditions. Oxford as an important centre of religious activity continues today: all colleges have a chapel (Christ Church's is a Norman cathedral), and several colleges continue to function as religious foundations.

Oxford: the University

In the early years of the second millennium, any Englishman in search of learning would study at the University of Paris, the foremost academic institution of the time. However, in 1167, all English academics in Paris were moved to Oxford. Whether this was because Henry II recalled them or they were expelled by the French isn't clear. But Henry, who had built Beaumont Palace (of which no trace remains) as a residence near where Worcester college now stands, and who had given the city a charter in 1155, clearly established Oxford as England's principle academic centre.

Today there are 39 colleges of varying age, size and character. Every student at the university is a member of a college, which provides students with accommodation, meals, tutoring, libraries, common rooms, and sports and social facilities.

Famous Oxonians

1231 Roger Bacon Scholar
1480 Thomas Wolsey Lord Chancellor
1492 Sir Thomas More Statesman and martyr
1499 Desiderius Erasmus Humanist and scholar
1520 William Tyndale Translator of the Bible
1572 Sir Walter Raleigh Explorer and statesman
1620 William Harvey Scientist who discovered the circulation of the blood
1647 Sir Christopher Wren Architect
1660 William Penn Founder of Pennsylvania
1726 William Pitt the Elder UK Prime Minister
1727 Dr Samuel Johnson Writer; contributed to 1st English dictionary
1828 William Gladstone UK Prime Minister
1851 Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) Author
1873 Cecil Rhodes Statesman and philanthropist
1874 Oscar Wilde Author
1875 Clement Attlee UK Prime Minister 1945-1951
1907 Lawrence of Arabia Soldier and diplomat
1911 JRR Tolkien Author
1912 Harold Macmillan UK Prime Minister 1957-63
1913 TS Elliot Poet
1916 Aldous Huxley Author
1922 Graham Green Author
1922 Evelyn Waugh Author
1925 WH Auden Poet
1934 Harold Wilson UK Prime Minister 1964-70, 1974-76
1938 Indira Gandhi Prime Minister of India 1966; 1977, 1980-84
1943 Baroness Margaret Thatcher British Prime Minister 1979-1991
1946 Sir Roger Bannister Athlete- first person to break the 4 minute mile
1951 Colin Cowdrey Cricketer
1953 Bob Hawke Prime Minister of Australia 1983-1991
1962 Michael Palin Broadcaster
1962 Joanna Trollope Novelist
1968 Bill Clinton President of USA 1992- 2000
1969 Aung San Suu Kyi Burmese National League for Democracy
1972 Tony Blair British Prime Minister 1997- 2007
1975 Rowan Atkinson Comedian
1977 Benazir Bhutto Prime Minister of Pakistan 1988–1990, 1993–1996
1979 Hugh Grant Actor
1979 Nigella Lawson Broadcaster
1988 David Cameron British Prime Minister 2010-present

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