|Area: 45.59 km²|
Oxford is a city and local government district in Oxfordshire, England, with a population of 149,134 (2005 census). It is home to the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world.
It is known as the "city of dreaming spires", a term coined by Matthew Arnold in reference to the harmonious architecture of the university buildings. The River Thames runs through Oxford, where for a distance of some 10 miles it is known as the Isis.
Oxford first occupied in Saxon times, and was initially known as "Oxenaforda". It began with the foundations of St Frideswide's nunnery in the 8th century, and was first mentioned in written records in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 912. In the 10th century Oxford became an important military frontier town between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex and was on several occasions raided by Danes. St Frideswide is the patron saint of both the city and university.
Oxford grew up under the shadow of a convent, said to have been founded by St Frideswide as early as the eighth century. Its authentic history begins in 912, when it was occupied by Edward the Elder, King of the West Saxons. It was strongly fortified against the Danes, and again after the Norman Conquest, and the massive keep of the castle, the tower of St. Michael's Church (at the north gate), and a large portion of the city walls still remain to attest the importance of the city in the eleventh century. West of the town rose the splendid castle, and, in the meadows beneath, the no-less-splendid Augustinian Abbey of Osney: in the fields to the north the last of the Norman kings built the stately palace of Beaumont; the great church of St Frideswide was erected by the canons-regular who succeeded the nuns of St Frideswide; and many fine churches were built by the piety of the Norman earls.
The prestige of Oxford is seen in the fact that it received a charter from King Henry II, granting its citizens the same privileges and exemptions as those enjoyed by the capital of the kingdom; and various important religious houses were founded in or near the city. A grandson of King John established Rewley Abbey for the Cistercian Order; and friars of various orders (Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Augustinians, and Trinitarians), all had houses at Oxford of varying importance. Parliaments were often held in the city during the thirteenth century, but this period also saw the beginning of the long struggle between the town and the growing university which ended in the subjugation of the former, and the extinction for centuries of the civic importance of Oxford.
The University of Oxford is first mentioned in 12th century records. Oxford's earliest colleges were University College (1249), Balliol (1263) and Merton (1264). These colleges were established at a time when Europeans were starting to translate the writings of Greek philosophers. These writings challenged European ideology inspiring scientific discoveries and advancements in the arts as society began seeing itself in a new way. These colleges at Oxford were supported by the Church in hopes to reconcile Greek Philosophy and Christian Theology.
Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford is unique as a college chapel and cathedral in one foundation. Originally the Priory Church of St Frideswide, the building was extended and incorporated into the structure of the Cardinal's College shortly before its refounding as Christ Church in 1546, since which time it has functioned as the cathedral of the Diocese of Oxford.
The relationship between "town and gown" has often been uneasy several university students were killed in the St Scholastica Day Riot of 1355.
During the English Civil War, Oxford housed the court of Charles I in 1642, after the king was expelled from London, although there was strong support in the town for the Parliamentarian cause. The town yielded to Parliamentarian forces under General Fairfax in 1646.
In 1790 the Oxford Canal connected the city with Coventry. The Duke's Cut was completed by the Duke of Marlborough in 1789 to link the new canal with the River Thames; and in 1796 the Oxford Canal company built their own link to the Thames, at Isis Lock. In the 1840s, the Great Western Railway and London and North Western Railway linked Oxford with London.
By the early 20th century, Oxford was experiencing rapid industrial and population growth, with the printing and publishing industries becoming well established by the 1920s. Also during that decade, the economy and society of Oxford underwent a huge transformation as William Morris established the Morris Motor Company to mass produce cars in Cowley, on the south-eastern edge of the city. By the early 1970s over 20,000 people worked in Cowley at the huge Morris Motors and Pressed Steel Fisher plants. By this time Oxford was a city of two halves: the university city to the west of Magdalen Bridge (from where students traditionally jump into the River Cherwell every May Day morning) and the car town to the east. This led to the witticism that "Oxford is the left bank of Cowley". Cowley suffered major job losses in the 1980s and 1990s during the decline of British Leyland, but is now producing the successful New MINI for BMW.
The influx of migrant labour to the car plants, recent immigration from south-east Asia, and a large student population, have given Oxford a notable cosmopolitan character, especially in the Headington and Cowley Road areas with their many bars, cafes, restaurants, clubs, ethnic shops and fast food outlets.
On 6 May 1954, Roger Bannister, as a 25 year old medical student, ran the first authenticated sub-four minute mile at the Iffley Road running track in Oxford.
Oxford's "other" university, Oxford Brookes University, formerly Oxford Polytechnic, based at Headington, was given its charter in 1991
The Oxford suburb of Cowley has a long history of carmaking and now produces the BMW MINI.