Oxford, a medieval town, grew up in the angle formed by the junction of two rivers - the Thames (called locally the Isis) and the Cherwell. The central crossroads of the old town is known as Carfax (a word derived from the Latin for 'four forks').

In 1167 Henry II ordered all English students on the Continent to return to England. Many of these students decided to settle in Oxford to create the kind of university they had seen in Europe. Disputes between the students and residents led to riots. Some of these students fled to Cambridge where they founded a new university. The loss of Oxford's students hurt the local economy and in 1214 traders and merchants invited them back again. University College was founded in 1249 by William of Durham. Balliol was established in 1263 and Merton, the first residential college, arrived the following year.

Oxford University was first granted the right to have two MPs in 1613. The vote was given to proctors and all living masters of arts of the university, wherever they lived. The two Tory candidates were almost always guaranteed success. Around 1,300 people voted in elections. Between 1817 and 1829 one of Cambridge's two MPs was Sir Robert Peel. However, Peel's support for Catholic Emancipation made him unpopular in Oxford and he was defeated by 146 votes in February 1829.

Primary Sources

(1) Daniel Defoe, A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724)

Oxford, a name known throughout the learned world, is the greatest (if not the most ancient) university in the island of Great Britain. The city itself is large, strong, populous, and rich; and as it is adorned by the most beautiful buildings of the colleges and halls, it makes the most noble figure of any city in Europe.