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Oxford, England
Oxford from Carfax Tower
Creative Commons AttributionOxford from Carfax Tower - Credit: Tejvan Pettinger

James meets Mark and his glamorous set at Oxford University.

Oxford, the city of 'dreaming spires', lies about sixty miles north-west of London. It is famous throughout the world for its university, currently considered the 5th best university in the world.

First settled in Saxon times, the city of Oxford boasts fine examples of architecture from every period thereafter. The medieval period saw the construction of the first Oxford colleges: Balliol, Merton and University College all date from the thirteenth century. The colleges were financed by the Church in the hope that they would find a way to reconcile the newly rediscovered philosophy of the Ancient world, particularly that of Aristotle, with Christian doctrine. Over the centuries, the university has extended its remit to most other areas of learning. Oxford's long list of illustrious alumni includes 26 British Prime Ministers, more than 30 international heads of state, 12 saints, 50 Olympians and many writers and philosophers.

The city played an important part in the English Civil War, when it sheltered King Charles following his flight from London, leading to the Siege of Oxford in 1646. By the twentieth century the city had begun to expand, and it now supports a population of 165,000. Aside from the university, its main commercial activities lie in information and scientific technology, car manufacturing, and publishing.