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Oxford was first settled in 900 AD by Saxon oxen drivers, then called Oxenaforda. Today, the city is known for its architecture, which showcases differing styles from countless different time periods, as a place of higher learning, and for its intellectuality.
People Born in Oxford
Oxford in People's Lives
Gerard Manley Hopkins: I moved here in 1863, at the age of 19, to begin attending Balliol College of the University of Oxford. I was a shy and sensitive student, but was also considered a bit of a socialite due to my lofty family. I spent much time writing little bits and pieces of poetry, and taking extensive, insightful notes in classes. In addition to poetry, I studied and excelled in Classical Greek. I met another student, Robert Bridges, and we became inseperable. Most people think that he was my first lover, and the love of my life. Maybe they are right. Robert, also a poet, encouraged my writing. However, poetry was not the only thing that took a hold of me here - I also began researching and becoming interested in Catholicism. I began to view my poetry as a vice. In 1866, I included poetry in my list of things to be given up for Lent. A few months after that, I decided to become a Catholic, and was accepted into the church. My new religion, which I practiced strictly, distanced me from my family and friends. It also, for now, snuffed out my love of poetry. I graduated from Oxford in 1867, with first-class honours, though I had failed my final theology exam. I immediately moved to Birmingham to accept a teaching position at the Catholic Oratory. I returned here years later, in December of 1878. I was now a 34 year old Catholic priest, deeply unhappy and still stifling my love of poetry, which I continued to write but never attempt to publish. I worked as a curate at St. Aloysius' Church here, and memories of Robert and my university days came flooding back to me. I co-founded the Oxford University Newman Society, for Catholic students. I left around 1880.
Hilaire Belloc: I traveled here after serving for three years in the French military, in 1894, at the age of 24. I attended the Balliol College division of the University of Oxford as a history scholar. While here, I was a good student, and was president of the Union debate society. I graduated with honors in history, at the top of my class. I also spent much time writing poetry, and published my first work in 1895, when I was 25 years old. In 1896, at the age of 26, I married an American girl from California, named Elodie. I never lost my love for Balliol, even writing about it fondly in later works. I returned here in 1934, because the University of Oxford was granting me an honorary additional degree of Master of the Arts.
James II of England: I was sent here by my father the king in 1642, at the age of 11, upon the outbreak of the English Civil War. This city was, at the time, a known Royalist stronghold, and it was hoped that I would be safer here. However, during the Siege of Oxford in 1646, this city surrendered, and I was taken captive. I was now 15 years old and seen as a serious threat, holding the second claim in the realm to the English throne after my brother Charles. Parliamentary leaders ordered that I be taken back to London to be imprisoned - ironically - in St. James's Palace, my birthplace and former home.
John Graves Simcoe: I attended Merton College of Oxford here, in approximately 1770. Despite doing well and being offered the chance of a law career, I left university after only one year to pursue a position in the military.
John Woodbridge: I moved here in order to attend the University of Oxford in 1631, at the age of 18. However, soon after my studies began, I was encouraged to leave due to the fact that I refused to swear to the school's oath of conformity. I continued my studies on my own, until deciding to move to the Americas in 1634.
Jude Law: I traveled here in 1996 to film scenes of the movie Wilde. We filmed at Magdalen College.
Kenneth Oppel: I agreed to move here for my wife Philippa's studies in 1990. We were newly married, and I was 23 years old. She studied for a doctorate in Shakespeare here, and I pursued writing. We lived here for three years, before moving to Dublin in 1993.
Luisa Casati: I visited here around 1915 with some friends. They were worried about what I would wear, but I dressed in so many dark furs that "thankfully, not a single undergraduate glanced..." at me.
Michael Fassbender: I traveled here in 2010 to film scenes of the movie X-Men: First Class.
Orlando Bloom: I traveled here in 1996 to film scenes of the movie Wilde. It was my first film role.
P.D. James: I was born here in 1920, the daughter of a tax inspector and a mentally ill mother. I grew up in this city as the oldest of three children, and attended the Cambridge High School for Girls as a teenager. My mother's condition worsened in my younger teenage years, and she was sent to an institution. I always remembered her with fondness, especially how she encouraged me to read as a child. When I was 16, I was pressured into leaving school to begin working, as my family was tight financially, and my father did not believe in higher education for girls. I began work in a tax office in 1936, a job that my father helped me get, and in 1939 went to work as an assistant stage manager at a theater. In 1941, at the age of 21, I married my husband Ernest, a medical student headed to becoming an army doctor. I had my first child, a daughter, in 1942, and another daughter in 1944. My husband served in World War II as a doctor, but the war triggered his schizophrenia, and he was so impaired by the disorder that he was unable to work ever again. I stayed at his side and supported him, while also having to work to support our family. Eventually, I had to place him in a mental institution, something that broke my heart to do. I decided to study hospital administration, finishing the training in 1949, after which I went to work in London. After years of backbreaking work and the sadness of being unable to save my husband from death, or see much of my daughter's childhood, I achieved success as a mystery writer, becoming one of the bestselling mystery writers of all time. I bought a second home in this city, despite mainly living in Chelsea in London, and was often here to visit. I died here in 2014, at the age of 94.
Ralph Fiennes: I traveled here in 1997 to film scenes of the movie The Avengers.
Roald Dahl: When visiting here in 1990, I died of the blood disease myelodysplastic syndrome, on November 23rd, at the age of 74. My body was taken back to my hometown of Great Missenden to be buried.
Sarah Gadon: I traveled here in 2012 to film scenes of the movie Belle.
Stephen Moyer: I was part of the Oxford Stage Company theater group here, around 1990.
Thomas More: I was accepted into the University of Oxford in this city in 1492, at the age of 14, after being recommended by my mentor, John Morton. I either attended St. Mary's Hall or Canterbury College, both of which no longer exist. Here, I had a classical education, and studied Latin and Greek. Two of my notable professors were Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn. At my father's insistance, I left university after only two years, and returned to London in 1494 to begin legal training. I was given the honorable post of High Steward of Oxford University around 1525.
Tom Sturridge: I filmed scenes of Gulliver's Travels here in 1995. I was ten years old at the time.
William Penn: I attended Christ Church at Oxford here from 1660 - 1664, where I contemplated theology and religion, dabbling in Anglicanism - which the university heavily followed - and Puritanism. I was known for my serious, rigid personality and lack of humor, matching my Puritan leanings. The school was all too happy about this, discouraging me from frivolities and rambunctiousness, such as the pursuit of footracing and running, which I had greatly enjoyed as a younger boy. They also prohibited the reading of "conceited, modern writers," including Shakespeare. Being an aristocrat, my relgious beliefs were assumed to fall on one side, which I did my best to conform to, while secretly sympathizing with the unpopular, persecuted Quakers. Tortured by longing to declare my true faith and fear of becoming an object of scorn, I withdrew from social gatherings and friends, and became a reclusive scholar. I dabbled in medicine, biology, and philosophy. When the dean of the university, whom I highly admired, was fired for free-thinking, I banded together with a group of students in protest. Many of the protesters fell away when threatened with a thrashing and possible expulsion, but I stood at the dean's side. Searching for a reason to expel me, the school began to monitor my religious activities and dress code, all of which was found unsuitable, and I was expelled.