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Oxford: The medieval university and the town

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Chapter Summary

Oxford is situated in the valley of the River Thames, on an ancient river crossing at the confluence with the River Cherwell. The nearest Roman town was at Dorchester, 10 km to the SE, and the Roman road system by-passed Oxford, passing an area to the east of the medieval town where there was an extensive Roman pottery industry. Oxford in 1279 was a busy provincial town, with its many churches, back streets full of houses, suburbs, and the two friaries (Franciscan and Dominican) serving their mission to the urban poor and their thirst for learning. Colleges began as endowed halls (and were often called 'halls'), and they were characterised by their individuality and diversity. The colleges, rather like the halls, began on the back streets of Oxford (apart from Balliol), and Merton, Exeter, Oriel and Queens were not on main streets.

Keywords: medieval university; oxford; Town



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