Oxford: the City
Oxford's roots trace back to 700 when a priory was formed "where oxen were wont to ford the Thames" (thus "Ox-ford"). In 1214 the University received a charter from the Pope. Influxes of Dominican friars in 1221, and then Franciscans in 1224, contributed Oxford's strong Catholic traditions. Oxford as an important centre of religious activity continues today: all colleges have a chapel (Christ Church's is a Norman cathedral), and several colleges continue to function as religious foundations.
Today Oxford flourishes. The university certainly dominates the city due to its central location as much as its size, but there are also a great many other aspects to Oxford life: a successful theatre scene, prosperous industry including the BMW factory in Cowley, a large number of retail outlets, and many museums and attractions for visitors to name a few.
Oxford: the University
In the early years of the second millennium, any Englishman in search of learning would study at the University of Paris, the foremost academic institution of the time. However, in 1167, all English academics in Paris were moved to Oxford. Whether this was because Henry II recalled them or they were expelled by the French isn't clear. But Henry, who had built Beaumont Palace (of which no trace remains) as a residence near where Worcester college now stands, and who had given the city a charter in 1155, clearly established Oxford as England's principle academic centre.
Today there are 39 colleges of varying age, size and character. Every student at the university is a member of a college, which provides students with accommodation, meals, tutoring, libraries, common rooms, and sports and social facilities.