The county of Oxfordshire was formed in the early years of the 10th century and is broadly
situated in the land between the River Thames to the south, the Cotswolds to the west, the Chilterns to the east and the Midlands to the
north, with spurs running south to Henley-on-Thames and north to Banbury.
Historically the area has always had some
importance, containing valuable agricultural land in the centre of the country and the prestigious university in
the county town of Oxford (whose
name came from Anglo-Saxon Oxenaford = "ford for oxen"). Ignored by the Romans, it was not until the formation of a settlement at Oxford in the eighth
century that the area grew in importance. Alfred the
Great was born across the Thames in Wantage in Berkshire.
The University of Oxford was
founded in 1096, though its collegiate structure did not develop until later on. The area was part of
the Cotswolds wool trade from
the 13th century, generating much wealth, particularly in the western portions of the county in the
Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Morris Motors was founded in Oxford in 1912, bringing heavy industry to an otherwise
agricultural county. The importance of agriculture as an employer has declined rapidly in the 20th century
though; currently under one percent of the county's population are involved due to high
Throughout most of its history the county was
divided into fourteen hundreds,
namely Bampton, Banbury, Binfield, Bloxham, Bullingdon, Chadlington, Dorchester, Ewelme, Langtree, Lewknor, Pyrton, Ploughley, Thame and Wootton.
The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, the main
army unit in the area, was based at the Barracks on Bullingdon Green, Cowley.
The Vale of the White Horse district and parts
of the South Oxfordshire administrative district south of the River Thames were historically part of
Berkshire, but were added to the administrative
county of Oxfordshire in 1974.
Conversely, the Caversham area of
Reading was historically part of Oxfordshire as was the parish of Stokenchurch, now in administrative