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Oxford

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  119 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
An account of the character, history, mores, buildings, climate, and people of one of Britain's most fascinating cities. This book is intended for all those interested in the local history, culture, and architecture of Oxford, especially visitors to Oxford.
Paperback, 282 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 1965)
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Laurie
Nov 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
When is a guidebook like a historical novel, rich in texture and human nature? When it's by Jan Morris--this time of Oxford, and as much memoir as guide.
Will Tomsett
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book expecting a solid jaunt through some well-worn old anecdotes about the city. I was surprised, however, at how this isn’t really a book about Oxford, nor indeed a travel book at all, but a very cogent examination of English (not British) society, from someone who is both within and without it.

Instead of just quoting Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dreaming Spires’ poem, all dew-eyed as with many books of the genre, Morris deals with class, with the Church, with industrialisation, and ties i
...more
Rob
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Having enjoyed Morris's charm and wit at a roundtable discussion I attended at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival a few years ago, I was delighted to receive this as a Christmas present having only comparatively recently arrived to live in Oxford.

It's a marvellous overview of the famous city with rich historical research entertainingly interwoven with juicy anecdotes. It's staggering that this relatively small town of 150,000 has come to have had such influence - not that this is always a good thi
...more
H
Jun 15, 2009 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
Just a big dump of research, with some pretty prose about the locale. Took two weeks to finish the book.

I'll take a leap and say that it's also uncompelling because the place itself has seen no wars; even Hitler resisted bombing Oxford because he cherished it so much. That means it's a mostly preserved historic site of culture without much change or conflict. That's great for the city, but maybe not so much for a book about it. Where's history without the story arc?
Helen
This was originally published in the 1960s and this edition revised in the mid 1970s, which feels like a world away now as much has changed. Charming, idiosyncratic history/description of Oxford. Not for you of course if you hate the place, and she has an interesting section on Oxford-bashing and the reasons for it, so it is nothing new even if it is particularly popular at the moment. Lots and lots of anecdotes, no footnotes, no index. (The story about the Victorian skeletons found in a punt is ...more
Daisy
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Jan Morris' book on Oxford is informative and a pleasure to read. After living in Oxford for three years I still had a lot to learn about the city, and for me her account of the history (and particularly the religious past) of both Town and Gown was especially eye opening.

Besides facts and figures, though, I have appreciated Morris more in Oxford and Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere for her extraordinary gift for depicting places. There are moments in Oxford when she captures the feel of the c
...more
Jenn
Mar 12, 2016 rated it liked it
"Oxford inspires both love and loathing: and in this, as in so much else, she is not just a city, but a civilization too."

This book also inspires love and loathing. Some chapters are wonderfully, delightfully evocative. I could feel the damp chill of the atmosphere and wanted nothing more than to lose myself in one of its many storied libraries. Other chapters are such a slog that I wanted to toss the book with all its obscure references into a fire. I'm pretty well grounded on English history u
...more
Andrew Darling
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
If only I could live my life over again; not arse about at school doing no work; get enough exam passes and self-confidence to study at Oxford; there to enjoy exchanges like the one Jan Morris describes in this gorgeous book. Dining one day with a distinguished botanist at an Oxford college, she offered to pass him the dish of parsnips; he politely declined, explaining that 'he seldom ate umbelliferae'.
Lynn Green
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I enjoyed reading Jan Morris' book Oxford because he looked at both the good and not as good parts of this famous university town. I was a bit disappointed that Morris made no mention of C. S. Lewis of J. R. R. Tolkien or anything about the Inklings. However, I learned about a host of colorful characters like the Fellow who fed his pet jaguar live hamsters.
Ben
Nov 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: guidebooks, history
A biography of Oxford by somebody who knows her stuff and writes very well. If Ackroyd's London had been as focused and organised, I might have gotten through it. While I'm living in Oxford, I just know I'll be coming back to this book time and again, for its tidbits of fascinating information about this city's history, architecture, learning, sophistication - and utter nonsense.
Pat Smith
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jan Morris is a fine travel writer who lives in Oxford, England. In this book she gives a description of Oxford and its environs as well information about its history and comments about the university and some of its excentrics.
Andrea Fuller
Sep 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very well written. I was a history major so I read a lot of dry history books, this was the exact opposite. The author's writing style is so wonderful I could see what she was writing about and learning at the same time. I highly recommend!
Sally
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Read this whilst in Oxford. Fantastic if dated.
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Jan Morris previously wrote under the name "James Morris".

Jan Morris is a British historian, author and travel writer. Morris was educated at Lancing College, West Sussex, and Christ Church, Oxford, but is Welsh by heritage and adoption. Before 1970 Morris published under her former name, "James Morris", and is known particularly for the Pax Britannica trilogy, a history of the British Empire, and
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