The City of Oxford 1850-1914


We will investigate the economic, social and cultural changes in Oxford in the Victorian and Edwardian periods, taking it from a city still dependent on its university for fame and fortune to one ready, finally, to participate in the Industrial Revolution.

In 1850 Oxford was a fairly small, inward-looking city, still largely contained within its medieval boundaries; by the eve of the First World War it had quadrupled in size and was poised to become one of the major manufacturing centres in southern England.

We will examine the social, cultural and economic changes that the city underwent in this 65-year period and set them in the context of national developments. How did the coming of the railway, university reforms, religious upheaval, a rise in real wages and increasing concern for public health and sanitation affect the provision of education, leisure and public services, employment opportunities and the rapid development of Oxford's suburbs? The history of the city itself is still often neglected, even by its own citizens, and our main focus will be on the 'town', rather than the 'gown'.

Programme details

Course begins: 24 Jan 2024

Week 1: Introduction to the course. Historical background: Oxford in 1850. Survey of themes and sources.

Week 2: Politics, city government and public services.

Week 3: Public health, housing, poor relief and charity.

Week 4: Commerce & industry.

Week 5: Development of the suburbs.

Week 6: Religion.

Week 7: Education.

Week 8: Leisure and entertainment.

Week 9: Walking tour of the city (date and time to be agreed).

Week 10: Conclusions.


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £269.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Ms Liz Woolley

A freelance local history tutor, researcher, writer, speaker and tour guide.

Course aims

To examine the social, cultural and economic history of Oxford's 'town' (as opposed to 'gown') in the Victorian and Edwardian periods and to set that history in the context of contemporary developments in English society nationally.

Course Objectives:

  • To study developments in housing, education, public services, transport, local government, industry, commerce, leisure and religion in Oxford during the period 1850 to 1914.
  • To examine how developments in Oxford related to changes in English society generally during this period.
  • To identify, evaluate, interpret and compare appropriate primary sources for Oxford for the period.
  • To help students who wish to, to identify and begin research projects of their own.

Teaching methods

A range of teaching and learning methods will be used, including short lectures and illustrated presentations from the tutor, reading and interpretation of documents in pairs or small groups, and class discussion. One of the ten sessions will be a guided walk around Oxford, looking at relevant buildings and at the topography of the city. Teaching materials will include copies of texts, maps and images. Students will be expected to read one or two recommended introductory texts before the start of the course and to prepare material from hand-outs for discussion in class. They will be encouraged to follow up their own particular interests by reading more widely, visiting relevant exhibitions and carrying out their own explorations of the city.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • have an informed awareness of Oxford's history from 1850 to 1914;
  • be conscious of how Oxford's development during this period related to what was happening nationally;
  • be able to identify, interpret, evaluate and discuss a range of primary source materials relating to Oxford for this period; 
  • have the confidence to engage in research on their own behalf and, if they wish, to have identified a suitable topic for further investigation.

Assessment methods

Each week the tutor will provide a hand-out for the following week's session which will include suggested assignments related to the topic of the session. Each student will use these as the basis for four short (375-word) written assignments or for one more detailed (1500-word) written assignment. Alternatively students may pursue a subject of their own choosing in consultation with the tutor.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

No special expertise or knowledge will be expected, just a willingness to join in class activities. 

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in two hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)