Six Things Oxford Predates

Turns out we're really, really, really historic, bitches.

So, Oxford is old. Really old.

The Smithsonian recently put out a piece that makes a fascinating comparison: Oxford is older than Aztec civilization.

Teaching at the uni started as early as 1096, with many of the same tutors still teaching today, whilst the Aztecs only really got into the swing of things with the founding of Tenochtitlán in 1325.

What are some other old, old things that Oxford still manages to outdate? We picked out six of the best.

The United States of America

This is the first thing that came up in Google for "Yale architecture". Hahahahaha.

This is the first thing that came up in Google for “Yale architecture”. Hahahahaha.

If posts on Overheard at Oxford University are to be believed, all Americans in Oxford spend the entire team gallivanting around, asking for directions to “the university” and “Eton College, Oxford”, and proclaiming how Oxford ripped off Yale or Harvard or another minor community college.

Now, I don’t know if all that’s true. What I do know is that, with European settlement beginning in the 15th century, and us not saying “to hell with the lot of you” until a bit after 1776, Oxford has hundreds of years on said lot of them.

Take that, anonymous tourists.

The Printing Press

Way to hold up the Renaissance, Gutenberg.

Way to hold up the Renaissance, Gutenberg.

We would make a witty comment here about the horrors the printing press has inflicted upon students everywhere by producing so many books from them to read and so on. But they were still making books before the printing press. It’s just they were all written by hand.

Can you imagine the library fines for damaging one? If you thought the Social Science Library was bad now…

In any case, that lazy Mr. Gutenberg didn’t get around to starting his printing press until 1436, and Oxford ain’t got no time for that. By the time Gutenberg got under-way with his little project, we’d been around for nearly 350 years.

Magna Carta

This happened, and it was glorious.

This happened, and it was glorious.

Magna Carta. Foundation of Western constitutional law and liberal democracy. Also a pretty good album.

I mean, I’m more a Kanye man, but it’s not bad. Did you hear that our editor showed Jay-Z around Salisbury? Shout-out to Official Friend of the Tab Oxford Shawny Carter.

Magna Carta pretty much laid down the foundation for every governmental system in the Western world. It was drawn up and signed at Runnymede in 1215…over a hundred years after we got to teaching down Oxford way.

I’m sure King John was all “damn, I’m sure those clowns at Oxford are having a good laugh at this. What a bunch of clowns”.

The University of Cambridge

At least they've got one real university.

At least they’ve got one real university.

Alright, we hold our hands up: this is cheating. Of course the Tabs post-date us.

They came about because a bunch of our whinier eggheads couldn’t deal with the town banter and decided they had no other recourse than to go settle in the fetid swamp that is East Anglia. The region is still trying to recover, intellectually and genetically, to this day.

The first profs set off for Cambridge in 1209. So, they lasted 113 years before bailing out on what would become the greatest centre of education ever known to man. Great job, geniuses.

The English Language

And you thought your tutors' notes were bad.

And you thought your tutors’ notes were bad.

So here’s the big one.

In the big picture of things, the English language is relatively young. Modern English as we know it now only really came around in the 16th century or so.

Before that, you had what is termed Middle English, stuff like Chaucer – still recognisably English, but barely so, and the bane of English Literature students everywhere.

But before that? Well, there’s Old English, but that’s…not really legible for modern readers.

So, the emergence of the Middle English dialects started it all off for God’s own tongue. Now, these dialects only really emerged under the Plantagenet dynasty (the guys who replaced William the Conqueror and his Norman mates).

The first Plantagenet King? Henry II, crowned in 1154. That’s right. The university predates the English language itself.

I’d like to see Durham compare with that.

Old Man Bridge

We might just recruit an Old Man Bridge Editor next term.

We might just recruit an Old Man Bridge Editor next term.

It’s hard to believe that there was an Oxford without Old Man Bridge.

He’s become a symbol of the university; the man, the myth, the Simon. He’s as Oxonian as punting and Modafinil.

Yet, his probably-official-I-mean-we-don’t-know-but-seems-legitimate-you-know? Facebook page proclaims him to be born in 1952, which would place his adult tenure in our fair city at a maximum of just over 40 years.

So, incredibly, for at least 95% of recorded Oxford history, Old Man Bridge was nowhere to be seen.


  • shootsleaves

    The Magna Carta signed at Canterbury? What have you been smoking?

    Runnymede the last time I looked was in Surrey. Dear me…

  • useless pedant

    i’m pretty sure that middle english and old english still count as english, the clue is in the name fucktard

    • Joe Edwards

      hmm, i’m not sure about this. can we get jack wilshere in to adjudicate

  • Sara Polakova


    • Joe Edwards

      don’t you mean bohemian

  • Anonymous

    Yep, for a long time we have been winding up Americans by pointing out that our college kitchens are 2.5 time as old as their nation. :-)

  • Thiscountryisgoingtothedogs

    Was the swearing in the subtitle really needed? Otherwise a nice article.

  • 6thgradeteacher

    While you’re right about the Aztecs being younger than Oxford, your dates are way off. The Aztec civilization was conquered in 1521 (by Cortes), not STARTED in 1521.

  • rocolo14

    Tenochtitlan was not founded in 1521, that´s the date the Spanish took it over. It was funded in 1325

  • † Laura †

    Pretty sure Tenochtitlan was founded in 1325, not 1521.

  • Mark

    The first one is not right. Aztecs left “Aztlan” in about 1100, founded Tenochtitlan in 1325, and were conquered in 1521. BTW, I have seen different sources quote different dates for the departure from Aztlan, so I’m not sure which date is right. Codex Boturini clearly shows “1-Flint” for the year. That does match 1064 (which predates Oxford), but also could match other dates (the calendar had no long count). I have seen 1111 and 1113 quoted on many webistes also, but neither of those matches 1-Flint, so I’m not sure where the authors got those dates.

    • Alyson Cruise

      Note however that Oxford’s earliest date for teaching on the site (1096) is a first record of teaching already going on, not a date of founding.

  • Anon

    Old English and Middle English are still English. So you may be able to argue that it predates Modern English, but not the English language itself. (Also, I know of no linguist who’s dated when Old, Middle, and Modern English ended/began down to the year.)

    • Grant McWilliams

      Middle English started in the year 1066 exactly. What could have happened that year that changed everything… hmm…

      • Bryon Lape

        Damn Normans….

  • Jules

    As an ‘anonymous tourist’ to Oxford, whilst studying in London, I felt no need to compare Oxford to any of the said American Universities but I was constantly comparing it to Hogwarts.

    • J

      That might be because it was filmed there. Think about it for half a second before posting.

      • Grant McWilliams

        Somebody missed a joke.

  • Worried

    There are some embarrassing factual errors in this piece.

  • nigel

    This is a horrible article.

  • slymaple

    Teaching at the uni started as early as 1096, with many of the same tutors still teaching today,
    –Wow, you have ancient sages still teaching there! LOL.

  • Richard Gadsden

    University of Bologna, 1088.

  • Michelle Harris

    Ok… maybe there are a few facts out of place… but I gotta give it to you, I thought this article was hysterical! You have a brilliant sense of humor, and it translates well on paper… LOL thanks for the laugh this morning :-)
    (By the way, this yank would have done ANYTHING to have gone to Oxford university, :-))

  • Awmoondah

    “whilst the Aztecs only really got into the swing of things with the founding of Tenochtitlán in 1521.” — What exactly is “the swing of things”? You mean you *only really* count as a civilization when Europeans conquer you?

    This article is embarrassingly erroneous.

  • Greg

    This author speculates throughout the entire piece and appears not to have researched AT ALL concerning dates in the Americas. As far as Americans calling Oxford a rip-off, they are pointing to quality of education..not quantity of years in operation. I would also like to point out that if by “us not saying (to hell with the lot of you)” means getting your collective asses kicked and then getting booted out, the author DID get one date concerning the Americas almost correct (1776, being the year of the signing of the American declaration of independence but not the end of the war).

    • J

      Are you seriously taking an article on a student newspaper seriously? And are you really arguing that Oxford’s teaching rips off American colleges? Jesus Christ…

      • Greg

        Did you read ANYTHING I wrote? I said, “As far as AMERICANS calling Oxford a rip-off,” not myself. At any rate, I would put ANY Ivy league school against Oxford ANY day, past or present. Yes, Oxford has been around an impressively long time. Obviously YOU are taking a student paper seriously as well since you find it necessary to critique the comments section.

      • Greg

        Anyway, student paper or whatever…my point was he did zero research so cannot be taken seriously whatsoever. You may choose to completely bypass my main point if you want but it is still my main point. This paper was just plain ignorant of facts and needed to be exposed as such no matter WHO wrote it.

        • Joe Edwards

          u mad

    • Fithian

      ‘Asses kicked’
      Just an FYI. The British won nearly all the battles in that conflict, much like the USA won almost all the battles in Vietnam yet still lost the war.
      The British gave up because of lack of interests there and a lack of interest at home in those colonies.
      The USA gave up because of pressure at home to do so.
      I suppose you could say the the American rebellion was the UK’s Vietnam.

      • Jacka

        Oh ya lack of interest in the colonies? You are kidding right? They wanted the Americas for the textile good man and did not have any lack of interest in the war. They were just getting pressured on multiple fronts and just couldn’t compete with us on land and the Spanish and French in the sea. They decided to withdraw and focus on naval operations thinking they could come back later but by that time we were thoroughly entrenched with independence and they had no chance. (Probably a long run on sentence but I don’t claim an English major in the slightest)

        • Alyson Cruise

          By “us”, you presumably mean the french ground troops who did most of the fighting?

  • Jack Martin

    Oh goodness. Looked promising but once again TRIPE from the Tab

  • EdgarAllenPwn

    Thats the first image that came up for “Yale architecture” because it is the Yale School of Architecture building itself… Duh.

  • “G Money” Cooper

    Oxford Uni also pre-dates the now ubiquitous use of the term “bitches” to punctuate sentences by those desperate to appear “street”. At least, I don’t recall its use in Chaucer.

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