University College, founded with a bequest from William of Durham in 1249, lays claim to be the oldest College endowment in Oxford or Cambridge, and this is its first full-length history for over a century. Drawing extensively on the College's archives, which have not been studied in detail for decades, and many other sources, Robin Darwall-Smith tells the story of University College afresh, from when it began life as a small College of just four Fellows, permitted only to study theology, through its many changes, not least when it began to accept undergraduates in the sixteenth century, down to the present day. A College, however, is above all a community of people, and this book considers all aspects of the College's history, from its servants through to its Fellows, to give some idea of what it has meant to be a member of University College down the centuries. This is also a tale of how wider events can be reflected in one small College, be it the effects of civil and world war, or of political and religious upheavals.
Readers will encounter several of the College's most famous Old Members and Fellows, including Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson, Bill Clinton, Bob Hawke, Sir William Jones, C.S. Lewis, and Percy Shelley, but often it is the people now forgotten by posterity who may emerge as the most representative and lively witnesses of their own times.