OxfordshireOxfordshire is a county in central southern England, classified for local government purposes in the region of South East England. Around 600,000 people live on the 2610 km˛ (1007 sq mi) of the county. The county holds five district councils - Oxford, Cherwell, Vale of the White Horse (after the Uffington White Horse), West Oxfordshire and South Oxfordshire.
The county has a major tourism industry; the area is noted for the concentration of performance motorsport companies and facilities; Oxford University Press has headed a concentration of print and publishing firms; the university is also linked to the concentration of local biotechnology companies.
The main centre of population is the city of Oxford. Other significant settlements are Bicester, Banbury and Chipping Norton to the north of Oxford; Evesham and Witney to the west; Thame and Chinnor to the east; and Abingdon, Wantage, Didcot, Henley and Drayton to the south. Future population growth in the county is hoped to be concentrated around Banbury, Bicester, Didcot and Witney. Until 1974 much of current south-western Oxfordshire (Vale of the White Horse) was in Berkshire as the southern boundary of the county was historically marked by the course of the River Thames (sometimes known locally as the Isis.)
Historically the area has always had some importance, it has been valuable agricultural land resting between the main southern cities and containing the prestigious settlement at Oxford (from the Old English Oxnaforda). Ignored by the Romans it was not until the formation of a settlement at Oxford that the area grew in importance. Alfred the Great was born in Wantage and he made Faringdon (part of Berkshire until 1974) the capital of Wessex. The university at Oxford was founded in 1096. The area was part of the Cotswolds wool trade from the 13th century. The Great Western Railway reached Didcot in 1839. Morris Motors was founded in Oxford in 1912 and MG in Abingdon in 1929. The importance of agriculture as an employer has declined rapidly in the 20th century, currently under 1% of the county's population are involved.