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18 June 2014
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Immigration and Emigration
Oxford from the air
Oxford's "Hitler émigrés"

People often talk of Oxford as a "City of Dreaming Spires" (and the "Home of Lost Causes"). But from the mid-1930s, it became the dream home for an extraordinary concentration of talent: refugees from Nazi Central Europe. Artists and architects, physicists and philosophers, musicians, historians, publishers, composers - all of them what we would now call asylum seekers - congregated in Oxford, greatly to the enrichment of British intellectual and cultural life.

Of course, Oxford, like Cambridge, like the great university towns of continental Europe, had long provided a home for foreign talent. Scholars from time immemorial had prided themselves on their ability to be "at home" anywhere, and British intellectual history is packed with the names of famous figures from France, Russia, Italy and beyond. Central Europe has been a particularly generous benefactor; where would British cultural life have been without people like Erasmus, Holbein, Van Dyck, Rubens, Handel, Prince Albert and the man who documented "The Buildings of England", Nikolaus Pevsner? More...

Words: Daniel Snowman

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