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England’s Oxford University is one of the highest-ranked centers of learning in the world and an important contributor to humanity’s quest for knowledge.
Seven hundred years ago, however, it was the murder capital of medieval England, according to Popular Science.
Since 2018, historians and criminologists have been mapping murder cases committed during the medieval period across three English cities: London, York, and Oxford.
Known as “Medieval Murder Maps,” this University of Cambridge project analyzed crime scenes from 700-year-old coroners’ reports, originally written in Latin. These documents catalog sudden or suspicious deaths, providing details like names, events, locations and weapon values.
Researchers have used these data to create the street atlas of 354 homicides across the three cities.
The findings showed Oxford had a per capita homicide rate up to five times higher than late medieval London or York. It also revealed that the homicide rate was about 60 to 75 per 100,000 – which is around 50 times higher than the murder rates in today’s English cities.
These figures could be attributed to the university city’s wild academic body: At the start of the 14th century, Oxford had nearly 7,000 inhabitants, including 1,500 students.
Medieval coroner reports showed that 75 percent of the perpetrators were referred to as “clericus” – which most likely meant student or faculty member. The documents also revealed that 72 percent of the homicide victims were also clericus.
So what would cause such a murder fest?
Lead murder map investigator Manuel Eisner explained it was “a deadly mix of conditions.”
“Oxford students were all male and typically aged between 14 and 21, the peak (age) for violence and risk-taking,” he said. “These were young men freed from tight controls of family, parish or guild, and thrust into an environment full of weapons, with ample access to alehouses and sex workers.”