'If Oxford were not the finest thing in England,' wrote Henry James, 'the case would be clearer for Cambridge.' No other private institutions have had a greater impact on England's - and, at times, world - history, yet in different ways. Oxford has spawned more Prime Ministers, Cambridge more Nobel laureates. In Oxford, so it is said, things are brilliantly formulated: in Cambridge, they are seriously thought through. Bill Clinton practiced the saxophone in 1960s Oxford, and became President of the United States; Bill Gates chose Cambridge as the location for the first Microsoft branch outside the USA.
Ever since the Victorian novelist, William Thackeray, invented a mythical 'Oxbridge', these two very distinctive institutions, as different as Harvard and Yale, have increasingly presented a common face to the world, a homogeneous elite whose sense of duty has been surpassed only by its self-confidence. Isaac Newton taught here; Stephen Hawking occupies Newton's professorial chair. For almost 800 years, the twin capitals of the intellectual life of England have radiated their influence across the globe: not just political leaders, but the best spies Communism could recruit; not just church leaders, but the great heretics and reformers; and a host of literary figures from Lord Byron to Salman Rushdie.
Peter Sager draws on an encyclopaedic treasure trove of facts, figures and anecdotes to provide a witty and detailed map of Oxbridge. He roams through the idyllic gardens and courtyards, uncovers the secrets that lie behind the college gates and supports his literary journey with color photographs and maps, a glossary, a list of useful addresses and a guide to further reading. Oxford & Cambridge is a unique combination of travel guide, history, biography and psychoanalysis of two towns that are not just places but states of mind.