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The city, of Roman origin, had a remarkable number of churches and religious houses by the central Middle Ages. When Cambridgeshire was split from the diocese of Lincoln in 1109, its first bishop settled at Ely but the link between Ely and Cambridge was close; it was probably the bishop's clerks who provided hospitality in Cambridge for students escaping riots in Oxford in 1209, and so founded the University of Cambridge. The first college, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284. The university won royal patronage, but until the 15th cent. remained modest in comparison with Oxford. Many of the leaders of the Reformation came from Cambridge, including Abp. T. Cranmer, as did leading Anglicans of the 16th and 17th cents. In the 19th cent. it played a part in the evangelical revival, especially through the influence of C. Simeon, and later nurtured a series of eminent biblical scholars. See also following entries.

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