Stimulate your mind in pursuit of knowledge as you immerse yourself in the lifestyle of Oxford University for a week. Choose a fascinating course of study, live at historic Merton College, sample life as a student again, and explore the charming town of Oxford.

Starting at: $5,550 * Price includes special offer Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Merton College, Oxford University  Oxford tutors (July 2018). Credit: Wade Jennings  Welcome reception at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  The dining experience at Merton College, with High Table. Credit: Wade Jennings  Conversation over dinner. Credit: Wade Jennings  The dining experience at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings  Introduction to Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  Smithsonian Journeys travelers at a lecture. Credit: Wade Jennings  Merton College Library  The quadrangle at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  The chapel at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  Interior of the Merton College chapel. Credit: Wade Jennings  Smithsonian Journeys travelers at Oxford. Credit: Wade Jennings  Smithsonian Journeys travelers during a lecture break. Credit: Wade Jennings  Smithsonian Journeys traveler at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings  Enjoying a few moments at a local pub. Credit: Wade Jennings  Smithsonian Journeys travelers during lecture break. Credit: Wade Jennings  Lecture break at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings  The beautiful Oxford skyline  Housing at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  Garden walkway at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  The gardens at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings  An evening walk near Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings  Oxford  The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford  Bridge of Sighs landmark, Oxford University  View near Oxford's Main Street  Loch along the Thames River, Oxford  Sculptural detail found in Oxford

Smithsonian at Oxford

8 days from $5,550

Stimulate your mind in pursuit of knowledge as you immerse yourself in the lifestyle of Oxford University for a week. Choose a fascinating course of study, live at historic Merton College, sample life as a student again, and explore the charming town of Oxford.

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details

TOUR BROCHURE

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WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

The Smithsonian at Oxford provides an accessible educational experience, nicely balanced with opportunities to visit nearby sites of interest. The Smithsonian at Oxford also provides an opportunity to experience true student life again.

- Christopher B.

Living and studying in a centuries old setting that famous people have lived is just...awesome!!

- Philip P.

The warm reception we received at Merton College made us feel that we really were Oxford students -- a very special sense of belonging.

- Lyn G.

I love Shakespeare; I love to study and to study Shakespeare at Oxford and to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform is a dream come true!

- Blanche M.

The Oxford University tour was an extraordinary chance to delve into the history, architecture, and erudition of Oxford. The Merton College tutor was prepared and dedicated. Fellow travelers provided the extra inspirational touch! Amazing....

- Katherine M.

JOURNEYS DISPATCHES

See All Journeys Dispatches ››

Overview

2022 Course Descriptions

Spend your mornings learning from an expert from Oxford's Merton College. Choose from five featured course subjects: The English Garden in History, The Age of Winston Churchill, The Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England,  The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, Myths and Legends of the British Isles, and Shakespeare's English History Plays: Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V. Please indicate your top three choices of course subject at the time of booking, with final assignments to be determined based on traveler interest. Enrollment is limited. Information on experts can be found on the Enrichment tab.

Classes will be interspersed with excursions, including a discussion about the UK university system and a visit to Pembroke College, which was attended by James Smithson—the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution. Each course will also feature an additional special excursion tailored to its theme.

The English Garden in History

The University of Oxford, as the oldest center of learning in England, has exerted considerable influence on the making of English gardens over the centuries through its writers, philosophers, and scientists, so it is not surprising that Oxfordshire and its adjacent counties contain some of the finest and most representative of England's gardens. Taking advantage of this superb location, the course will trace the development of gardens, their philosophy, design and contents, over a thousand years, from the medieval monastery garden through the 18th-century English landscape garden and the spectacular gardens of Victorian England to the 21st-century suburban plot. 

Field Trip: Visit Rousham Gardens in Oxfordshire, a country house with walled garden and herbaceous borders first built in 1635 and remodeled in the 18th century.

The Age of Winston Churchill

Study Winston Churchill’s political career from 1900 to 1955 and gain an understanding of the profound political and social changes that took place in Britain over his lifetime. He was considered by many contemporaries to be a figure trapped by history as much as he was steeped in it. His influence continues, not just through the way he shaped events as a war leader and peacetime politician, and in the example, he gave of a certain political style, but in his voluminous writing about Victorian times and great events in his own lifetime, the First and Second World Wars.

Field Trip: This class features a field trip to Chartwell, Churchill’s country house and home for over four decades.

The Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England 

In the 5th century A.D., Britain ceased to part of the Roman Empire and underwent profound transformations as a consequence: the ruination of cities, the turbulence of endemic warfare, migration from present-day Germany and Scandinavia, a near-complete restructuring of political and military institutions, and abrupt discontinuity in processes of production and exchange. Over the course of the next half-millennium, however, a host of complex and rich developments ensued. Included among them was the foundation of petty kingdoms, towns and monasteries, and a golden age in the production of Christian art and luxury manuscripts, all punctuated by Viking raiding and ultimately culminating in the establishment of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England.  Join us in an exploration of these developments through archaeology, from the astonishing jewelry and weaponry unearthed at the royal cemetery of Sutton Hoo, to the excavations of the humble timber dwellings of rural communities, and the architectural analysis of the first ministers and churches. This course covers all of these areas and more in order to teach a foundation in the archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England, challenging the popular notion that these centuries could ever be described as the "Dark Ages." 

Field Trip:  Tour the early  medieval landscape of Oxfordshire, including the reconstructed Anglo-Saxon Hall at Long Wittenham, South Oxfordshire, discovered during a 2016 excavation by the Oxford University School of Archaeology that revealed the remains of a large Anglo-Saxon building that reconstructed using traditional materials, heritage tools, and skills. 

The Rise and Fall of the British Empire

This course will examine the rise and fall of the British Empire, from its unlikely and unplanned origins in an age of piracy, through its rivalry with other powers, its Victorian zenith, and the two world wars, to its decolonization in the second half of the twentieth century. Such concepts as a formal and informal empires, imperial structures, and methods of control, including collaboration, will be discussed.

Field Trip: Participants in this course will travel to Sezincote House in Gloucester, constructed in 1805 when British India was becoming the “jewel in the crown” of the world’s largest empire.

Myths and Legends of the British Isles

There is a rich tradition of legendary history in the British Isles which makes us, as 21st century readers, question how we come to understand the meaning of ‘legend’, ‘history’ and folklore in our own time. To frame the course, we’ll consider how much myth-making in the British Isles stems from the natural world. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, arguably the most complex English treatment of an Arthurian romance, draws on the deliberately contrasting environments of the court and the natural world. The natural world also plays a significant part in the four branches of the Welsh Mabinogi, and we’ll explore some of the legends from the fourth branch. Scottish mythology reflects a tough and uncompromising approach to the creation of the natural world: the goddess representing winter is all-powerful and feared rather than revered. To complete the frame, we shall consider the ways in which these myths have come to us today through literature and film, and how they have rooted themselves into our cultures.

Field Trip: Students in this course will visit three pre-historic sites along the Ridgeway, the ancient route than ran from Dorset in the southeast of England to the Wash in the northwest. The White Horse is the most famous of the sites and the oldest chalk-cut hill-figure in Britain. It is perhaps over 3,000 years old. Uffington Castle is a rare example of a large Iron Age hillfort, and Dragon Hill, a natural mound about 10 meters high, is named for its association with the legend of St George which survives in the tradition of mumming plays.

Shakespeare's English History Plays: Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V

Shakespeare wrote eight plays concerned with the period of 1398 through 1485, from the impending fall of Richard II to the Battle of Bosworth, the death of Richard III and the accession of the first Tudor monarch Henry VII. These comprise two groups of four plays. Participants in this course will study Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. These plays are full of action, the deposition and murder of Richard II, civil war and war with France, the battle of Agincourt and the marriage of Henry V. Through close readings and lively discussion, course participants will appreciate the plays in their theatrical and cultural context and explore Shakespeare’s interpretation of the historical period. The course will also examine the history plays relative to Shakespeare’s achievement in other genres.

Field Trip: Students will visit Stratford-upon-the Avon, the Bard’s childhood home.

The Smithsonian at Oxford provides an accessible educational experience, nicely balanced with opportunities to visit nearby sites of interest. The Smithsonian at Oxford also provides an opportunity to experience true student life again.

- Christopher B.

Living and studying in a centuries old setting that famous people have lived is just...awesome!!

- Philip P.

The warm reception we received at Merton College made us feel that we really were Oxford students -- a very special sense of belonging.

- Lyn G.

I love Shakespeare; I love to study and to study Shakespeare at Oxford and to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform is a dream come true!

- Blanche M.

The Oxford University tour was an extraordinary chance to delve into the history, architecture, and erudition of Oxford. The Merton College tutor was prepared and dedicated. Fellow travelers provided the extra inspirational touch! Amazing....

- Katherine M.

Itinerary

2022 course selections include: The English Garden in History; The Age of Winston Churchill; The Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England; The Rise and Fall of the British Empire; Myths and Legends of the British Isles; and Shakespeare's English History Plays: Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V.

2023 course selections include: The Rise & Fall of the British Empire; The Monarchy and the British Constitution, 1660-2023; Archaeology of Britain; The Beatles, Popular Music and Sixties Britain (July 2023 only); and Jane Austen’s Novels and Contexts (September 2023 only).

Please indicate your top three choices of course subject at the time of booking, with final assignments to be determined based on traveler interest. Enrollment is limited.  

Day 1 — Depart the U.S for London

Depart the U.S. for London on individual flights.

Day 2 — London, Oxford

Arrive in London this morning and transfer to Oxford. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner and plenary talk. (D)

Days 3–7 — Oxford

Lectures take place at Merton College, Oxford UniversitySee Course Descriptions under the Tour Details tab for course details.

Excursions: Explore highlights of Oxford, including an exploration of the British educational system and the connection between James Smithson (the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution) and the university, which he attended as a student. Alternative afternoon excursions are available for return travelers. Plus, take an additional special excursion tailored to your specific course.

2022 Excursions:

Those enrolled in The English Garden in History will visit Rousham Gardens, a country house with a walled garden and herbaceous borders first built in 1635 and remodeled in the 18th century in Oxfordshire, England. The Age of Winston Churchill features a field trip to Chartwell, Churchill’s country house, and home for over four decades. Those in the Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England will travel to the reconstructed Anglo-Saxon Hall at Long Wittenham, South Oxfordshire, which was recently reconstructed using traditional materials, tools, and techniques. The excursion for The Rise and Fall of the British Empire will be a trip to Sezincote House, Gloucestershire. Travelers in Myths and Legends of the British Isles will visit three pre-historic sites (the White Horse, Uffington Castle, Dragon Hill) along the ancient route that ran from the southeast of England to the Wash in the Northwest. Participants in Shakespeare’s English History Plays will visit Stratford-upon-the Avon, the Bard’s childhood home.

2023 Excursions:

Those enrolled in The Rise & Fall of the British Empire will travel to Sezincote House in Gloucester, constructed in 1805 when British India was becoming the “jewel in the crown” of the world’s largest empire. Students in The Monarchy will visit Windsor Castle in Berkshire, the royal residence associated with the English and succeeding British royal family, with a rich architectural and cultural history. Students in The Archaeology of Britain will visit the ceremonial World Heritage sites of Stonehenge and Avebury, as well as Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum of art and archaeology. Participants in Jane Austen will visit the Jane Austen House Museum, where Austen lived for the final eight years of her life, along with the nearby Chawton House Library, a historic Elizabethan home, which hosts The Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing. 

Remaining 2023 excursions to be announced soon.

(B,L,D) 

Day 8 — Oxford

After breakfast transfer to Heathrow Airport for individual flights back to the U.S. or travel to London for the optional extension. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)