History of St John's
St John's was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas White, a wealthy London merchant.
White was Master of the Merchant Taylors' Company, and established a number of educational foundations including the Merchant Taylors' schools. Although the College was closely linked to those institutions for many centuries, it became a more open society in the later 19th century. The endowments which St John's was given at its foundation, and during the 20 or so years afterward, served it very well. In the second half of the nineteenth century it benefited, as ground landlord, from the suburban development of the city of Oxford and was unusual among Colleges for the size and extent of its property within the city.
Although primarily a producer of Anglican clergymen in the earlier periods of its history, St John's also gained a reputation for both law and medicine. Fellows and alumni have included Archbishop Laud, Jane Austen's father and brothers, the early Fabian intellectual Sidney Ball, who was very influential in the creation of the Workers' Educational Association (WEA), and Abdul Rasul, one of the first Bengalis to gain the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law at Oxford.
More recently, graduates of St John's have included the novelists and poets A.E. Housman, Robert Graves, Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin and John Wain, as well as the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair.