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In 1068, William the Conqueror had a castle built in Cambridge. The castle was made of wood and in the 12th century, it was remade of stone.

During the Medieval period, the economy of Cambridge included the export of grain and the production of leather and wool. There were also blacksmiths butchers, bakers, tailors, and brewers, as there were in most towns in the country. In the Middle Ages, there was a large Jewish community there, but in 1275, they were driven out of Cambridge and relocated to Huntingdon.

Institutions of higher learning soon became the hallmark of the city of Cambridge. The School of Pythagoras was founded in 1200, and the University of Cambridge was established in 1209 by scholars took refuge from a hostile environment in Oxford and settled in Cambridge. Numerous colleges of Cambridge University followed. Peterhouse was founded by the Bishop of Ely in 1284, and Clare College in 1326. Pembroke was founded by the widow of the Earl of Pembroke in 1347. Trinity Hall was established in 1350; Corpus Christi College opened in 1352. Kings College, founded by Henry VI, was established in 1441; and Queens College began in 1448. St. Catharine's College opened in 1473, and Jesus College was founded in 1497.

Street cleaning was instituted in 1575, and water was brought into town by conduit in 1610. Stagecoaches conveyed travelers to and from Cambridge and London. Many more colleges were founded during the 16th century, including Christs College (1505), St. John's College (1511), Magdalene College (1541), Trinity College (1546), Emmanuel College (1584), and Sidney Sussex College (1596).

Horse drawn trams were instituted in 1880, and in 1893, electricity began to be generated inn Cambridge. Cambridge University added still more colleges between 1869 and 1896: Girton (1869), Newnan College (1871), Westcott House (1881), Selwyn College (1882), Hughes Hall (1895), and St. Edmunds Hall (1896).

During the 20th century, new industries such as electronics, scientific and surgical instruments cropped up. in 1910, the first cinema opened, and in 1936, the Folk Museum was opened. Cambridge became a city in 1951. Cambridge University was expanded throughout the 20th century with Churchill (1960), Darwin (1964), Lucy Cavendish (1965), Wolfson (1965), Fitzwilliam (1966), and Robinson (1979).

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