Around 600,000 people live on the 2610 kmē (1007 sq mi) of the county. It is divided into five districts council - Oxford, Cherwell, Vale of the White Horse (after the Uffington White Horse), West Oxfordshire and South Oxfordshire.
The Vale of the White Horse and parts of South Oxfordshire south of the River Thames were previously part of Berkshire and were added to the county in 1974. Conversely, the Caversham area of Reading has traditionally been part of Oxfordshire.
The county has a major tourism industry; the area is noted for the concentration of performance motorsport companies and facilities; Oxford University Press has headed a concentration of print and publishing firms; the university is also linked to the concentration of local biotechnology companies.
The main centre of population is the city of Oxford. Other significant settlements are Bicester, Banbury and Chipping Norton to the north of Oxford; Evesham and Witney to the west; Thame and Chinnor to the east; and Abingdon, Wantage, Didcot, Henley and Drayton to the south. Future population growth in the county is hoped to be concentrated around Banbury, Bicester, Didcot and Witney.
Historically the area has always had some importance, it has been valuable agricultural land resting between the main southern cities and containing the prestigious settlement at Oxford (from the Old English Oxenaforda). Ignored by the Romans it was not until the formation of a settlement at Oxford that the area grew in importance. Alfred the Great was born in Wantage. The university at Oxford was founded in 1096. The area was part of the Cotswolds wool trade from the 13th century. The Great Western Railway reached Didcot in 1839. Morris Motors was founded in Oxford in 1912 and MG in Abingdon in 1929. The importance of agriculture as an employer has declined rapidly in the 20th century, currently under 1% of the county's population are involved.