Oxford History Personal Statement
Novels by Perez-Reverte, Kipling, and Verne sparked a need to fill the gaps in my knowledge of the past. This sparked an interest for historical discussion. Claus’ “History: an Introduction to Theory, Method and Practice” and Carr’s “What is History?” have introduced me to historiographical debates on the nature of history as a discipline. I have explored historical objectivity in ToK, concluding that writing history requires comprehension of one’s own place in it. My interest in the study of modern history does not only come from its relationship with current affairs but also from the challenge that has become the selection and evaluation of sources in an era of information and media politics.
Ferguson’s “War of the World” made me question the foundations of 20th century Nationalism through a re-evaluation of the impact of the decline of Imperialism; was the ‘artificial’ creation of nation-states out of empires the main cause for racial violence throughout the century? Studying World Politics also fuelled my curiosity about Imperialism, leading me to read Darwin’s “Unfinished Empire”. This gave me a clear insight into the often contradictory objectives of the ‘builders’ of the British Empire. Was it the efforts of soldiers, traders, evangelists and politicians which pushed the borders of empire, or was its expansion a result of more complex historical contexts, like British naval superiority throughout the Seven Years’ War, or the relative balance of power in Europe between 1815 and 1914? An interest in the conflicts which often mark the beginning and end of these influential periods triggered a quest to understand warfare in more detail.
Being bilingual gave me an advantage when researching the causes of the Falklands War as I could evaluate both British and Argentine sources. Through this investigation I understood war not as the beginning but as the climax of a power struggle. I came back to this idea when studying the Spanish Civil War. Beevor’s “The Battle for Spain” and Preston’s “The Spanish Civil War” showed me the value of ideology and propaganda (sometimes as important as military strategy) when a fraction of the population has to be rallied to fight another; when an enemy has to be created in the psyche of the troops to justify their acts. I considered this when researching for my Extended Essay, investigating the rationale behind Franco’s march on Toledo in September 1936, which critically delayed an attack on Madrid.
What determines the outcome of a battle? I used the EBSCO platform to find an article written by Langer on the reasons for the British defeat at Isandlwana in 1879. Arguing that the main cause was the Martini-Henri rifle’s arched shot, this illustrated the numerous variables commanders have to take into account, leading me to question the weight of in-battle decisions, issued in a context of chaos and confusion, and the power of the individual against conditions outside their reach. Reading Beevor’s “The Second World War” gave me a sense of the scale of that particular conflict and of the features of total war. The evolution of warfare not only means that battlefields encompassed whole states, but that the determining factor became the mobilisation of the human and material resources of the state, after which total victory or capitulation were the only outcomes. I also gained a sense of the scale of Nazi demographic designs when visiting Birkenau death camp, as part of the LFA project, after winning a school essay competition.
I look forward to install the culture of debate in my school through this year’s MUN conference, of which I was appointed Secretary General. I have worked for ECE, sponsor of Hamburg’s 2024 Olympic Bid, investigating previous Games and selecting information relevant to Hamburg’s postulation strategy. I hope my quest for knowledge in the discipline of discussion and argumentation that history is can result in the empowering of my abilities and character.
Universities Applied to:
- Oxford (History) - Offer (38 points, 666 HL) Firm
- LSE (International History) - Offer (39 points, 766 HL)
- Durham (History) - Offer (38 points, 666 HL)
- St. Andrews (History) - Offer (38 points, 6 in HL History) Insurance
- Warwick (History) - Offer (38 points, 6 in HL History)