History (Ancient & Modern) personal statement
It is those things we don’t yet know or understand that make history a fascinating, intellectual puzzle. We know a remarkable amount about history and the development of society but new archaeological discoveries, the dedicated efforts of historians, translators and other academics and advancements in areas such as archaeometry mean that the body of historical information is still expanding.
Using archaeological evidence and literary sources in essays has helped me understand part of the process by which historians make discoveries and has consolidated my interest in ancient history. I particularly enjoyed learning about how the use of dendrochronology and other archaeological evidence refuted Tacitus’ claim that Agricola was the first governor to advance into Scotland dendrochronology and other archaeological evidence. Reading “A History of Histories” by John Burrows has helped further my understanding of historiography.
Tom Holland’s books “Persian Fire” and “Rubicon” present an excellent case for the relevance of ancient history.most interestingly political history. “Persian Fire” contained an overview of the birth of democracy in Athens and “Rubicon” explained the political workings of the Roman Republic. Some aspects of Athenian democracy, for example it’s wholly representative nature, could still be learnt from today. Both books also convey the idea that some facets of human nature remain unchanged; often leading to similar events recurring throughout history. Although it would be difficult to empathise with the often murderous historical figures within the books they are interesting multifaceted characters nonetheless.
The modern historian whose work I most admire is Simon Sebag Montefiore. “Young Stalin” is a rewarding read which provides insight into how the son of a shoemaker could become the dictator of a superpower. Stalin’s terrible impact on Russia can still be seen today as it remains a second world country.1 Many Russians still have a warped view of their history, believing communism brought about a “golden age” instead of being a period of [mass executions and authoritarian government].
I am currently enjoying studying “Das kurze Leben der Sophie Scholl”, a biography of a founding member of the White Rose movement. German opposition to the Nazis is often overlooked in history lessons but it is important to study the actions and ideals of people like Sophie Scholl, learning about dissenters in a society helps prevent us making mass generalisations
I would love to learn further languages, including Latin, as I feel languages provide an insight into culture. I enjoy learning German and my language skills have provided me with a number of opportunities to learn about German life, society and history. I attended a language school in Cologne and am currently planning to stay with a German family this school year.
Visiting historical sites, especially on my trip to Berlin, has increased my enthusiasm for history. The effect communism had on East Berlin is still tangible and I was surprised to hear that, 20 years on from the opening up of the Berlin wall, there are still people in the west of the city who have never been to the east and vice versa. Visiting a concentration camp and the Stasi prison was, of course, upsetting but highlighted how important it is for certain historical events to be remembered.
I am interested in politics and current affairs and keep up to date through regularly reading broadsheets. I am an active member of the school debating society,. Debating has provided me with an opportunity to research, formulate, develop and present an argument in an extra-curricular setting. I particularly enjoy working as part of a team and hearing others ideas on what an argument should be and how it should be presented. I am a member of Amnesty International and consider its work to be important. Studying history always serves as a reminder of how closely human rights need to be guarded and learning about individuals such as Sophie Scholl has inspired me to play a role. I take part in Amnesty International’s letter writing campaigns and hope to become involved in further charitable and human rights organisations whilst at university.
I am looking forward to challenge of university and will relish the opportunity of discussing ideas and concepts with leaders in the field. I am particularly excited about pursuing my own historical interests in greater depth and will [enjoy studying more independently]2.