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History and International Relations Personal Statement Example 2
This summer, I read an interesting article in The Guardian about a debate raging in the city of Gdansk on how Poland is commemorating the 80th anniversary of WWII. At the heart of this debate lies the decision by the ruling PiS government to change the city's war memorials to highlight Polish patriotism instead of an earlier emphasis on 'war memory' that was defended by Polish historians. I found this article fascinating as it showed the still important role history plays in shaping our relationship to the past, as well as the interface between history and modern political debates. In an era of creeping populism where certain regimes have not shied from historical revisionism, it reminded me how historians still play a part not only in furthering our perception of the past but also as active participants in the political discourse. This is why I wish to pursue my studies in History and Politics.
At the LFS, we covered a chapter in History called "Historians and the memories of War", which traced the evolution of WWII historiography and collective memory in France. What I enjoyed most about this chapter was the approach that focused less on historical events but the process of which those events are later contextualized, such as the dismantling of the "Myth of the Resistance" by post-68 academics; as well as showing the different value that subjective witness accounts and the objective analysis of historians offer to shape our perception of the past. It also posed challenging questions: Are historians merely meant to act as outsiders or should they be allowed to provide testimonies at the trials of historical figures, such as at the Papon trial? Can the State sanction certain opinions that are objectively false, such as Holocaust denial, even if it denies free speech?
I have a great love for history, extending to different eras, parts of the world and themes, however, the topics I am drawn towards derive from my life experiences: I was fascinated with the Minoan civilization after a visit to Crete, or when I sought to understand the events of the Russian revolution after I visited St. Petersburg and Moscow. My interest in the Americas was piqued by Howard Zinn's book "A People's History of the United States" which presented radically different perspectives on class struggles in pre-revolutionary America, the Native American fight against removal policies, and a unique interpretation of the effects of WWII on American society. I was also inspired by Zinn's assertion that history has value outside traditional academia, and that it could serve as a tool of political agitation to the ruling class, a so-called 'quiet revolution'.
I also enjoyed studying Politics both at school and extracurricular. My involvement for many years as an MUN delegate taught me not only the skills of diplomacy but also tools in debate and negotiation. In Political Science, we covered global governance and the institutions that facilitate interdependence between nations that complemented discussions I took part in on how China and the US qualify as 'superpowers'. Throughout we looked at how international governance is key to understanding the soft and hard power politics that dictate global powers. I wanted to further my understanding of the emergence of the US as a great power through Adam Tooze's "The Deluge" - an interesting yet challenging read that offered unique takes on the restructuring of the world order after WWI.
I also enjoy learning new languages, having studied Mandarin since young and more recently German at the Goethe Institut. After living 12 years in Asia, I have been drawn more recently to the history and geopolitics of East Asia, as this is something I hope to expand more upon at University. I hope to pursue my studies at University in History and Politics as these two disciplines are essential to understanding the complexities and nuances of the modern world, skills I hope to apply later in a career in diplomacy.
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