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History Personal statement

Recently, I found out that my grandma was gambled into slavery for seven years. She escaped
her prison and made her way back to Hong Kong, 300 miles south. I was amazed at how courageous
she was. This personal discovery led me to read Jung Chang's 'Wild Swans' which made me both
proud and ashamed of my heritage. Like most countries China has a brutal history yet the
courage, will and determination shown by some of its individuals is astonishing. I am
fascinated by the role of the individual within the sweeping events of history. From the
accounts of soldiers in the trenches of WWI in 'The Soldier's War' by Richard Van Emden, the
fictional 'Birdsong' by Sebastian Faulks, to the account of a holocaust survivor who I heard
speak at a seminar in Bristol, organised as part of the 'Lessons From Auschwitz', and whose
forgiveness and compassion was breath-taking, I was inspired to visit the WWI battlefields and
Auschwitz itself. These experiences changed the way I look at history and made me question my
own morality and faith and realise that history is more than fact. Reading Primo Levi's 'If
This Is Man' made me realise that losing touch with humanity is how some survived the
Holocaust: "At the moment we care about nothing", and that the will to survive can override
all else, making me consider the moral ambiguity of human behaviour. A trip to Bletchley Park
inspired me to consider the technological advancement scientists made in times of need; from
nuclear weapons and rockets to radar detectors. The Germans' use of the enigma machines led to
Alan Turing's invention of Colossus, laying the foundation for modern computer technology.
I am especially interested in the changing position of women in society and took the
opportunity to investigate the role and status of women in Elizabethan England for my AS
English Literature coursework. The strong contrast of John Knox's 1558 statement that "woman
in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man" and Elizabeth taking the throne
that same year, struck me sharply. Similarly the punishments meted out to female collaborators
in France after WWII as explored in The Economist article 'Sleeping With the Enemy' and 'Women
and the Second World War in France' by Hanna Diamond, illustrated the on-going injustices
towards women throughout our history.
I enjoy uncovering links across time and comparing similarities and differences throughout
history. From my studies, I have seen a continuity and repetition of events. For example, the
recent use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians reminded me of Germany during the 1940s
when Hitler killed his own civilians. Chancellor Bulow in the 20th century and Cardinal Wolsey
in the 16th both advised their monarch in foreign and domestic affairs. Yet when the Monarch
lost trust in their appointed advisor, both lost their position of authority. For me it seems
that human behaviour seems destined to repeat itself, despite our technological advancements.
Taking part in Model United Nations has been a great way to explore the links between past
events and current situations through research and formal debate. I enjoyed researching
China's position on human rights, especially given their recent history, in preparation for
debating the issue and found an ally in the DPRK delegate.
I enjoy both hockey and tennis and play for my school as well as a local club. I am also a
keen musician and am working towards my Grade 8 Piano as well as singing in a chamber choir.
Having completed both the 35 and 45 mile Ten Tors Dartmoor Expedition, the most physically and
mentally demanding challenges I have undertaken, I decided to participate in an Expedition to
the Himalayas this summer.
To understand why events happen, I think it's vital to put them in their context. History
constantly leads us into new areas of investigation and I am very much looking forward to
further expanding these areas of interest at degree level.

Year applied: 
2014
Subject: 
History

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