History Personal Statement
Until I began my A-levels last September, I had never been to school or followed a formal syllabus. My parents homeschooled me. They guided, encouraged, and fed my interests with books, documentaries and discussions. Their aim was to make me an independent learner and to use my reason. I think they succeeded.
I learnt Classical Arabic through watching cartoons about Islamic history; took my early obsession with dinosaurs to undergraduate reading-level by the time I was fourteen; and sat my IGCSEs, A-level Arabic and AS-level Maths without a single hour of tuition. My subsequent wide range of interests means that any visit to a bookshop or the library ends with an agonising choice of which armful of 'must have' books needs to be put back. At home, shelf space is becoming a problem as my 350 odd History books compete with an equal number of other non-fiction books and a 150 or so works of fiction.
My fascination with History began after a visit to HMS Victory when I was twelve. The souvenir Trafalgar DVD claimed that the largest ship in the battle was the Santa Ana, while Clayton and Craig, in their 2004 book on Trafalgar, said it was the Santísima Trinidad. I suddenly realised that History was not the tidy account in children's history books but is largely unknown and often controversial.
I am presently studying armaments, especially medieval swords and combat aircraft of the World Wars, and the rise and fall of early Islamic empires. I have studied the latter in Arabic and English, and am particularly interested in how factors such as culture and religion helped shaped the accounts in each language. I am also interested in changing perspectives on knowledge and innovation: the Muslims in the Abbasid period, for example, had no qualms about translating and using Greek, Indian, Chinese, and Latin books, yet when the printing press was introduced into the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century, they regarded it as heretical.
Such questions are like an itch that I cannot scratch without access to better resources. But I need more than just access to information in books and journals, no matter how rich and abundant, I need access to exceptional minds, to the knowledge and exchange of ideas that only 'sitting at the feet' of scholars can provide.
At first glance, my choice of A-level subjects may seem slightly odd for an aspiring Historian; however, Geography can aid the understanding of settlement patterns and population changes, Biology of crop choices and disease, Physics of ballistics and fortress design, and Maths of simulations and numerical analysis.
I was recently commissioned to translate a book from Arabic into English for Jumu'ah Magazine publications. The title is: A Treatise on the Rights of the Woman and her Responsibilities in Islam, by Dr. Ibraheem An-Nasir. The book is scheduled for publication early next year. To ensure accuracy, I sought advice from Islamic scholars; and to ensure clarity, I explained culturally specific allusions, added background material, and sought feedback from Western Muslim women.
I am presently writing a series of articles for Jumu'ah Magazine on battles that changed the course of Islamic history, from the battle of Tours in A.D. 732 to the battle of Adrianople in 1402. My hobbies include designing swords and creating conceptual dinosaur skeletons out of toothpicks on black paper. I play chess frequently, enjoy writing poetry and vignettes, and am a member of my local fencing club. I am also involved in the restoration of a waterwheel, mill pond and millrace, and the establishment of a permaculture 'forest garden'.
My ambition is to pursue my studies to Ph.D. and to contribute to awareness and knowledge of Islamic history in English through original sources in Arabic. I believe that my background, experience and active involvement in historical projects amply demonstrate my enthusiasm and ability, and that I can bring a unique perspective and insight to my fields of study.
This took a long time to write - and needed a lot of work. It bears absolutely no resemblance to what it started out as - as I remember, I waxed eloquent on the 'infinite tapestry' of history. I wish to point out that I am a Muslim; hence the references.