History Personal Statement Example (Cambridge Offer Holder)

Human civilisation fascinates me. Watching Andrew Marr's "History of the World" opened my eyes to the path that society has charted over the millennia, developing from a disparate collection of hunter-gatherers to the collection of sophisticated polities we have today. This journey is one which I find worthy of further study.

Stemming from my interest in the development of society, I find the Medieval Era an enthralling period. My Extended Project on the Anglo-Saxons' consolidation of England gave me an insight into the process by which Europe emerged following the fall of Rome. Researching my essay engendered in me a deep appreciation for historical scholarship and I came to love expressing my findings in writing. I have found the Medieval Era was far from a "Dark Age" characterised by religious dogmatism taking precedence over reason. The cultural work of King Alfred of Wessex and the intellectual resurgence that took place during the Carolingian Renaissance both confirm the Middle Ages should not be regarded as a time of conservative regression, but of valuable social development which laid the groundwork for Europe's later achievements. Starkey's "Magna Carta" has shown me how medieval government was not a monolithic organ dominated by the Crown but rather a dynamic organisation with competing interests vying for influence; particularly surprising was the tenacity of the Committee of Twenty-Five Barons in presenting a quasi-republican challenge to King John's royal authority. I have attended two external lectures by David Starkey related to my Tudor studies at A Level; seeing a historian impart his views in public caused me to reflect on how the scope of our historical knowledge is dictated by those who were able to record events and limited by their respective biases.

Researching the multicausal nature of the Byzantine Empire's disintegration for an essay competition revealed a new dimension of the medieval world to me. I found the most convincing causal factor in the decline of this bulwark of Christendom to be the Great Schism of 1054. The consequent strain on relations between East and West, exemplified by the devastating Sack of Constantinople of 1204, would precipitate the empire's fall at the hands of the Ottomans. I have also found the manner in which the Roman and British empires subjugated local rulers to reveal an interesting aspect of mankind's attitude to his own culture and heritage; many groups are willing to abrogate their sovereignty lest they suffer the far greater loss of having their cultural heritage overridden. Rousseau's "The Body Politic" demonstrated to me how the ostensibly sovereign "general will" of the people can so often be overrun by self-interested governments. However, I find his formulaic approach to analysis rather ahistoric as it fails to address the multitude of parameters that affect human behaviour.

Seeking to share my enthusiasm for the subject, I have assisted in GCSE History lessons. I hold the demanding positions of Head Boy of my school and Chair of [county omitted for privacy] Youth Council, through which I have gained significant experience in public speaking and leadership. I acted as the Senior Barrister in my school's winning team for the [omitted for privacy] Inter-School Mock Trial Competition, leading a successful defence in a war crimes case at the "International Criminal Court". This refined my skills in research, teamwork and performing under pressure. I am also the co-chair of my school's Philosophical Society, facilitating rational discussion on a wide range of issues; I further argue my views with vigour in the school Debating Society.

In studying History, my ultimate desire is to gain a greater understanding of the characters, movements and events which have catalysed the development of human civilisation.

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Author's Comments

Have received offers to study History (V100) at:

University of Cambridge (A*AA)
Durham University (A*AA)
University College London (AAA)
University of Leeds (AAA/AAB with an A in History)
University of Sheffield (ABB)


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