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History Personal Statement Example 63
The more my studies of History have progressed the more convinced I have become that delving deep into the realms of historiography is key to creating a full understanding of history itself. It was through E.H. Carr's "What is History?" that I formed the basis of my research into this discipline.
When such introspective questions were first considered many historians assumed that if multiple historians have access to uniform sources, a uniform historical answer should be found. I would instead argue that no two historians can write the same book on the same topic, so different will their interpretations be of similar evidence.
What I believe to also be true is that even when provided with similar evidence, all historians are then forced to be selective, resulting in empirical differences occurring in specific historical topics: the dual revolutions of the nineteenth century are an example in case. Two books on this topic reached distinct conclusions.
The Age of Revolution by Hobsbawm and Rethinking the Age of Reform by Burns and Innes have their differences made clear in their titles; one, calling the period of "Revolution", the other, "Reform". Hobsbawm, a life-long socialist, sees this as the success of an enlightened lower class.
The society he was born into has had a clear influence in his writings - that is not to say his conclusions were incorrect, but they are in contrast to Burns, who views this period as the success of radicals who could access power and sought to share it. Surely both views cannot be objectively true? It is more likely that the lower classes could not have seen change without the individuals Burns praises, and, in the same way, those individuals would not have had the opportunity to share power without the lower classes demanding change.
It was when writing my EPQ on the parallels between historic genocides and the modern-day Uighur genocide in Xinjiang that I realised how important it is to acknowledge and challenge biases. In the same way that I might assume the articles defending the Chinese government to be propaganda and then find evidence of their sinification, the same could be said for the articles which do the opposite, in a reverse manner. What I perceive to be a truth or falsehood, could be seen by somebody else as the contrary.
In Rethinking the Age of Reform, Innes writes a chapter on the language of the reforming populations, which describes how even the word 'reform' changed in its implications; this is indicative that every noun and verb a historian writes, forces that historian to inflict biases onto their paper. Historical writings thus serve to help the accepted truths of the past to survive, adjoined with the judgements of present society. Biographies, can, to a certain extent, avoid such biases, allowing them to be a useful source for historical argument.
Having read biographies on both George III and IV, I became fascinated by William Pitt the Younger. After completing detailed research, I wrote an essay for competition on his rise to power, attempting to determine the imperative factor in his ascension to domination. I concluded that, whilst a skilled politician, it was the support of the crown which facilitated Pitt's superiority.
One of the most meticulous sources on Pitt's life is his biography, written by Lord William Hague. I used the free-time afforded by recent events to contact Hague, managing to arrange an online meeting. Whilst a cherished opportunity, I could not help being slightly disappointed. It was clear that Hague superseded my interest in Pitt, but that his interest in history as a discipline did not match my own.
When I asked Hague what he thought the most important factor in Pitt's domination had been, he dismissed the question as superfluous, due to many factors being "essential". I felt disheartened by this response. It is such debates that history is founded upon; he seemed to dismiss history as nothing more than a chronological list of noted events.
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