My attraction to history lies in my strong belief of its role in the development of society. Our history is a reflection of ourselves, our choices, decisions, successes and mistakes. This reflection creates a fundamental link between all throughout time, giving insight on what it means to be human.
History’s cyclical nature, despite its linear movement from past to present, is the driving force behind this significance. We use history to define and record the context of a period in time, but in removing this context, only the nature of humanity itself is left, of which anyone, any time, can relate to. Scottish philosopher, David Hume once said, “Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places”. The human nature is indelible throughout history, linking the events of the past to that of the present. To that extent, the analysis of our past is vital in the creation of a positive future.So far in my education, in my independent history project, I’ve studied the modernisation of Japan after end of the Tokugawa Period. This project taught me the significance of documentation and record of events to modern day knowledge of a culture or society.
This is especially true in 18th-19th Century Japan as the limited primary information we have prevents accurate analysis to be achieved. During my A-levels I have also studied the French Revolution, a time of great cultural, ethical and societal change, sparking political transformation across Europe. I have enjoyed reading the literary masterpieces of Voltaire and Robespierre, whose enlightened, romantic criticism offers broad historical evidence. Books and plays like Voltaire’s ‘Candide’ give a much deeper understanding of the themes of the period than traditional historical accounts. The ideas lust, wealth and disillusionment expressed in the works of the revolution are evidence to the similarities we have to the past, and proof of the significance our history has to society today. Besides my in-class education, living in Oxford has provided me with a wide variety of world history. I’ve sat in several lectures with historians at the forefront of their respective fields.
In October I visited a lecture on the Arab-Israeli conflict, hosted by notable Israeli historian, Avi Shlaim. Being able to attend lectures like these and experience the value of history first-hand has been vastly beneficial to not only my understanding of the themes of my syllabus, but the passion and care in my approach to history. During my work experience, I took part in an archaeological dig with Oxford University in Dorchester, Oxfordshire. Onsite I worked with both undergraduates and professors in excavating and cataloguing artefacts from an ancient-roman settlement. The tangibility of the 2000-year-old objects I was handling and the passion of the colleagues around me during the dig were instigative to my desire to study history at an undergraduate level. I found the choice of my A-levels difficult as my academic interests are widely varied in similarity. I chose biology as I thought it would present an opportunity to practice other skills than in other writing-based subjects, incorporating scientific analysis and understanding as well as written expression.
The understanding of the world around us, physically and theoretically, is a great attraction to me, with my passion for biology stemming from this quality. The significance of biology is massive, as its ubiquity allows us to explain and appreciate everything we see, but is simultaneously confined by the degree in which we focus. I also chose mathematics at A level to practice problem solving, involving the management and manipulation of data as tools to achieve this.
I enjoy maths greatly as the concepts I’ve studied are so widespread, involving theoretical maths as well as the basic mechanics of our universe.All of these topics present their own challenges, and required a variety of skills in order to address them, all of which I hope to utilise during my history degree. I wish to study history to further my knowledge and give me a larger insight into the past and how it will influence civilization today.