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Showing posts from August, 2014

Personal Statement

A/N: Personal statement written for my UCAS application way back in 2006. History has always fascinated me, ever since I was first able to grasp the concept of a world before I was a part of it. The study of history has enabled me to make better sense of the world around me: understanding the roots of current practices and beliefs helps when passing judgements on their continued relevance. For this reason I am keen to continue studying history. The past constantly impacts on the present and the future, being able to interpret past events can change the future as our preconceptions are questioned and, ultimately, changed as new evidence comes to light and existing evidence is interpretated in new ways. I believe that such an approach is a firm foundation for good citizenship.      I have enjoyed my A-level history course, in particular the way in which it interlinked with my other courses. For example the reshaping of the British political system in the 1830s, which we st

Middle Class Philanthropy

Philanthropy can be defined as the act of giving to improve human welfare, or simply as a ‘love of mankind’, a phrase which sounds suitably worthy. Yet, in contrast to contemporary opinion like that of Lecky, who claimed that the anti-slavery campaign was ‘perfectly virtuous’, few today would credit nineteenth-century philanthropists with purely altruistic motives. Modern historiography favours more pragmatic explanations for the rise of philanthropy; a means of advertising wealth and status, a way to assuage the collective conscience of the prosperous classes in the face of the desperate poverty of their countrymen, a means of social control, and so on. Yet were nineteenth-century philanthropists really just hypocrites, seeking to use charity as a front for their own gain? There have been some historians in recent times who have ascribed more worthy functions to nineteenth-century philanthropy; Davidoff and Hall have pointed to the way in which it enabled middle class women to br

Cambridge Sanctuary Article, 2009

[A/N: This was in the 2009 Lent term edition of the Cambridge Sanctuary (a satirical student paper). One of my friends was editor at the time and so we were all forced to write something; I suppose that makes this as close to journalism as I've ever got...]  Luckily we – M.M.A.F. (Manly Men Against Feminism) – were in a position this month to answer this question once and for all. Invited to conduct an impartial study we arrived with a list of carefully pre-prepared questions for consideration. What is the real story behind shared rooms? How many female Cambridge undergraduates does it take to change a light bulb? And, are there any plans to consummate college marriages on a pay-per-view basis? First impressions seemed only to confirm our fears. A whiteboard behind the head porter’s desk implored us to warm ourselves through ‘the vigour of hard work’ rather than by standing in front of an oven. Things went from bad to worse when we discovered the four foot high saucepan on

A Good Death

A/N: Part II, paper 13 essay written in Michaelmas term of the 2009/10 academic year.  If medieval religion was obsessed with death, as historians have long asserted, it was perhaps even more acutely concerned with ‘good death’. This was a death that conformed to certain expectations, both religious and social. Understandings of what constituted a ‘good death’ did not remain entirely static across the period, reflecting changes in theology and social structure. However by the fifteenth century was even a growing demand for ‘handbooks’ on how to die, such as ‘The Art of Dying Well’. Yet even with this apparent codification of the ‘good death’ there remained inconsistencies. The Church and the people were not always in agreement. The cornerstone of a ‘good death’ in this period was a death in which the dying person’s faith was above suspicion. Temptation bore heavily on the dying, the deathbed becoming the scene of a battle between the forces of good and evil for the soul of the

Death and the Reformation

A/N: Part II, paper 13 (ie. "Death in the Middle Ages" essay written in Michaelmas term of the 2009/10 academic year . The early sixteenth century saw the beginning of the English Reformation, a process that had succeeded, at least temporarily, in separating England from the Roman Catholic Church by 1536. For historians such as Dickens this represented a victory for the masses; dissatisfied with incompetent and immoral clergy, Dickens claimed the impetus for the English Reformation came from below. If this were the case it would seem to suggest that society’s response to the dying and the dead would change significantly, as the customs and traditions of the old religion were swept away. However it is now apparent that the Reformation was a more piecemeal affair. Beliefs changed only slowly, customs, in many cases, even more so. As a result there is often a discrepancy between the way in which people responded to the dying and the dead in the aftermath of the Reformation

Muslim Identity 1850 - 1920

Part II, Paper 26. Essay Topic 16: Recasting Religion: Muslim Identity 1850 – 1920. Week 5 essay, I was supervised at Churchill by Leigh Denault . Muslim politics was to become very important to the history of India, even leading to the creation of separate political states in the twentieth century. However this outcome was by no means seen as inevitable in the years after the first war of independence in 1857. Muslims may have been singled out by the British as the instigators of what they called the Indian Mutiny, but Muslim campaigners were just as likely to work with Hindu political activists, as against them. Indeed Muslim figures played a big role in the early National Congress. This essay will seek to show that, nevertheless, there were some ways in which Muslim politics were becoming distinctive after 1857. There had been a significant Muslim population in India for centuries by the mid nineteenth century. The continent had been ruled by Muslim emperors from the sixtee

Gender in Early Colonial India

Part II Paper 26, Week Two. Topic 3: Imperial Transitions: Race, Gender and Culture c. 1757 – 1840 . Studies into women in early colonial India have had a growing place in the historiography since the 1980s. Initially focussing on the European female in a colonial context, today there exist a number of in-depth studies into the importance of gender in the context of early colonial rule. At a time when women’s voices were seldom heard in the public sphere, their status, and the ways in which it was to be protected or enforced, became a key issue for contemporary men. British men could justify their own imposed rule by claiming it was for the protection of women. Native men could take interest in the position of women as a means of protecting traditional identities, or as an act of subversion to British rule. This essay seeks to outline how and why early colonial reformers chose to use women in their discourse, and to show the huge impact this made both in the colonies and back ho

Mughal Decline

Part II Paper 26, Week 1. I was supervised by Leigh Denault at Churchill. Traditionally the great Mughal Empire which, at its height, covered over four million square kilometres of land was thought to have fallen into irreversible decline in the eighteenth century. Early histories, such as that by Sir Jadunath Sarkar, pointed to the breakdown of centralised administration, claiming the result was a descent into political chaos and confusion. This in turn was said to have created economic and social problems as individuals vied for power. In more recent years however this view has been strongly challenged. The increasing focus on regional studies has led to a reassessment of the buoyancy of the pre-colonial economy, and stability of social structures. Commercialisation is no longer seen as an innovation of the Europeans, with evidence of a move towards private ownership in many areas. Primarily what has been proven is that there is no easy summary that can be applied to the whol

Indian Nationalism

A/N: Pt II Paper 26. Essay Topic 15: Imagining India: Indian Nationalist Thought. Week 4 essay, I was supervised at Churchill by Leigh Denault.  In the latter part of the nineteenth century Indian nationalism began to emerge as a concept. Attempts were made by intellectuals to create a coherent history of India, a history that could unite its people and encourage a unified identity. This spilled over into administration, and politics began to take on an overtly nationalist flavour. In 1986 Partha Chatterjee declared that Indian nationalist thought was, in fact, a ‘derivative discourse’, implying that it was simply modelled on British nationalist thought. This essay argues that whilst aspects of British political movements were taken on board by Indian nationalists, it is overly simplistic and dismissive to claim that Indian nationalist thought was ‘a derivative discourse’. Indian nationalist thought certainly looked to British examples to establish itself. Nandy for example d