History at LSE/Oxford
UCAS Personal Statement
Hearing the stories of my grandparents’ experience of the 1971 Bangladesh War, where my grandmother jumped between balconies with her young children made me appreciate how history shapes personal lives and the importance of recognising those who fought for a better future. Despite history being often seen as the study of the past to understand the present, I believe it is equally importantly studied for the future. At a lecture it was remarked that those in power must know history; I agree that without it, one cannot begin to understand the world and how to preserve it peacefully. Reading the debate on whether the descendants of slaves should be paid reparations shows the specific importance of modern history where the greatest injustices of the past haunt the most powerful nations today. Whilst paying reparations would never compensate for slavery, symbolic payments would actively condemn it and could signal the creation of a more equal society for the future.
One of the most pressing issues of our time is the Arab-Israeli conflict, where a just solution is yet to be reached. Attending the PalExpo event, where I heard Chief Mandela speak about the parallels between the situation his grandfather faced in South Africa and that in Palestine, showed that a solution is indeed possible through perseverance, which in my view begins with an examination of the history of the conflict to achieve a peaceful future. James Barr’s ‘A Line in the Sand’ exposed me to the shocking role Britain and France had in ‘engineering’ the conflict due to their clash in colonial interests in the Middle East. Even more disturbing however, was the revelation in Ilan Pappe’s ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’ on Plan Dalet. The authorities’ meticulous ‘planning’ of what Pappe calls ethnic cleansing, involved producing detailed lists of Palestinian villages and rating them on how great a threat they were to the Zionist aims, - in the 1930s, suggesting the mass expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 was planned in advance. Whilst I agree with both Pappe and Barr, I believe that the Western involvement Barr mentions was more important in beginning the conflict as the British largely facilitated the movement of the Jews into Palestine through the Balfour Declaration, legitimising their settlements and weakening the Palestinians until the ‘ethnic cleansing’ Pappe describes could take place, despite the British not intending for such an event.
My other subjects continue to further my interest of history. Studying biology helps me analyse sources and interpretations, whilst English literature gives me a greater appreciation for historical contexts and literature’s power to convey messages. I compared Graves’ ‘Goodbye to All That’ and Remarque’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and was surprised by how similar their World War One experiences were, despite one book being German fiction and the other the diary of a British soldier. Both men were detached from the war’s cause and caught in a struggle they had little interest in. Their writing provided a powerful platform which educated readers of the time and continues to do so.
Besides my studies, I am a dedicated martial arts student and am preparing for my 5th grading. I volunteer weekly at a children’s class, developing my time management between studies, training and teaching and my training includes a history of the traditions which have been influenced by events such as the colonisation of the Philippines and development of military technology, furthering my historical interests. I learnt calligraphy last year and have since developed my passion into a business and charity, teaching workshops and selling my work, improving my money management and communication skills.
I am hardworking, motivated and look forward to furthering my knowledge of history to find out more about the past and help build a more equal society, where the mistakes of the past are not repeated and victims never forgotten.
Behind the Statement
How did you make start on your personal statement or begin planning?
Made a list of different experiences I'd done in relation to history (books I'd read etc) and also extra curricular activities, as well as a list of my specific historical interests
How did you decide what experiences to include in your personal statement? What did you cut out?
I began with listing all my experiences over the last two years (roughly since I started year 12) then chose a few related history experiences and kept a few non-history ones - just enough to put a short paragraph at the end. I cut out some more specifics of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a few of the other books I'd read and another paragraph about colonialism (was similar to the one about the Arab-Israeli conflict but much shorter, so I removed it and fleshed out the one about the conflict instead)
How did you get these experiences in the first place?
The books I read were recommended to me by my history teachers and a few were from my local library. The volunteering opportunity and martial arts are organised by a local martial arts teacher who I've been training with for a few years, from my school. The PalExpo exhibition I went to with my family
How did you structure your personal statement?
I started and ended with why I want to study history and tried to add a personal connection to history. I then went into more detail about specific history I'm interested in the the 2nd/ 3rd paragraphs and then talked about how my other A Level subjects and interests relate to history
How did you decide on an introduction for your personal statement?
I tried to have something personal relating to why I wanted to study history - I was very surprised to hear of my family's experience in the Bangladesh civil war and that is one of my reasons for wanting to study history, so I began with that as I hoped it would interest the reader
How did you decide on a conclusion for your personal statement?
I tried to give a "broader" reason for why I want to study history and how I think the study of history will help the world
What do you think are the strengths of your personal statement?
I tried to keep it personal and went a little bit into a detailed debate that relates history to a modern issue we face (the Arab Israeli conflict, which was the subject of my history coursework)
Is there anything you wish you knew beforehand/advice?
That it's recommended (at least for a humanities personal statement) to mention a debate in your statement and describe both sides and give your own judgement - I didn't do this initially but was recommended to do so by my teacher. Also that it's better to focus on one specific thing and go into detail, rather than mention lots of different things and not explain them properly
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