My Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy which covers

My interest in history was initially aroused by visiting Krakow’s concentration camp Plaszow at an early age. Seeing first-hand the destruction that mankind had inflicted on itself was a surreal experience that enabled me to understand the immense importance of history and why we must learn from it for the future, captivating me to further read about similar atrocities. Both Montefiore’s Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar and Li Zhisui’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao provided a fascinating behind the scenes insight into the powerful role of individuals in shaping history and illustrated how both leaders shrewdly learned from history to strengthen their rule in the face of economic failures by ruthlessly crushing any opposition. Likewise, I read Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy which covers atrocities in North Korea through the perspectives of defectors. Seeing through the eyes of ordinary citizens’ was illuminating as historically their voices have not been heard and it highlighted how powerful propaganda and terror is in permeating through North Korean society in day to day life. Although I like analysing history through the role of individuals and Carlyle’s ‘great man’ theory, my interests in history are much broader. I love historiography and reading a variety of approaches to presenting history such as through economic policy by economic historians or through the perspective of class conflict by Marxist historians, along with examining the strengths and weaknesses of these methods. Studying Tudors A Level enabled me to see how economic, social and religious policy are interdependent and why it is essential to analyse history from a range of perspectives. Critically analysing a diverse range of historian’s views over different time periods for bias and flaws to challenge historical narratives is another passion of mine. For example, I enjoyed studying Tudors and comparing how traditionally historians unfavourably presented the Earl of Northumberland as a ‘bad duke’, whereas revisionist historians now describe him more favourably with Dale Hoak stating he was “one of the most remarkably able governors of any European state during the 16th century”. I find these evolving historical opinions compelling and I like to question how society will judge historical figures in the future due to societal changes, such as the recent controversies over the legacies of colonialists like Cecil Rhodes. Moreover, I love visiting historical sites. In Cuba, I stayed in Havana and in a rural town with a Cuban family, where I heard a variety of opinions on the revolution and witnessed its impacts that still affect them today through the embargo. This inspired me to research how US-Cuban relations had deteriorated for my A Level History coursework. For this, I analysed primary and secondary sources from diaries of Cuban generals during the US-Spanish War to speeches by JFK at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and to declassified State Department documents detailing the attempts to overthrow the Castro regime. Independently researching new historical periods in detail and organising my time effectively to meet deadlines was a rewarding challenge and something that I would love to do more of in the future. In my gap year, I am currently saving up money for University and I visited Rome in October after being inspired by reading Simon Baker’s Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire, and I would like to do more travelling in summer. I am also resitting my English A Level as I believe I am capable of a better grade, and want to work harder to improve this grade. I have always had an appetite for consuming as much history as possible, and I would relish the experience to do this full time at University.

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