Perse student wins prestigious history essay prize
28 Aug 2019
Rupert Gardiner (Lower Sixth) has won the illustrious Julia Wood Prize history essay competition.
He was joint-winner in the competition, run by St Hugh’s College, Oxford, with his victory following on from recently being awarded in the prestigious Vellacott Prize, organised by Peterhouse, along with fellow Perse student Ethan Aho.
Rupert’s winning entry was entitled ‘The man who put the jewel in the crown: How far was Robert Clive responsible for the East India Company’s success on the subcontinent?’ Describing Clive of India as an “erratic opportunist”, he explored the British general’s role in the country’s fortunes in the region in the mid-18th Century.
He said: “The argument I put across in my essay was that it was his individual actions, rather than any other factors, such as internal collapse or foreign threat, that allowed British success in the 1740s to 1760s. This was in turn the most dynamic and important period of British expansion in India, as the attainment of sovereignty over Bengal gave the British a strategic and economic base which acted as a catalyst to their expansion over the next century, culminating in their domination of India.”
Rupert said he had multiple reasons for entering the Julia Wood Prize, including the freedom to choose a topic and the prestige of the competition, as well as St Hugh’s being where his late brother Jamie (OP 2013), to whom he dedicated his prize, studied history as an undergraduate.
He said: “It was the tutors who had taught him who I knew would be reading my work and who I hoped would find it worthy to be in some way attached to him.”
With ambitions to study history at university himself, Rupert added that he was “overjoyed” to have prevailed in both the Julia Wood and Vellacott Prizes and felt he had learned much from taking part.
Rupert said: “I have always been incredibly passionate about history and it feels amazing to be recognised by leaders in their fields who believe my work to be worth reading and of a high quality. These competition prizes are also tremendous accolades, which significantly help me progress towards a lifelong ambition to study history at Oxbridge.
“By immersing myself in history, I have been able to engage on a deeper level with the subject I love beyond the school curriculum. This has allowed me to hone my skills of historical investigation, interpretation and argument.
“I feel also that as I write more essays, I’m able to write with greater clarity and more compellingly. These skills will prove invaluable in my university career, and the exercise of writing these essays have been among the most valuable in my school career. They are lessons that I will take to heart and will doubtlessly improve my undergraduate endeavours.
“Throughout the years I have been immensely grateful to all the Perse staff for nurturing my intellectual curiosity in all areas and feeding my love of history in particular. The history department’s teachers are incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable mentors. It is them to whom I feel I owe this prize, and to my brother to whom I dedicated it.”