Since 1971 St Hugh's College, Oxford has held an annual history essay competition in memory of a college alumna, Julia Wood. Unlike most other such competitions, the entrants are given complete freedom in their choice of topic. Thus, it provided me with a great opportunity to research an area of history that rarely appears on the school curriculum, and is of great personal interest. I chose to write about the Ruthenians; a loosely defined ethnic and religious group living in, and constituting the majority of the population of, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. At least in part, this choice was guided by a sense of historical justice; neither the Ruthenians nor the Grand Duchy of Lithuania figure prominantly in the mainstream of historical discussions. However, the Ruthenians were, in the course of the 14th to 16th centuries, the most influential ethnic group in what was once the largest state in Europe. Even in those countries today that bear a direct relevance to these topics, namely Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus, there is no active or widespread study of this history, often for political reasons.
Although I cannot hope that my essay could single-handedly redress this situation, I would be very happy if I managed to inform or interest but one person in this topic. I was honoured to learn that my essay was highly commended by the history tutors of St Hugh's. I was invited for lunch at the college in early September, where I had the opportunity to meet the history tutors and the other entrants who had been highly commended and won prizes. Certainly, for anyone aspiring to read history at university, the competition is a great opportunity to demonstrate one's interests beyond the syllabus, as well as to meet and talk to those who share your passion for that subject.
1st March 2019
On Friday six boys took part in the final of the school’s art history prize, now in its fifteenth year. Guest adjudicator for the evening was former Collegeman, Professor Stephen Bann, one of the country’s most distinguished art historians.