Anna Lavelle

I enjoy every aspect of History: its complexity, the discipline involved in looking at the wider picture and the study of small everyday life details. I relish the fact that there are no definitive answers but numerous ways to see events, which is made further complex and for me intellectually enjoyable, by political, cultural, social and economic factors.

I love the academic rigor involved in History A level; looking at different angles and contrasting historian’s views of twentieth century events, such as the civil right movement in the US and the impact of the wars on Britain. My interest has been extended through the EPQ, researching whether Catherine of Medici was a good ruler (argued by historians such as Sutherland and Frieda) or the negative figure many historians portray her to be (Garrison). I have enjoyed uncovering the different lines of argument about the causes of the massacre of St Bartholomew. An early view presented in the Discours Merveilleux (written at the time of the massacre) presents Catherine as an evil Queen Mother who ordered the slaughter of Huguenots in Paris. However, this perspective is inherently biased; a result of tampering by Huguenot leaders, and for many years was presented as fact. Modern historians (Knecht) look at the evidence objectively, concluding the event was unplanned.

Independent study is a strength of mine, I have created a website extending my EPQ research, encouraging debate and discussion over the controversy of Catherine de Medici (www.annalavelle.com). I enjoy the process of carrying out my own research, especially in the period of WWII, as the wealth of primary and secondary material from this era enables me to build a more truthful picture of events. I have read widely around this area, particularly writings about the Eastern front. Michael Jones ‘Leningrad’ is gripping, as it tells of the 900-day siege through diary entries and letters. This material makes the injustice of the millions of deaths through starvation and the cruelty of the German commanders and Russian leaders all the more vivid. ‘Leningrad’ and ‘The Forgotten Soldier’ elucidated to me one factor often overlooked by historians when analyzing Germany’s failures in the war - Germany’s lack of regard to the morale and suffering of their soldiers.

I am particularly drawn to investigating the detailed aspects of how people lived. I have written much poetry set in WWI and WWII, inspired by the European History I studied at school and the many novels I read around this period (such as Suite Francaise, The Book Thief and Catch 22). I have made it a priority to visit historic sites throughout Rome, Athens, Pompeii, Berlin, Jerusalem and the UK, where I love to wander around and build up a picture of daily life.

My A levels in Politics and Religious Studies have given me a wider and deeper understanding of historic events. Studying philosophers and ethical theorists further extends my knowledge of history. For example Mill and Bentham’s utilitarianism gives a broader perspective to 19th century events. Looking in detail at current politics in Britain broadens my understanding of my A level history studies.

I have been an active member of the debating society and involved in many public speaking events where I have enjoyed analysing ideas and have gained confidence in arguing different perspectives. I attended a writing course at the Arvon Foundation to further my love of writing where I wrote a satirical play on marriage. I have been involved in drama productions where I have been able to work effectively as a team; this skill was further tested and developed last summer where I took part in an expedition to the Arctic, joining David Attenborough’s BBC crew to film Beluga whales.

I have the natural curiosity, determination and passion not only to thrive as a History student but to contribute to University life fully.