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Successful Personal Statement For History At Oxford

Last Updated: 6th April 2022

Author: Rob Needleman

Table of Contents

Welcome to our popular Personal Statement series where we present a successful Personal Statement, and our Oxbridge Tutors provide their feedback on it. 

Today, we are looking through a History applicant’s Personal Statement that helped secure a place at Oxford University. The History Course at Oxford combines the examination of large regions over extended periods of time with more focused work on smaller social groups, shorter periods and particular themes.

Read on to see how this candidate demonstrates that they can understand and analyse history.  

Here’s a breakdown of the Personal Statement (the applicant uses most of the 4,000 characters available):


The universities this candidate applied to were the following:

Enrolling on our Oxbridge History comprehensive Programme will give you access to Personal Statement redrafts. 

Your tutor will give you actionable feedback with insider tips on how to improve and make your Personal Statement Oxbridge quality for the best chances of success.  

History Personal Statement

My passion for history can best be explained by discussing the period of German Unification, which displays the most engrossing virtues of studying the subject. Firstly there is great scope for debate and exploration of the interlocking causations, examining the relative importance of Bismarck’s own role against the military strengthening of Prussia or the shifting international relations. But most interestingly it is a defining period in the shaping of modern Europe and the way in which it links the past to the present is most fascinating. Studying this period reveals how international relations progressed after the Napoleonic era leading to the way in which Germany was unified through war and thus became a country built around war. It is therefore arguable that this era created the state which would then trigger the two wars which have shaped the modern world. This period shows how history can give us a more rounded understanding of the world we live in, linking our mysterious and intriguing past to our all too familiar present surroundings. It is partly this, which motivates me to study history as in doing so I gain immense satisfaction from learning how our world has evolved.

An understanding of history also provides a fundamental backdrop for any other areas of study. I have found this through my other A-Level subjects, for example historical knowledge of politics in Britain was essential to AS politics, particularly when studying the political situation in Ireland. An understanding of past conflicts is indispensable when it comes to managing contemporary politics. Furthermore, whilst taking French the study of Un Sac De Billes by Joseph Joffo unearthed experiences of living under Vichy France. To learn a language fully it is important to immerse oneself in the culture and history of the country in order to develop a more rounded understanding of the people who live there. Thus it seems that history is inescapable; it not only provides vital background knowledge but also helps bring to life every other academic subject, which is why in my opinion, it is the most important.     

During my A Level history course, the Napoleonic era particularly fascinated me and I pursued my interest through further reading, looking specifically at Napoleon’s downfall, an area I found most compelling as it offers the greatest exposition of the psychology of this exceptional man. I read Digby Smith’s ‘The Decline and Fall of Napoleon’s Empire’ as well as Zamoyski’s ‘1812’. I picked up on several themes throughout Zamoyski’s book and developed my own opinions such as sympathetic stances towards General Barclay and the Tsar, but was particularly intrigued by how Napoleon let his ego drive his pre-war diplomacy and how Napoleon’s own role in the breakdown of the Treaty of Tilsit perhaps triggered his eventual downfall. The fact that I was so gripped by so many different themes within an historical study of one war also reveals another aspect of history that is so appealing to me. It offers vast numbers of different avenues to pursue in one’s research, whether it is Napoleon’s diplomacy or the fallibility of the Russian command.

Outside of my academic studies, I am a dedicated sportsman but have particularly flourished musically as a cellist, obtaining a grade 8 standard in year 11 and am a committed member of various ensembles. Music has coloured my historical studies, for example, I played various Shostakovich symphonies coinciding with my study of Stalinist Russia at GCSE, each with a very different feel depending upon his relationship with Stalin, but perhaps most moving was playing his 10 th symphony, a purely self-indulgent expression of relief after the death of the dictator. It is impossible to appreciate this great work without its historical context, which transforms the piece into something personal, attaching the listener emotionally. History is not only fascinating in itself, but it enriches our appreciation of all other interests.

For more inspiration, take a look through our other successful Personal Statement a nalysis articles:

Successful Personal Statement For Natural Science (Physical) At Cambridge

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The student speaks intelligently and successfully links their interests – both within history and outside of history – to the study of history on a wider scale. The statement is well organised and reads well. Paragraph three, in particular, has many strong points with a greater focus on what really interests the student and why. The student does well to focus on the different areas of exploration within history showing a strong awareness of the nuances within historical study.

Bad Points Of The Personal Statement

The statement focuses too much on what the student knows, rather than what interests the student – the first paragraph, in particular, reads too much like an essay, and less like an exploration of why this student actually wants to study history. The student risks falling into a trap of trying to teach and impress the admissions tutor with their knowledge instead of offering a more personal approach. The student also needs to try to avoid repetition, for example ‘most interestingly’ and ‘most fascinating’ within the same sentence in order to ensure the whole statement flows better.

UniAdmissions Overall Score:

This is a very strong, well-written Personal Statement. The student has clearly proved they can both understand and analyse history. The student perhaps needs to focus more on their own motivations behind studying history, but overall, the statement suggests a student with great potential and zeal for the subject. What would make the student stand out even more is a stronger closing statement – something to bring the whole personal statement together.

This Personal Statement for History is a great example of a strong, well-written Statement. The candidate’s interest and achievements are clearly shown which is vital to Admissions Tutors.

Remember, at Oxford, these Admissions Tutors are often the people who will be teaching you for the next few years, so you need to appeal directly to them.

There are plenty more successful personal statements and expert guides on our Free Personal Statement Resources page.

Our expert tutors are on hand to help you craft the perfect Personal Statement for your Oxford History application.

With our  Oxbridge History Premium Programme, we help you craft the perfect Personal   Statement , score highly on the HAT and teach you how to  Interview effectively .

Discover our  Oxbridge History Premium Programme  by clicking the button below to  enrol and triple your chances of success.

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Feeling connected to History – tips on writing your personal statement

Personal statements therefore should be written not just in praise of oneself, but also as a mechanism in which one can make oneself understand why you work so hard, why you really want to be at Oxford

Darian Murray-Griffiths is a first year studying History and Politics at Christ Church . He is from Worcestershire where he attended the local state schools.

Darian Murray Griffiths

There is always a wonderful feeling one gets as a History undergraduate at a place like Oxford because every step and every stone is something likely related to famous figures from history books, making one feel as part of living history. Whether it is eating fast food on the steps of the Martyrs’ Memorial which commemorates Reformation martyrs, or whether it is passing by Christ Church (a former monastery and Civil War palace of Charles I), or simply walking around colleges which have stood for the balance of more than 700 years, one always feels a sense of time and place in Oxford. It is that sense of history and of perspective which I think was key to me writing my personal statement at sixth form, about understanding that personally history is not just a dry subject related to archaeology or some distant past, but that history is responsible for so much of the who’s, what’s, and why’s of today. I think that coming to Oxford open days or even visiting the city for a day helps to put you mentally into a space where not only you can envisage yourself here but give you a physical and visual reminder of the ends to which you are working so incredibly hard for. I know of many friends and colleagues here who thrive off the energy and ambience of Oxford while working here, finding a historic and picturesque library to be conducive to thrashing out their best essays. Or a walk around a park or a meadow to give them much-needed peace in between bouts of stress, anxiety, or essay crisis.

I think that for those who are romanticists or sentimentalists, a History degree is a degree that allows you to let your imagination run wild, while contemplating facts which are also gruesome and shameful. As a Joint Honours student, I am lucky enough to witness both the romance and gore of History balanced with the cynicism and worldliness of Politics, meshing the two together in essays, to give me a sense of harmonious perspective in my outlook on life. It is the desire to find balance and to see both sides of the argument, while understanding context and human nature, that I think is important to historians today as we deepen our understanding of the past and its resonance with the present, even its putative impact on the future. Personal statements therefore should be written not just in praise of oneself, but also as a mechanism in which one can make oneself understand why you work so hard, why you really want to be at Oxford, and why your degree matters so much to you. I wrote my personal statement a few months after visiting Oxford for the University Open Day, and I think that the personal experience of Oxford for just 1 day and more helped me to form my Personal Statement because I now knew, fresh in memory, why it all mattered so much. Why I kept on going during days when one was down or moments when one had doubt or despair. If you can combine your personal experience with the motivations and personal qualities which you outline in your Personal Statement, it will not only impress the admissions tutors who read it, but perhaps impress yourself about the deeper meaning of what it means to apply to be a student at Oxford.

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Politics: less can be more

Demonstrating your understanding of and interest in studying politics is a key way of impressing tutors:

‘The most persuasive statements are those that are clearly written and which get straight to the point. Less is often more. I simply want it made clear to me that an applicant is academically interested in studying the subject at university, that they’ve done their homework, and have a sense of what the academic study of politics is actually about… that it’s not just current affairs.

The University of Bristol helpfully outlines what tutors are looking for in politics applicants on its website – you need to show evidence of:

  • your engagement with the subject beyond the A level (or equivalent) syllabus
  • what it is that specifically and explicitly enthuses you about the debates you engage with, the books you read, and the ideas you discuss

They would also be very interested in your reflections on any relevant volunteering or campaigning you might have done, but it’s you as an individual and your intellectual engagement with ideas that they most want to get a feel for. There's no model answer – it just needs to be unique to you. Or one other way you might stand out, in Dr Allen's view, is by speaking to an admissions tutor at an open day and following it up with an email exchange.

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Sample Personal History Statement

personal statement history and politics

by Talha Omer, MBA, M.Eng., Harvard & Cornell Grad

In personal statement samples by field.

A personal history statement (PHS) provides an insight into your academic and professional endeavors. It should include your notable achievements as well as the challenges you have faced. The purpose of a PHS is to provide the admissions committee with a better understanding of your personality, your motivation, and how your prior experiences have prepared you for the future.

Here is a sample personal history statement of a student who applied to the anthropology program and got into several top schools like Columbia, Harvard, and Stanford.

Growing up in a family and society that strictly adhered to the traditional roles of a “proper conservative woman,” I have found pride in breaking free from these restrictive cultural expectations and in embracing my own identity and self-expression.

As the first female in my family to study arts, I remember feeling discouraged when, during a sixth-grade science class, I was lectured by my teacher on the importance of hard sciences and the perceived uselessness of arts. This came after she saw my notebook filled with a detailed sketch of the circulatory system of a frog. Her face betrayed her disdain. The muffled laughter of my classmates seemed to confirm her notions – as if to say that only the truly intelligent pursued careers in the hard sciences.

During my tenth-grade, my family pressured me to choose a science-based curriculum over one that focused on arts and humanities. But I refused to give in and instead found a way to combine my love of art with my disdain for science. When words failed me and I felt stifled by my circumstances, art became a reliable outlet for self-expression, full of vibrant colors and offering endless opportunities for creativity.

During my senior high school year, I finally took control of my own future and decided to study fine arts. This choice opened the doors to a whole new realm of possibilities, allowing me to pursue the future I had always dreamed of. In college, I approached my studies with a sense of exploration, as if I were an adventurer in uncharted territory. Each new topic and area of knowledge helped me to grow in objectivity, intellect, and wisdom.

My journey through the world of art and culture has been filled with magnificent pieces and spellbinding paintings, as well as the opportunity to learn about and appreciate the glorious civilizations that reached the pinnacle of trade, art, and culture. My coursework in the history of art piqued my interest in anthropology, and I was particularly fascinated by the ancient Egyptian civilization, whose artifacts, hieroglyphics, and art offered a window into its evolving languages, unique architecture, and transformative culture. Similarly, in Greek civilization, I discovered how art and politics intersected and shaped public opinion, and how philosophy and politics were intertwined.

Art is often thought of as an individual expression, but when considered as a collection, it can have a powerful impact on society. I am fascinated by the relationship between the arts and the evolution of social, political, cultural, and religious systems and constructs.

It has been difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that I have lived in two worlds that often seem incompatible. On a daily basis, I find myself immersed in a culture that imposes strict rules that limit my intellectual and expressive freedom. Whenever I had the opportunity, I immersed myself in the emotive world of curiosity, human expression, and perspective, where individuals create cultures that have outlasted even the most famous nations throughout history. Unfortunately, this parallel universe abruptly came to an end when I graduated.

Working as a professional graphic designer and photographer made it clear to me that I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree. Unfortunately, it took me over a year and a half to convince my family to allow me to do so, rather than simply getting engaged and becoming the first female in my family to pursue a graduate degree.

Attending the country’s premier National College of Arts allowed me to expand my education and skills across the fine arts. This broader exposure helped to refine my academic interests, and I was able to bring these interests together in my thesis on self-harm.

My experimental short film, “Pain of Disappointment,” and accompanying paper explored how the society cope with the expectations placed on them by their families to be successful. The film and paper highlighted the prevalence of self-harm in the society, and how it manifests itself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Through this project, I sought to educate people about self-harm and its impact on our society.

As the first woman in my family to pursue an advanced degree outside of the country, I hope to use the science of Anthropology to explore how individuals can transform negative energies into positive expressions that contribute to and benefit society. Additionally, as a woman growing up in a male-domindated society, I am interested in using Visual Anthropology to study suppressed issues and effectively inform all segments of society, including those who are illiterate, in order to empower everyone to reclaim their pride.


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  • Politics Personal Statement Examples

The following 3 personal statement examples for politics are for inspiration and guidance for students who are applying to politics at UK universities. These examples will give you a sense of the structure of personal statements for politics. Also, the tone is appropriate to use for university applications. 

Hopefully, political personal statement examples will help you write a compelling statement that will help you stand out as an applicant for a political course.

Personal Statement Examples for Politics

We are all affected by politics, and to ignore it is to be in the dark about how the world works. People have acquiesced to unjust institutions and unfair political practices because of ignorance of politics. I am interested in studying Politics so that I can gain the knowledge and analytical skills to understand the workings of the world and therefore inform the public about pervasive injustice as a foreign correspondent or political reporter.

As evidenced by my A-Level English Literature results, I have a gift for language and understanding texts. Due to my talent, I initially decided to study Literature and American Studies. Although I began these studies, I found Literature to be too detached from reality and unable to help me understand politics or fulfil my ambitions. After much reflection, I made the difficult decision to withdraw and pursue my primary interests closer to home.

My reading for American Studies, however, was very helpful in helping me gain an understanding of American politics, a subject I am looking forward to studying at university. Because of America’s unrivalled power, no one is untouched by its politics, which makes it the most important to understand all national politics. Moreover, the pace of political change and the polarisation of the parties make for fascinating reading, especially through the lens of the Huffington Post, my favourite American news outlet. Barely 2 years following Obama’s victory, Republicans are back on the offensive, winning control of Congress with the support of the ‘Tea Party movement. I’d like to learn more about how such religious grass-roots groups can coexist with established political parties in the setting of one of the world’s most secular constitutions.

In its foreign policy announcements, America sometimes uses the word democracy loosely. As well, I am interested in studying Democratic Theory to better understand how democracy has triumphed in the West and its pros and cons. I am a member of the Electoral Reform Society, which seeks to find a more representative electoral system that better reflects the wishes of voters in the UK. In reading Plato’s Republic for Philosophy A-Level, I have become aware that democracy may have deeper, intrinsic weaknesses. The anti-democracy argument of Plato has some problems, since it seems to only apply to direct democracies and assumes that philosopher-kings are apt to rule. However, his benevolent tyranny model still has appeal, which may explain why democracy has not yet reached every country, much to the chagrin of Washington.

By studying philosophy at A-Level, I have improved my argumentative skills and learned how to present clear and logical arguments. My political essays or seminars at university will benefit from this knowledge when I argue my case. On the other hand, my History A-Level has prepared me for understanding the genesis of contemporary political events through historical research skills.

Aside from school, I am preparing myself for university life and my future career by pursuing an internship at BBC Look East and volunteering for the Green Party. I plan to become very politically active at university. I’d want to join the student union and advocate for Green Party ideas. To better prepare myself for the media world, I would also like to write for and help edit a student newspaper.

I am committed to using my education and extracurricular experiences at university to not only gain the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in the field of journalism, but also to cultivate compassion within myself. This increased sense of empathy will drive me to actively seek out and bring to light instances of injustice, with the ultimate goal of creating a more equitable and fair society.

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As someone who has been surrounded by political discussion and debate from a young age, it is no surprise that politics is a subject that I am deeply passionate about. My parents’ involvement in local council affairs sparked my interest in the subject, and I have been fortunate enough to gain valuable work experience as an intern at the Home Office in London.

During my time at the Home Office, I had the opportunity to work closely with senior officials and meet with ambassadors from various countries, including Germany, India, and the United States. These experiences only served to further fuel my ambition to pursue a degree in politics. I am particularly interested in studying the sociological context of politics and understanding how human social behaviour shapes and is shaped by a country’s political structure. I am also intrigued by the various social issues that have political significance, such as race, gender, national identity, the environment, and the impact of new technologies.

In addition to my academic pursuits, I have also been active in extracurricular activities that have helped to develop my leadership and management skills. I have held several positions of responsibility, including head of the boarding house at my junior school, captain of the school netball team, and managing director of a Young Enterprise group. These experiences have taught me how to take charge and work effectively with others.

I am a hard-working and determined student with a clear set of goals and a strong commitment to achieving them. I am confident and have a strong personality, but I am also humble and aware of how much I have left to learn. My curiosity drives me to seek out new ideas and perspectives, and I am always eager to broaden my understanding of the world around me. I believe that I have the necessary qualities and drive to succeed as an undergraduate in the field of politics.

As a young person, I was deeply affected by the events of 9/11 and the London bombings, which I watched unfold on television. These events sparked my curiosity about the world and drove me to learn more about different political viewpoints. I wanted to understand why certain events happened and how they were shaped by different perspectives.

Through my A-level study of history, I have seen how minor political changes make huge impacts on the world. The story of political evolution over the past 200 years fascinates me, as it explains how and why we ended up where we are today. I have come to understand the deep-rooted connection between politics and everyday life. This is particularly evident in countries which have gained independence from Britain, as governments attempt to find their feet. The histories of relatively new nations such as Zimbabwe and Pakistan are important to look back on, to help us understand how and why they operate as they do today. In the UK, I find the story of devolution in Wales an interesting one, especially as so much of the population remains ambivalent about it.

I have always had a passion for language and have studied Welsh, French, and English at the AS level. In English, I analysed the speeches of politicians such as Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher and considered why they were effective. While studying French, we compared the political systems of France and the UK. However, the political system that interests me the most is that of the USA. The system of checks and balances is a unique and interesting model, and the role of the American president as “Leader of the Free World” is constantly evolving and impacting global society. I also find the British political system to be very intriguing and hope to gain a thorough understanding of its complexity.

I have held several leadership positions at my school, including being a form representative and perfect, and serving as a Student Ambassador. These roles have required me to communicate with my peers and present their requests to staff, which has taught me the importance of sometimes making sacrifices to achieve a goal. I have also participated in the Young Interviewer competition and represented my school at a national debating tournament at Durham University. This experience introduced me to the world of political debate and required me to work in an effective team under time pressure. This year, I made it to the national final of the Welsh Schools’ Debating Championship. Through debate, I have learned to consider different viewpoints on various political, social, and moral issues and to present my arguments. These skills have also been helpful in my written work.

I have been actively involved in politics, including participating in the local election campaign for a Conservative candidate and being a member of the Young Conservatives. I also attended a rally with David Cameron in Bristol, which gave me an understanding of the important role played by grassroots politics and the work that goes into campaigning. I am deeply interested in current affairs, both in the UK and internationally, and am particularly interested in the current coalition government and its successes and challenges. I read the Guardian and have read several political memoirs, with a particular interest in the accounts of Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell, whose experiences have had a significant impact on my understanding of politics.

I hope to fully engage with the various political societies and activities offered at the university and deepen my understanding of global politics through my studies. After completing my degree, I hope to be involved in politics in some capacity, whether through a government career or potentially as a parliamentarian.

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History, politics and economics personal statement example 1.

It may sound exaggerated, but I genuinely love History, and it has become a part of my life for over four years.

As contemporary political events have increasingly become my main concern in recent years, Politics and Economics are also my favourite subjects. Therefore, I decided to take them as A-level subjects - 'a powerful combination' as the Director of Studies commented - along with Further Maths which could develop my logical thinking.

I learnt to read very early, and that has contributed to my early interest in History. Besides playing the piano and reading news, it is my habit to pore over every history document coming to hand and talk about them excitingly when asked. As an imaginative person, History with me is not cold remote facts as most people consider, but successive events relating closely to each other, which can be redrawn vividly in my mind.

For that reason, modern history is my favourite due to the incredibly dynamic nature of its events, with various factors to evaluate. Liveliness is what I can also find in A-level books, and my most-read is 'Weimar and Nazi Germany' which provides information on many aspects of life in the two regimes and compares them through good analysis and lots of illustrations.

My political awareness and concern about global affairs has developed since childhood through reading newspapers and watching news frequently. Studying modern history led me to frequently asked questions of our time: why there are conflicts and tensions between peoples, what their causes are and how they can be resolved.

To answer them, I have been building up my political knowledge through studying books as well as political articles and analyses from newspapers.

Discussing politics with my father is one of my habits. For me, political theories and international relations are very interesting topics that I cannot stop thinking about, and studying in the UK gives me a broad approach to different, including Western, political views and concepts.

Economics surprised me with its diversity of theories and interpretations of human economic activities. It provided me a brand new approach to political and social processes, as well as historical events, and helped me evaluate them from economists' perspectives.

Knowledge of macroeconomic concepts is important for me to assess important social events; however, the study of microeconomics has helped me understand how an economy functions every day and how human beings' complex minds affect economic factors.

I think Economics is a very important subject as my knowledge can be useful in developing our country's infant free market as well as avoiding negative impacts resulting from it.

People often assume that, with such academic concerns, I am a bookworm, but the truth is more interesting. Eight years of my education in Vietnam were spent on an experimental programme, which was different from the rigid, unimaginative rote learning in most schools.

Thanks to it, I always consider my favourite subjects 'friends' in a true sense; they have 'walked out' from lectures and libraries to follow me step by step.

Having few self-made pressures from studying, I am eager to socialise, and my friends in Vietnam still remember me as a confident speaker in the high school Student Council, the provider of ideas for the school charitable programmes, or a key member of the Dreams and Teams Club. Last year in the UK, despite a demanding timetable, I still managed to participate in the school choir where I could satisfy my music interests and met many friends, and weekly trips to the local Sports Centre helped refresh my mind to enjoy a busy school life.

Together, History, Politics and Economics have built up in my mind a comprehensive approach to human beings' processes past and present, and with a relevant degree at university I hope I can see the right way to the future and answer unsolved questions of our time.

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Related personal statements, wow your ps captivated my.

Mon, 29/11/2010 - 21:19

WOW your ps captivated my interest so much especially since im going to take economics, history and politics at A Level im pleased you got into most of the universities you wanted to, do you mind me asking what gcse results you received?

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Politics personal statements


On this page you'll find a collection of real personal statements written by students applying to study politics and related courses at university.

These personal statements are written by real students - don't expect them all to be perfect! But by reading through a few of these samples, you'll be able to get some ideas and inspiration for your own personal statement. 

Politics personal statement examples

More help with your personal statement.

You can find personal statement examples for other courses by using this subject list, or by returning to our personal statements by subject page.

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personal statement history and politics


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