The Julia Wood Prize

Established in 1971, in memory of a St Hugh’s College alumna, the Julia Wood Prize is an annual History essay competition open to Sixth Form pupils who have not been in the Sixth Form of any school or college for a period of more than two years. The Prize, worth up to £500, is offered by the Principal and Fellows of St Hugh’s College for the best historical essay submitted by the closing date.

The deadline to enter the 2017 Julia Wood Prize competition has now passed. Information about how to enter next year’s competition will be available in early 2018.

2017 Julia Wood Prize Winners

Three essays shared the prize in 2017. The winners were: Ned Ashcroft, in the Lower Sixth of St Paul’s School, for his essay entitled ‘What was the significance of the British Radical Movement of the 1790s?’; Jessica Curry, in the Upper Sixth of St Columba’s Senior School, Kilmacolm, for her essay entitled ‘The playboy who brought down the Republic? An assessment of the importance of Clodius Pulcher in the fall of the Roman Republic’; and Felix Stocker, in the Lower Sixth of Eton College, for his essay entitled ‘To what extent did the Carolingian Renaissance innovate beyond Classical culture?’


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2017 Julia Wood Prize Winning Essay - Ned Ashcroft

2017 Julia Wood Prize Winning Essay - Jessica Curry

2017 Julia Wood Prize Winning Essay - Felix Stocker

St Hugh’s College

Founded in 1886, St Hugh’s is now one of the largest colleges in Oxford. The College was established to offer an Oxford education to women, and it retains a strong sense of its radical tradition and of the importance of opening Oxford up to all who would do well here. St Hugh’s now accepts men and women, and welcomes students from every country and any kind of background.

St Hugh’s has a beautiful setting just to the north of the city centre, with Edwardian buildings and some of the largest college grounds. The College is known as the ‘island site’ because of its tranquil gardens, and it is a restful place to live and work.

Frosty St Hugh's main lawnStudying History at St Hugh’s College

St Hugh’s College admits about 11 undergraduates a year to read single Honours History; and a further two or three (in varying combinations) for the Joint Honours Schools of Ancient and Modern History, History and English, History and Modern Languages, and History and Politics.

What we are looking for is the ability to think imaginatively, a willingness to argue, a real interest in ideas, and a commitment to the subject. We have no preference for particular subjects at A-level, International Baccalaureate or Pre-U. Most candidates will usually have been studying History, but even this is not essential. However, languages (both modern and classical), English Literature, and Economics have, in their different ways, proved useful preparations for the course. We welcome both pre- and post- qualification applications; and we generally admit a few people each year from Scotland, Ireland, and further afield.

St Hugh’s provides excellent facilities for studying History: the library has unusually large and up-to-date holdings in all periods (one of the tutors is Library Fellow), and there is an active, sometimes rumbustious History Society. We encourage our undergraduates to travel in vacations. We participate in the History Faculty’s exchange programme with Princeton University, so most years one of our second year historians spends a semester at Princeton. In recent years several of our historians have gone on to undertake research in History and related fields; others have got jobs in journalism, television, law, teaching, the Foreign Office, the UN, the City, Brussels, management and management consultancy, publishing, etc. The world has proved to be their oyster, with historical training at St Hugh’s providing them with the essential bit of grit.

More information about studying History at St Hugh’s College is available on our course and admissions pages.

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Since the establishment of the essay competition in 1994, 50 school students have been given prizes; many of these people went on to study History at Oxford and St Hugh’s. The names of the winners and their essay titles can be seen below.

The winners in 2017 were:

Ned Ashcroft, in the Lower Sixth of St Paul’s School, for his essay entitled ‘What was the significance of the British Radical Movement of the 1790s?’; Jessica Curry, in the Upper Sixth of St Columba’s Senior School, Kilmacolm, for her essay entitled ‘The playboy who brought down the Republic? An assessment of the importance of Clodius Pulcher in the fall of the Roman Republic’; and Felix Stocker, in the Lower Sixth of Eton College, for his essay entitled ‘To what extent did the Carolingian Renaissance innovate beyond Classical culture?’

Previous Julia Wood Prize Winners
YearAwardNameTitle of Essay
1994 Alexander MacLeod“It isn’t Cricket, Sir!”: The Bodyline Controversy and the Politics of Cricket, 1932-33
1994 Alexandra GoodenTo what extent was the creation of the German Empire the result of Nationalist Forces?
1995 James Bickford-SmithRestoration or Revolution? The Ottoman conquest and reorganisation of the Balkans (1352-1402)
1995 Andrew GibsonA consideration of the view that: “The reason for the remarkable spread of Calvinism throughout sixteenth century Europe lay in its system of church government rather than its beliefs.”’
1996 Raphael MokadesHow far did the Boer War change the direction of British Domestic Politics, 1899-1911?
1996 Antony McConnellTo what extent is the portrayal of Pontius Pilate in John’s Gospel historically accurate?
1997 Criseyda CoxWhy was Leviathan considered ‘a most poisonous piece of atheism’?
1997 Rebecca Welsford“How important was the concept of blood guilt in the trial and execution of Charles I?”
1998Winner (First) Jayne RosefieldWagner was both cause and effect of the repulsive process which ended in the apogee and apotheosis of human bestiality and degradation, Hitler and the Nazis – Leonard Woolf. To what extent is this true?
1998Winner (Second) Edwina RushworthIt was inevitable that the papal reform programme of the late eleventh century would lead to a conflict between Henry IV and Gregory VII. Discuss this statement.
1998Year 12 Winner Reza DadbakhshWas it because he was a ‘tyrant’ that James II lost the support of his people so quickly after 1685, and then his throne in 1688?
1999Winner Cressida TrewHow far does the historiography of the Holocaust in Poland reflect the nature of the Holocaust in History as a problem of national and historical identity?
1999 Jennifer/ Josephine TuckerHow far did Luther’s theology mark a clear and radical break from mediaeval tradition?
1999 Andrew ShaplandHow European was the Renaissance?
2000Winner Jenny BryceWhy did America enact the 18th Amendment in the face of historical evidence that suggested it was doomed to failure?
2000Year 12 Winner Emil Bielski3rd May Constitution of Poland 1791. A reaction to the enlightenment of an exercise in self-preservation
2001Winner Francis MurphyWas ‘Science the main enemy of Religion’ in the Nineteenth Century?
2001Runner Up Ben SelbyWhy did Charlemagne accept the imperial title?
2002Winner Olivia GrantHow important were the press to the desacralisation of the French Monarchy?
2002Runner Up Richard EschwegeWhat did Iustitia mean to Gregory VII?
2003Winner Joshua ShottonDoes the Exclusion Crisis, 1678-81, show the Earl of Shaftesbury to have been a man of principle?
2003Runner Up Aaron GrahamFor Commonwealth or Conscience: Why did Cromwell readmit the Jews to England?
2004Year 13 Winner Howard AmosTo what extent were the proposals laid out in Spenser’s colonial blueprint? ‘A view of the present state of Ireland’, reflected in English policy in that country from the suppression of Tyrone to the establishment of the Ulster plantations
2004Year 12 Winner Florence Sutcliffe-  BraithwaiteWhat evidence is there that England was still a catholic nation in 1547?
2005Winner Douglas JamesWhy did so many in the Christian West answer Pope Urban II’s appeal for crusade following the Council of Clermont in 1095?
2005Runner UpNicholas EvansLenin’s Populism
2005Runner UpNoor NanjiTo what extent has Richard III been unfairly maligned by historians?
2006Year 12 WinnerMarius OstrowskiIs medieval history the history of the church?
2006Year 13 WinnerBeatrice RamsayCatholic Christianity before England’s break with Rome was flourishing (Haigh). How far does evidence from Norfolk support this claim and how does this help explain their response to the Reformation?
2007Year 13 WinnerThomas MeakinTo what extent did Italian Facism represent a triumph of style over substance?
2007Year 12 WinnerHannah BostonWhat does this thirteenth century gift of land reveal about its contemporary society?
2008Year 13 WinnerHannah BostonHow does the document DE 2638/3/2 contribute to the understanding of the Earls of Chester and land tenure in post-Conquest England?
2008Year 12 WinnerTom Seaward
2009WinnerEmily PartonHow far was the Risorgimento movement led by a desire to create cultural unity?
2009Runner UpJessica AnandHow far did the Laudian religious changes of 1629-1640 amount to a radical reform of the Church of England?
2010WinnerNicholas DixonFrom Georgian to Victorian: A Radical Transition?
2010Runner UpOlivia Elder“The events between September 1658 and May 1660, when Charles II returned to London as King, have often been treated as a confused epilogue in which all hurried towards the Stuarts’ inevitable restoration” (Toby Barnard). To what extent should the period be regarded in this way?
2010Runner UpRobert WilsonAlaric was defeated in his campaign of AD 401. Why, therefore, did he come to sack Rome in 410?
2011WinnerJean-Andre PragerThe Religious, Political, and Social Accommodation and Appropriation of Darwinism.
2011Runner UpEmily BrewerTo what extent did Heinrich Kraemer’s Malleus have an impact on the European Witch-Hunts 1485-1650?
2011Runner UpWilliam PerryDid the concept of English Liberty Depend on Perceptions of the French in the period 1688-1763?
2011Runner UpNicholas WrightAccount for the demise of the Western Roman Empire.
2012Year 13 WinnerAlicia MavorWas Magna Carta a bitter indictment of the (mis-) rule of King John?
2012Year 12 WinnerRosie StonorThe crusading legacy: “a splendid paradox of belligerence in the cause of peace”.
2013Year 13 WinnerTony HanWas Papal Reform a revolutionary movement?
2013Year 12 WinnerMatthew ReesHas the significance of the 1945-51 Labour governments been exaggerated?
2014WinnerCecilia Murray-BrownHow has the British Monarchy survived “one of the most spectacular political landslides in history”?
2014Runner UpLily SpicerHow significant was Prince Albert’s contribution to the success of the Great Exhibition in 1851?
2014WinnerJoshua SticklandWas the fall of the Romanov Dynasty inevitable?
2015WinnerJoshua Kimblin“A king in all but name”: To what extent is this an accurate reflection of the nature of Cosimo de’Medici’s power over Florence between 1434 and 1464?
2015Runner UpMia BellouereTo what extent have historians settled the debate about the significance of the Enlightenment in the origins of the French Revolution?
2016WinnerOscar BakerTo what extent do the longer-term origins of the American Revolution actually lie in constitutional incompatibility and uncertainty, as opposed to ideological and intellectual principles?
2016Runner UpSamuel KillcrossCults, cuts and controversies: An essay on the relationship between State and Cinema in Russia from 1896-2014, with particular reference to the analogous connection between Eisenstein and Tarkovsky- how far did the State exert power over film?
2017WinnerNed AshcroftWhat was the Significance of the British Radical Movement of the 1790s?
2017WinnerJessica CurryThe playboy that brought down a Republic? An assessment of the importance of Clodius Pulcher in the fall of the Roman Republic.
2017WinnerFelix StockerTo what extent did the Carolingian Renaissance innovate beyond existing Classical culture?

Who was Julia Wood?

Julia Wood was an alumna of St Hugh’s College. She was born on 19th December 1938 and studied History and was an Exhibitioner at the College between 1957 and 1960. Tragically, she died in an accident whilst in Australia in 1970. The fund for the Julia Wood Prize was established by the parents and friends of Julia Wood in May 1971.

Girl in Library 1960

The College Library in the mid twentieth century

Originally, the prize was awarded to a second year History undergraduate student at St Hugh’s College. The first prize awarded went to Miss Anne Johnstone for her “striking progress” and she was marked out as “distinguished for industry, vigour and enthusiasm”. The letter informing Miss Johnstone of her award, sent on 16th June 1972, stated that “the prize is £15, to be used for the purchase of books”.

In 1994, the Governing Body of the College agreed that, for an experimental period of three years, “the Prize should be awarded to Sixth Formers on the basis of an essay competition”. The success of the competition resulted in the recommendation that the Prize take on the format of a Sixth Form essay competition permanently and the Prize remains in this format to this day.

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Frequently Asked Questions

When does the competition open for submissions?

The Julia Wood Prize opens for submissions by the start of February each year; details will be announced on the College website.

Is it possible to submit more than one entry per person?

Only one entry is permitted per person.

Are entries required to include a bibliography and/or footnotes?

There are no stipulations with regards to the essay structure, other than that the essay should be between two-thousand and four-thousand words. Entrants may therefore include a bibliography and/or footnotes at their discretion.

Does the word limit include a bibliography and/or footnotes?

The word limit does not include the bibliography or footnotes for this competition.

Is it possible to submit an essay that has been officially assessed (i.e. coursework)?

The essay must be the entrant’s own work, but there are no restrictions on candidates submitting coursework to the competition.

Will I receive confirmation of my submission?

Unfortunately, the College is not able to acknowledge receipt of entries, but the winning entrant will be contacted by the end of September.

When will the winner be announced?

The winner will be announced on the College website by the end of September and their essay will be published shortly afterwards.

Who should I contact about any queries?

Please direct all enquiries concerning the Julia Wood Prize to college.office@st-hughs.ox.ac.uk.