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Julia Wood History Essay Competition

The Julia Wood prize is an annual History essay competition named in memory of a St Hugh’s College historian.

The Principal and Fellows of St Hugh’s College, Oxford offer a prize, worth up to £500, for the best historical essay submitted by a pupil who, at the closing date, has been in the Sixth Form of any school or college for a period of not more than two years.

The choice of historical subject is left to candidates. As the below examples suggest, essays which fare well in the competition tend to be specially researched and written for it.

2023 Julia Wood Prize Winners

This year the number of entries to the Julia Wood Prize was 321. The prizes were awarded as follows:

First Place

Clara Ahnert, Year 12, St George’s School, Edinburgh for an essay entitled: Redeeming the State: Political Crisis and the Emergence of German Ordoliberalism, 1919-1949

Runners Up

Fergus Walsh, Year 12, St Paul’s School, for an essay entitled: From Kazinczy to Kossuth: How Developments in Magyar Language and Literature Influenced the Hungarian Revolution of 1848

Daisy Rehin-Hollingworth, Year 12, Bilborough College, for an essay entitled: To What extent did Medieval Spain, from the Umayyad Caliphate to the Expulsion of the Jews in 1492, Provide a Golden Age for Jews?

Tilak Patel, Year 12, Merchant Taylors’ School, Northwood, for an essay entitled: The Tragic Era: The Supreme Court and the Undisturbed Memory of Reconstruction

The winners and a number of those who had done particularly well were invited to tea in College in September.

2024 Poster

Cover Sheet

Julia Wood Prize Submissions Form

Please use this form to upload your submission for the Julia Wood Prize.

  • I declare that this essay is my own work and give permission for the judging panel to use licensed electronic software to examine my work for plagiarism should they wish to do so.
  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: doc, pdf, docx, Max. file size: 128 MB.
      Please upload an electronic copy of your Essay, together with the completed Cover Sheet, in Word format. Mac users should select 'Export To Word', rather than saving the Cover Sheet as a '.Pages' document. Please note that Essays should be no more than 4000 words in length.
    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

    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 other post-16 qualifications. 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, and there is an active, sometimes rumbustious History Society. We encourage our undergraduates to travel in vacations. In recent years many 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.









    St Hugh’s provides excellent facilities for studying History: the library has unusually large and up-to-date 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 2022 were:

    Alexander Gong, in Year 12 at St Paul’s School, for an essay entitled: The paradox of the Model Operas: to what extent was there a ‘cultural’ revolution in China between 1966-1976?; Anneli Matthews, in Year 12 at the College of Richard Collyer, for an essay entitled: ”Never Quite Roman” – The Rise, Fall, and Revival of Russian Imperial Thought and Roman Inheritance; and runner-up was Ben Heyes, in Year 12 at Westminster School, for an essay entitled: To what extent did the United States precipitate the dissolution of British Empire after 1939?

    YearAwardNameTitle of Essay
    2022WinnerAlexander GongThe paradox of the Model Operas: to what extent was there a ‘cultural’ revolution in China between 1966-1976?
    2022WinnerAnneli Matthews”Never Quite Roman” – The Rise, Fall, and Revival of Russian Imperial Thought and Roman Inheritance
    2022Runner-upBen HeyesTo what extent did the United States precipitate the dissolution of British Empire after 1939?
    2021WinnerKitty Dallas‘Vicar of Christ or Lord of the World?’ How should the politics of Innocent III's pontificate be understood?
    2021WinnerJulia BisphamBeyond the diagnosis: Was King Ludwig II of Bavaria more than just a ‘Mad King’?
    2021WinnerLydia AllenbyA united odium: was the rise and fall of mercantilism the rise and fall of slavery? An assessment of the relationship between the evolution of Capitalism and the abolition of the British slave trade.
    2020WinnerJoseph ClarkeCoffee: grounds for debate? An assessment of the relationship between coffeehouses and the ‘public sphere’ in seventeenth and early eighteenth-century England
    2020WinnerBethan Mapes‘Sparing the weak and feeble': was the Black Death the cause of population ageing in medieval England?
    2020WinnerMaryam MazharLa Convivencia: Did the Catholic reconquest of Granada in 1492 bring an end to peaceful religious coexistence in Southern Spain?
    2020WinnerRohan Thandi‘The rising hope of those stern and unbending Tories’: How High was Gladstone’s High Toryism 1832-41?
    2019WinnerIsabelle GreigThe Lingering Stay: How a Changing Economy and Shifting Ideas Affected British Corsetry in the Regency Era
    2019WinnerRupert GardinerThe Man Who Put the Jewel in the Crown: How far was Robert Clive Responsible for the East India Company’s Success on the Subcontinent?
    2018WinnerAnna BaileyThe Line to Heaven: An Assessment of the Relationship Between Religion and the Railways in 19th Century Britain
    2018WinnerMark ConnollyKilmacolm - Socialism or death? An Assessment of the Socio-economic Successes and Failures of the Cuban Revolution, 1958-1975
    2018WinnerFreddie CrawfordIs More’s Utopia an Idyll or an Ideal?
    2018WinnerJack VaughanRe-Peel?: An Assessment of Sir Robert Peel’s Influence on the Receptivity of the Conservative Party to Reform
    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?
    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?
    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?
    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 Englightenment in the origins of the French Revolution?
    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?
    2013Year 13 WinnerTony HanWas Papal Reform a revolutionary movement?
    2013Year 12 WinnerMatthew ReesHas the significance of the 1945-51 Labour governments been exaggerated?
    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”.
    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? 1688-1763
    2011Runner UpNicholas WrightAccount for the demise of the Western Roman Empire.
    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?
    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?
    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
    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?
    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?
    2005WinnerDouglas 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?
    2004Year 13 WinnerHoward 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 WinnerFlorence Sutcliffe-BraithwaiteWhat  evidence is there that England was still a catholic nation in 1547
    2003WinnerJoshua ShottonDoes the Exclusion Crisis, 1678-81, show the Earl of Shaftesbury to have been a man of principle.
    2003Runner UpAaron GrahamFor Commonwealth or Conscience: Why did Cromwell readmit the Jews to England
    2002WinnerOlivia GrantHow important were the press to the desacralisation  of the French Monarchy
    2002Runner UpRichard EschwegeWhat did Iustitia mean to Gregory VII?
    2001WinnerFrancis MurphyWas ‘Science the main enemy of Religion’ in the Nineteenth Century?
    2001Runner UpBen SelbyWhy did Charlemagne accept the imperial title?
    2000WinnerJenny BryceWhy did America enact the 18th Amendment in the face of historical evidence that suggested it was doomed to failure
    2000Year 12 WinnerEmil Bielski3rd May Constitution of Poland 1791.  A reaction to the enlightenment of an exercise in self-preservation
    1999WinnerCressida 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
    1999Josephine TuckerHow far did Luther’s theology mark a clear and radical break from mediaeval tradition.
    1999Andrew ShaplandHow European was the Renaissance?
    1998Winner (First)Jayne RosefieldWagner was both cause and effeto 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 RushworthWas 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?
    1998Year 12 WinnerReza DadbakhshIt 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
    1997Criseyda CoxWhy was Leviathan considered ‘a most poisonous piece of atheism’?
    1997Rebecca Welsford“How important was the concept of blood guilt in the trial and execution of Charles I?”
    1996Raphael Mokades/MohadesHow far did the Boer War change the direction of British Domestic Politics, 1899-1911?
    1996Antony McConnellTo what extent is the portrayal of Pontius Pilate in John’s Gospel historically accurate?
    1995James Bickford-SmithRestoration or Revolution? The Ottoman conquest and reorganisation of the Balkans (1352-1402)
    1995Andrew 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.”’
    1994Alexander MacLeod“It isn’t Cricket, Sir!”: The Bodyline Controversy and the Politics of Cricket, 1932-33
    1994Alexandra GoodenTo what extent was the creation of the German Empire the result of Nationalist Forces?

    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.

    The College Library in the mid twentieth century