Saturday, May 28, 2011

On Writing History Papers

I needlessly checked email again, so here is another post.

I just went down to the Stanford House Library to check books out for my second History of London research paper. This paper's topic will answer the question, "In what ways was the growth of London over the period 1800-1939 influenced by changes in public transport?" I just checked out seven fat books, so I have my next couple days cut out for me. You (or I at a later date) may be wondering, "why would you pick that?" Well, we had eight choices, and, mostly by process of elimination, I narrowed them down to this one. I've always thought that public transportation has been a pretty interesting topic. None of the other topics were really any more interesting. The one other one that looked interesting was the question, "How seriously was London affected by the Second World War?" but everyone's going to be doing that one. Also, the question is so open ended that it could go anywhere.

My last paper actually went quite well, in the end. I worked really hard on it, devoting several full days to research and writing. And it paid off. I am proud to say that I got a solid A on it. Being surrounded by English, History, International Relations, and other types of humanities and social science majors here in Oxford, I think I felt like I had something to prove, not directly to them but more to myself. The program, like most study abroad programs, attracts "fuzzy" types. I'm the only physics major. There's also Anthony, a math major, Heming, an earth systems major (which is a sort of mixture of science and social science), and a couple biology majors. And then there's 40+ of everyone else. I want to feel like I belong here, at Oxford, and in this history class just as much as they do, and I figured I could do that by researching and writing history papers just as well as they could. I doubt anyone else really cares (or is going to read this), but it felt reassuring to know that just because I'm labeled "the physics major" here doesn't mean I can't also be a student of history or whatever else I want.

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