GDST Humanities Essay Prize Results 2023

In the summer term of 2023, senior school students from across the Trust were invited to address the question of how the Humanities better equip us to transform the world, as part of the inaugural GDST Humanities Essay Prize, pioneered by the GDST Trust Consultant Teacher for Humanities, Jake Unwin.

We sought entries that addressed a contemporary issue of the candidate’s choice and then used their historical, geographical, theological, and or philosophical knowledge to provide deeper questions, insights, and solutions by drawing on case studies from their disciplines. Students courageously and thoughtfully addressed issues ranging from pandemics to economic instability,  international conflict to civil strife, and pre-revolutionary France to twentieth-century Finland.

Collectively, they resoundingly demonstrate the importance of the Humanities to our students and our world. In the words of one of the entries,

As a society we must remain cautious to not dismiss the humanities. At the core of all modern problems, such as war, climate change and political unrest, lie human beings. Science is, for obvious reasons, of great significance when it comes to solving these issues. However, in order to properly understand them, we must engage in the humanities: History, Geography, Theology, Politics and Ethics.’

The highly commended essays are:

Josephine, Year 10 – Portsmouth High School

‘How the Russian invasion of Ukraine can be better understood by looking at the Winter War between the USSR and Finland.’

Josephine’s work was highly commended for setting the conflict in Ukraine in the wider context of 20th century history. She made nuanced and sophisticated comparisons between the geopolitical objectives of the USSR and modern Russia.

Read Josephine's essay


Amelie, Year 12 – Blackheath High School

‘The Good Friday Agreement and Brexit, an exploration of history, religion and geography.’

Amelie impressively addressed  the complexity of Northern Irish politics and society in the context of its history, religion and geography; she did this in writing that was well-researched, reflective, and empathetic. 

Read Amelie's essay


Elizabeth, Year 12 – Bromley High School

‘Identity in Northern Ireland: How can a Deeper Understanding of the Humanities Prevent the Resurgence of Conflict in Northern Ireland?’

Elizabeth also tackled the issue of Northern Irish identity and presented her case study in a meticulously well-researched and well-presented essay. She addressed the topic engaging with writers from Trevelyan to the authors of the Good Friday Agreement. 

Read Elizabeth's essay


Tara, Year 12 – Blackheath High School

‘What pre-Revolutionary France can teach us about the current UK financial and economic crisis.’

Tara was highly commended for connecting financial and economic crises to potential political turmoil; she produced a provocative essay for leaders who may be tempted to underestimate the significance of economic and social change in dictating political events.

Read Tara's essay


The runner up essay prize was awarded to:

Eleanor, Year 12 – Wimbledon High School 

‘Why understanding the geographies of our colonial past is the key to tackling global inequality.’

Eleanor produced a sensitive essay that synthesised a huge range of research; she compellingly made the case for the importance of understanding and studying Geography if we are going to engage effectively with the world’s post-colonial legacy.

Read Eleanor's essay


And the winning essay prize was awarded to:

Emily, Year 12 – Sheffield High School

‘How will the Humanities change the world? A historical, geographical and political study of the Russo-Ukraine War.’

Emily won this year’s prize for an essay that powerfully demonstrated the connections between the humanities and was a fantastic case study of why it is so important for a rich, interdisciplinary approach to understand the world in which we live. The essay was ambitious and demonstrated confident use of Economics, Politics, History and Geography to draw her conclusions.

Read Emily's essay