You could tell it had been a long time. We were all rather unaccustomed to in-person History Society meetings, evidenced by most of the audience forgetting to stand as the speakers arrived, an Eton tradition. We were however, thrilled to be joined by three past secretaries of the History Society, who came to share their perspective on the value of a degree in history to life after university.
Theo Barclay first thanked us for coming, recalling how his peers during his Eton days had missed a talk by the Dalai Lama to play Call of Duty! As a barrister at 4 New Square, he explained that critical thinking was a key asset he derived from his historical studies. Studying history gave him the ability to read large quantities of material and then construct an argument, particularly important to his current job. Theo also spoke briefly about a recent case about whether 90-year-old victims of the Mau Mau uprising should be granted compensation, an event Year 12 modern historians encounter in our course on British domestic and foreign policy between 1951 and 1997.
Bim Afolami MP also joined us and provided the audience of Eton and partner school students with a clear list of three reasons to do history. Firstly, it helps with radio and television interview, where the ability to locate your point in evidence and examples is key. Secondly, it is central to learning how to write well. Finally, Bim explained that historical perspective is important, particularly in his line of work, drawing parallels with the current political climate and that of the early 1960s.
Hugo Gye, Political Editor of the I newspaper, was also able to speak to our audience, albeit via a virtual recording. He attested to the importance of the analytical skills he had learnt as a part of his Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic degree in his field of work, including an ability to search for patterns, commonalities and differences.
Thank you to Hugo, Theo and Bim for taking the time to talk to us, it was a thoroughly entertaining way to restart in-person society meetings.