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Paper 1     |     Paper 2


‘All the best friends in school fall out, and Henry II and Thomas Becket were no exception.’  ‘Henry II was like Barack Obama; he wanted change.’  ‘Henry VII got rid of our debt; we could do with him now.’  ‘Henry VII, unlike Gordon Brown, filled the Treasury.’  ‘Queen Elizabeth I’s reign confirmed that England was much better off ruled by a Queen than by any King.’  One of the delights of reading the papers for this prize is the uninhibited nature of much of the writing.  In particular this year, question 3, asking for interviews for a specific event, produced many sharp and entertaining lines.


William Drake was a clear and worthy winner of this year’s prize.  Indeed, his paper ranked with some of the best from past years.  He wrote on Edward I, and on the battles of Crecy, Agincourt and Waterloo, and constructed some skilful interviews on D-Day.  He was followed by Sam Watling who presented good detail and ranged widely - a lively interview with Robert Aske followed by an essay on Margaret Thatcher.  Four others particularly stood out, producing some excellent answers in a fluent style – Jamie Collings, Isabelle Powell, Chris Bell and Tom Ames.


King’s Junior, Wimbledon deservedly won the team prize.  Their string of candidates scored good marks and wrote on a wide variety of subjects.  Once again the historians from The Hall School shot up the list with lively and elegant answers, and Shrewsbury House and Vinehall had many good candidates.  King’s College, Cambridge, Quainton Hall, St Paul’s Preparatory, Summer Fields, Twyford and Westminster Under, all with strings of good papers, followed these four.  Some schools with fewer candidates did their teachers proud: Hall Grove, King’s School, Rochester, Marlborough House, Newland House, Port Regis, Rokeby, Wellesley House, Woodcote House.


The paper is designed to give boys and girls the chance to show off their knowledge of history, and the questions invite them to write with some flair and imagination.  Question 1 asked them to write on two subjects from a possible sixty-two ranging from the Roman Conquest of Britain to the Gulf War of 1990-1991.  Thomas Becket, the Battle of Crecy, the Longbow, Henry VII, Francis Drake and the Battle of Waterloo were inevitably the most popular.  It was good to find some excellent answers on Edward Jenner and on Mahatma Gandhi.  Surprisingly no one wrote on the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial, a popular question in past years.


Question 2 asked for two interviews of suitable people connected to some historical event that fascinated the candidate.  As mentioned, this produced some entertaining and imaginative answers.  The range of characters interviewed was encouraging.  Tutankhamun – ‘How did you die?’ ‘I have no idea.’  Julius Caesar – ‘I totally trust Brutus.’  W H Russell – ‘I have some very good photographs.’  Shaka the Zulu – ‘Isandlwana is just the start.’  Khrushchev – ‘I will go to the brink.  Will they?’  Better-known characters were well represented.  Harold – ‘How were you killed?’  ‘I cannot really remember; not by an arrow.’  Henry VII – ‘Did you expect to be King at the start of the battle?’  ‘I certainly did not expect to find the crown in a thorn tree.’  ‘Why, O King, are you divorcing Anne of Cleves.’  Henry VIII: ‘Have you seen the lady?’


Question 3 asked for either an account by a victorious commander of the reasons for the result of a battle and how the future would be affected, or the diary of one day about any historical event before 1950.  I admired one from Henry V that explained how lucky he had been - ‘it could have been an absolute disaster’ – and another from Admiral Beattie that was very critical of his own actions at Jutland – ‘impetuous, some said, and I agree.’ 


Question 4 asked candidates to write an essay, requiring some analysis, and giving a wide choice of titles.  Many wrote on William I – ‘the Domesday Book showed that he would have been a happy modern ruler with a big database.’  Many homed in on Henry VIII and told the story of Catharine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.  Others were able to choose less well-known stories – on explorers or scientists or in American history.  A few produced some fascinating detail about their family.  One traced her family back to detailed Russian history, another to early times in Australia.


The enthusiasm evident in so many of the answers was a credit to those who teach history at the schools.  Some wrote with much maturity.  ‘Rain had fallen on the field of Agincourt.  The fertile soil proved a death trap for the mounted French.’  ‘1066 was an amazing year – three kings, three battles and a comet.’  Many picturesque comments, some a little inaccurate, caught the eye.  ‘Claudius took 500 elephants to England.’  ‘William I dotted castles around the country.’  ‘Becket became a Christian, read the Bible and lived on bread and water.’  ‘The longbow, made of oak, needed a very strong man to use it.’  ‘Napoleon escaped the Battle of Waterloo in a chariot.’  I enjoyed the idea that: ‘Mary, Queen of Scots was surprised to be told that she was Queen when six days old.’  However, the favourite, an image to treasure for years to come, was: ‘Hitler, well known for his handlebar moustache,….’

2010   Paper 2

The Townsend-Warner
Preparatory Schools History Prize

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