‘Was there anything good about the British Empire?’

Many congratulations to Sixth Form student, Ishaq, whose History essay on the British Empire was recently ‘Highly Commended’ in this year’s John Locke Institute essay competition.

Having been shortlisted, Ishaq attended the Christ Church College Oxford awards presentation and dinner to receive his commendation.

Ishaq comments – Over the summer I entered the John Locke Institute essay competition. I wrote an essay for the History category with the title ‘Was there anything good about the British Empire?’. I recently found out that I was shortlisted for a prize and was invited to Christ Church, Oxford, for an awards dinner.

The awards dinner was attended by people from around the world, from Australia to California. This year’s essay competition had a record number of applicants, with 964 in the History category alone.

I wanted to enter this essay prize because of the personal links my family had to the Empire. Though never having moved, my grandfather had three distinct nationalities: British Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi. This led me to study the Empire and partition which ultimately resulted in me entering the competition.

In my essay I focused on why views on the Empire had changed, highlighting recent events such as the Black Lives Matter movement, which had brought the British Empire back into the spotlight. I came to the conclusion that historians focus now on the ideas of human rights and freedom, and any economic successes of the Empire have been overridden by this change in view.

I really enjoyed my time in Oxford and met some great people. I also enjoyed discussing my essay, which received a commendation, with the academics. Being able to hear their view on the topic was enlightening, and gave me new and different takes on the Empire.