History: more than just a pastime

For one of Oxford’s largest societies, the History Society sometimes seems surprisingly overlooked. A fact that is especially surprising given that one our primary objectives is the liberal distribution of free wine and cheese at every event. Not to mention the termly champagne and chocolates night. Or the cocktail party. I’m sure you can see a theme developing here.

History Soc is also appealingly good natured. Elections to committee positions are utterly unspoiled by the vicious backstabbing that some societies are notorious for. I have risen to the heady heights of secretary and have never once had to fight a contested election. This probably has its roots in the friendly characters of committee members and the fact that all meetings are fuelled with a generous allowance of biscuits.

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This is not to say that the society can’t pull its weight. We attract several speakers every term who are very often the leading experts in their fields. A few talks every term are mainly of interest to those studying history. Many, though, are of interest to everyone. Martin Davidson, who commissions history programmes for the BBC, was fascinating (and a valuable contact for anyone planning a career in television). Only the coldest of hearts could have failed to have been touched by Orlando Figes’ gripping account of a love story conducted across the walls of a Russian gulag.

It is at the annual dinner that the society really pulls out its big guns. Last year David Starkey proved a fascinating (if periodically controversial) dinner companion. This year, Dan Snow regaled us with tales of his time at Oxford. This talk proved depressing to the less active among us as it turns out Snow rowed for the University, achieved a double starred first with bells on with barely any revision and then left straight for a career in television. Exciting for the career minded among us, he also told us that he is currently developing a First World War app with a student he met at a History Society dinner.

As if you could need any more encouragement, our TGM is Saturday of 7th week. Come along and get involved!