Paul Furey visited Magdalen’s Macintyre Society and the October Club… So You Don’t Have To

Once again, I find myself in Magdalen’s Oscar Wilde Room, this time to soak in their Macintyre Society social, Hangover and History. As I enter, the room is packed with almost forty history enthusiasts in attendance, mostly crowded a small table housing the impressive selection of completely free wine, gin, and vodka.

A whiteboard projects the prompt for the evening, “Is the Roman Empire overrated?”. This sparks passionate debate and fun. From the serious worry that holding the Roman Empire above all others displays a level of eurocentricism, to a reenactment of the famous ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ Monty Python sketch. 

There was plenty of involvement from all who attended, not just historians and classicists, but from a wide-range of subjects. One theologian raised the point that the Roman killing of Jesus adds points for relevance, while a PPEist noted that Gladiator held a higher IMDB score than any other movie set in an empire they could think of.

In the end, a vote confirmed for all that the Roman Empire is in no way overrated.

H&H organisers Sam Winstanley and Enrique Normand encourarge anyone interested to come and “enjoy free drinks with a side of lighthearted historical debate on Magdalen’s wallet!

“Our ambition is to provide a space for informal discussion for anyone at least marginally interested in history, we especially encourage encourage non-historians to come along and share their viewpoints, they tend to be the most interesting. H&H will be held again on the Fridays of 3rd and 7th week.”

The October Club is a communist organisation and a home to radical-left Oxford students. Originally banned by the university in 1993, it only reformed in Trinity term 2022.

They hosted their first Rum and Revolution (you may have picked up a theme by this point) on Thursday of 2nd week in Harris Manchester’s Warrington Room. Taking an ironically capitalistic approach to the bar, a single cost £2, while a double would set you back £3.

One immediate difference between the October Club and their presumably rival political society, OUCA, was the dress code. Instead of smart suits, casual dress was on show, including a Mean Girls inspired red t-shirt with Karl Marx in a convertible and the caption “Get in loser we’re seizing the means of production”.

Around fifteen were sat around a table discussing the pressing social matters of the time. The times and dates of upcoming protests and marches against the Israeli response in Gaza between Oxford and London were shared, with many pledging attendance.

The conversation turned to possible plans of action the October Club could take to highlight the University of Oxford’s links with arms companies which are supplying Israel, none of which were named.

One suggestion was to occupy the Exam Schools in the upcoming week and disrupt lectures by shouting down the lecturers. This seemed to attract significant support from the group, with most vowing to help in some capacity and a handful agreeing to take part in the occupation.

I was surprised by the level of activism expressed and students’ willingness to risk academic suspension for their belief. Many claimed to have experience pulling of similar disruptions before.

References were made to plentiful “funding” that could be used to purchase the necessary equipment for people to conceal their identity and avoid the heavy hand of punishment uni higher-ups may dish out. Plans were made to meet later for final clarifications.

So, if the Exam Schools become overrun in the very near future, you heard it here first.