Humanities Writing Competition

Entrants, supporters, students and fellows with the Mistress.

2019-20 Competition

Girton College Humanities Writing Competition


Girton’s Humanities Writing Competition is for students in Year 12 (or equivalent) who have an interest in the Humanities. Students will submit an essay based on one or more objects selected from the College’s small antiquities museum, the Lawrence Room.

This competition is an opportunity for research and writing beyond the curriculum using one or more of the museum objects as your focus. Essays or creative responses (such as dramatic monologues or short stories) are equally welcome. We are looking for the ability to connect different areas of knowledge, to think about details and to communicate clearly.

Closing Date: 5pm on Friday, 13th March 2020

Prizes: Up to £200 cash and £200-worth of books from Cambridge University Press, the latter to be shared between the winning entrant/s and their school/s. The prize fund may be divided between winning entrants.


About the Lawrence Room

Named after a Girton student, the Lawrence Room contains Anglo-Saxon finds from the College grounds, Egyptian material including the rare portrait mummy ‘Hermione’, and Mediterranean material from the Classical and pre-Classical worlds.


Further Information

Competition Poster 2019 20

Competition Information 2019 20

2018-19 Prizegiving

The prize-giving ceremony for the 2018-19 finalists was held on Thursday 25 April, during which four entrants visited the college.

After arriving at college, the group browsed the Lawrence Room museum with two competition judges and College Fellows, Dr Caroline Brett and Dr Gillian Jondorf. This was an opportunity for the students to view the objects that they had written about, and to see the other exciting artefacts held in the College’s museum. Following this, current Girton undergraduate students took the group on a tour of the College and gave them an insight into life as a student, as well as the history of Girton College. Finally, students were presented with their certificates during afternoon tea with the Mistress of the College, competition judges, and current undergraduate students.

The winning entries from the 2018-19 competition are now on display in the Lawrence Room, which is open to the public from 2pm-4pm on Thursdays.

Girton are grateful to Cambridge University Press and Miss C. Anne Wilson for their kind sponsorship of the competition.


Judges' Feedback 2018-19


The best entrants were clearly ready for research at university level, producing extensively researched, clearly written and well-referenced essays ranging well beyond the set curriculum.  The creative writing was for the most part less inspired. Unfortunately there were quite a few vague, scrappy and poorly written offerings, and a substantial number of general essays on classical subjects which did not discuss any of the set Lawrence Room objects in detail, despite a strong reminder that it is one of the conditions of the competition that their work is based on one or more of the objects listed in the competition information.  As a group, however, the entries showed enthusiasm for the study of past worlds, gave food for thought and enhanced our appreciation of the educational and human value of Girton’s museum collection.  We hope that entering the competition has been an equally positive experience for candidates and schools.


First prize: Alice Hunt, Ampleforth College, for her essay ‘Tanagra figurines: their funerary and religious context’.  The reader commented: ‘A delight to read, wide ranging, thoughtful, nuanced and academically well presented essay on possible ancient contexts and meaning of the Tanagra ‘Aphrodite’’.

Second prize: Jennifer Zhou, Dulwich College, for her essay ‘What factors contributed to the popularity of Tanagra figures in 4th Century Greece?’ ‘Strikingly well written, scholarly use of details’.

Third prize: Zac Copeland-Greene, Manchester Grammar School, for ‘“Divine Intent”? An exploration into a possible Ancient Greek depiction of the divine’ – an essay on the possible identification of the Lawrence Room figurine as Aphrodite, with a very perspicacious presentation of the evidence and good use of images.

The joint runners-up were:

Isabel Lewis, St Martin’s School, ‘Girl or Goddess? Determining the subject of a terracotta figurine’. This essay made the interesting suggestion that the figure with the ball might represent Nausicaa from the Odyssey: the enquiry was wide-ranging with good use of images and attention to detail.

Alexandra Wright, St Olave’s Grammar School, ‘Eden’.  This was a short story in which Hera’s apple of discord is pivotal in a succession of mythical events; it showed a strong knowledge of classical mythology, imaginatively treated, and with a pleasing twist at the end.

For further information on the Humanities Writing Competition,  please email

To find out more about studying humanities subjects at Girton, please see the subject pages.


Humanities Writing Competition
+44 (0)1223 338910