Humanities Writing Competition

Humanities Writing Prize Competition 2018

The Humanities Writing Competition is run annually for any Year 12 (or equivalent) students with interests in the Humanities. the 2018-19 competition is currently open, and will close on 15 March 2019. 

The Humanities Writing Competition is based on five objects from the College’s small antiquities museum. 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.

This competition is an opportunity for research and writing beyond the curriculum using one or more of the six 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.

The list of items, alongside competition details and rules can be found here: HWC Information For Students. The cover sheet to be attached to submitted essays is here: 2018 19 Cover Sheet

Please see below for feedback on last year’s entrances. An online Lawrence Room catalogue is available for use. Detailed pictures, descriptions and backgrounds of all the objects in the Lawrence Room collection are available to be browsed through, so please make use of it as an aid to your research.

2017-18 competition

Winners Olivia Sandhu, Molly Taylor, and Sophie Holloway pictured with Girton College Mistress Professor Susan J. Smith.

The prize-giving ceremony for the 2017-2018 finalists was held on Thursday 26 April, during which six students were welcomed to Girton College to celebrate their achievement.

On arrival, the group had the opportunity to browse the Lawrence Room with two of the College’s Fellows and judges of the competition, Dr Caroline Brett and Dr Gillian Jondorf, and view the objects that they had chosen to write their pieces on. Following this, Deasil Waltho, a Year 1 student studying Classics at Girton College, took the group on a tour of the buildings and grounds of Girton College, giving the finalists a chance to ask any questions they had on student life at Cambridge University. To conclude the afternoon the finalists were able to enjoy afternoon tea with the Mistress of Girton College, the judges of the competition, and Girton College Fellows in Stanley Library, the original college Library.

The winning entries from the 2017-2018 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 2017-18


Olivia Sandhu ‘The Animal in Ancient Religion, Art and Imagination’

Focus on the bull and boar figurines.  Good discussion of human/animal relations in an early agricultural society with some good relevant bibliography.  Explores different avenues ably: divine attributes being expressed in animals, sacrificial or votive animals as channels of interaction between humans and animals, testing of boundaries between human and animal life. Nicely wraps up the different ideas in the conclusion.  Elegant and intellectually ambitious and precise.



Sophie Holloway, ‘The Sculptor and the Sculpted’

A monologue by the athlete figurine. I found this impressive. Intellectually ambitious, and well written. Shows knowledge, maturity of thought and breadth of interest



Molly Taylor, ‘Boy in a Jar’

Beautifully written and moving short story about the glass cremation jar and a Roman mother whose son is dying.  Shows an unobtrusive but real feel for the period and thoughtworld, a mature achievement.




Elizabeth Down ‘The Roman Glass Cremation Urn’

A well written, lovely reconstruction of the background to the Roman cinerary urn and its connection to the Rhineland. Model history essay driven by research on details of the object, really linking areas of knowledge

Amira Nandhla, ‘Was Migration Ultimately the Inspiration Behind the Bull Figurine?’

An extraordinary effort in research on the Cypriot bull figurine. Great on the details, properly presented scholarship …’

Farren Yuan, ‘Examination of the identity of an Egyptian tomb group figurine’

I’m not sure the author is right about this figure being a shabti, but allowing for that, this is a thoughtful and knowledgeable exploration of the function of shabtis and of the expression of movement and its meaning in sculpture.  I especially liked the comparison with the two modern sculptures by Rodin and Giacometti.  This is original thinking with a wide frame of reference.

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