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Catching Up with Former JCR President Patrick Hegarty-Morrish

During his academic journey, Patrick has won;

• The Gibbs Prize for History,
• The Alpine Fellowship Academic Writing Prize,
• The Central European University (CEU) History Department’s Outstanding Academic Achievement Award,
• The CEU Distinguished Graduate Scholarship,
• The Joint AHRC Clarendon Doctoral Training Scholarship,
• The Ward-Perkins Cooper Beloff Scholarship at Trinity College, Oxford.

Tell us a bit about yourself

“I was at Oriel between 2017 and 2020. Surprisingly, this was only two years ago but it seems like much longer! I had a fantastic time. I rowed as a novice in my first year, in the Men’s Second VIII at Summer Eights.  

In my second year I was JCR President – one of my proudest achievements was lowering the prices in the bar, even though they were put up again at the end of my tenure.  

I also rode bikes throughout my degree and nostalgia for cycling around Oxfordshire again was an important reason I decided to come back to Oxford to pursue my DPhil!”

What did you study at undergraduate level and what interested you in the subject? 

“I studied History at undergraduate level. During my degree, there was a turning point where I first studied and became fascinated by the medieval period – this was when I took the paper entitled ‘The Global Middle Ages’ in my second year with Professor Ian Forrest. The paper is exciting and pretty unique in Oxford and makes one think far outside the box – I recommend it to any first-year history student mulling over their second-year options.”

Your undergraduate thesis was published in an academic journal, which is unusual. Can you tell us more about that? 

“Yes, I managed to get a revised version of my undergraduate thesis published in The International Journal of the History of Sport.  

I wrote my thesis on cultures of cycling in Sweden in the interwar period – I argued that historians can learn much from taking the fun-aspect of such experiences seriously, and in doing so I found that Swedish cyclists primarily had fun soaking up the beauty of the Swedish landscape, exploring abroad in a cosmopolitan manner, and in sharing cycling with friends and family in a manner of relaxed and easy sociability. The best decision was to attempt to learn Swedish for the thesis, which sent me down many fascinating alleyways.”

Can you tell us a bit about your MA in History at the Central European University in Vienna? 

“I wasn’t sure whether to return to Oxford or to go abroad for my MA, but I am very glad I chose the latter. Vienna, firstly, is a stunning city. Sat on the Danube and surrounded by small mountains and thick woodlands, it is grandly imperial in a strangely delipidated way, but increasingly multicultural, liberal, and pluralistic.  

Secondly CEU is an excellent institution with a laudable ethos as the ‘open society university.’ There are many very good teachers rooted in intellectual traditions which I had not yet encountered, and it is also flexible enough that in terms of papers I could try politics, philosophy, and human rights law as well as History.”

What influenced your decision return to Oxford in 2022 to begin a doctorate in Environmental History? 

“I knew I had unfinished business with Oxford and partly made the decision to go to Vienna knowing that I would probably come back to Oxford in the future. I am happy to be back in an exceptional city, and I am looking forward to attending all the graduate research seminars which I didn’t really know about as an undergraduate. 

I am now writing about medieval French shepherds and their relationships with their environment and their animals.” 

What are your aims for the future? 

“I want to be an academic historian, or a barrister, or ideally both. This summer I worked as an intern with the IBA Legal Policy and Research Institute to explore my interest in law and found it extremely rewarding. I am excited about the future, but it is still early days.”

What advice would you give to someone who aspires to study at Oxford? 

“For people applying to History (and humanities generally) I would want to give two pieces of advice, one personal and one academic.  

The first personal piece of advice is to try to take any bits of Oxford which might seem alienating—gowns, fancy colleges etc—in as tongue-in-cheek a manner as is possible, and to think that if you see some of the traditions for the silliness with which they ought to be regarded, they can be quite fun.  

The second academic piece of advice is to be intellectually curious. Read, write, watch interesting TV, go to lectures and art galleries and other such educative venues. Try to do so not in a passive way but actively, with an attitude of healthy scepticism, a desire to question, to speak about what you discover, and to resist any easy answers to difficult problems or totalizing narratives to explain complex concepts.”  

Any other thoughts on life post-Oriel? 

“Only to draw attention to all the fantastic things that my colleagues at Oriel have done since their degree, and to say that the interests I have pursued for the last two years represent one of a plethora of routes my friends have trodden over the same period, in teaching, TV, law, medicine, charity work, politics, and many other things.  

I would say that variety is a hint to prospective students of the possibilities of a degree in History (and at Oriel), and for current and recently graduated students a reminder to keep one’s eyes wide to realise all the possible and unexpected paths open for young people in their twenties.”