Arts & Humanities History

In the twenty-first century, what is monarchy for?

This long-read article was written by Edward Eves for the 2022 Robinson College essay competition, and was highly commended.

Estimated read time of essay: 15 minutes

The twentieth century was a disaster for royalty. In July 1900, King Umberto I of Italy was assassinated at Monza and in July 1946, his son, Vittorio Emmanuele III, scampers from the throne. In 1908, King Carlos of Portugal suffered the same fate as Umberto and two years later, the Portuguese monarchy was abolished. In 1913, the King of Greece was also murdered. As Leonard Woolf writes, the period was “a holocaust of emperors, kings, princes, archdukes and hereditary grand dukes” [1]. The most notable extirpation was in Russia, where the last Tsar and his family were murdered in the basement of their home on July 17, 1918. In each case, the killings were marked as prerequisites to the building of democracy in Europe. However, in almost every European nation which was ruled by monarchy, the void left behind was filled by an ambitious dictator. Was this really the solution the people envisaged when they ousted their monarchies? Now in the twenty-first century, there are only 12 European monarchies that remain. What do all these monarchies stand for? What did they stand for in the past? And what will they stand for in the future?

Since Charles I, considered the last absolute monarch of the United Kingdom, the monarchy in the United Kingdom has suffered a steady decline in political power. In the modern day, their role exists as unbending support for the party in power, whoever it may be, while they still hold various smaller roles such as the weekly meetings between monarch and Prime Minister. Such meetings have been fruitful for Prime Ministers, with Clement Attlee, a former Prime Minister, commenting,” Yet another advantage is that the Monarchy is continuously in touch with public affairs, acquires great experience, whereas the Prime Minister might have been out of office for some years.” [2] This experience and knowledge from an alternate perspective remains important as advice and counsel for each Prime Minister that holds office. Another common characteristic amongst surviving monarchies is subtlety. Their ability to exist as symbols of their state, whilst, in almost every nation, the people are more concerned with government than the monarchs themselves. As Amman, editor of The Economist magazine, writes of Queen Elizabeth II,” Indeed, one of her greatest achievements is that she has never said anything of any interest in public.” [3] Amman refers here to the Queen’s propensity for remaining unremarkable in opinion, and thus, unoffending towards the people. The monarchies that remain, remain as emblems of the nations they shepherd. Their role is not to disturb the public opinion, rather to remain neutral and in full support of their nation’s political leaders. In doing so, they can allow democracy to take its proper shape whilst their position on the throne avoids the threat of dictatorship that we have seen in other European nations.

Alongside political discretion, the pageantry associated with monarchy provides tremendous joy and a vivid sense of community for the people every year. From performers to military parades, to street parties and live music, events such as the Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee this year provide an enormous feeling of patriotism and pride in one’s own nation. Johnathan Welch of The Critic perfectly sums up the essence of these events, writing” Yet our need for solidarity remains. For want of battle, we can find such solidarity in festival. In days such as these, that need is met through celebration of a person who embodies our whole nation” [4]. In bringing the nation together in celebration and festival, the monarchy underlines its importance to national pride. Inevitably, there are those who do not buy into the occasion and the collective buzz of pageants. The same article from The Critic writes,” To the cynic, perhaps this all tells the sorry tale of cultural decline. Of a people lost at sea, searching without rudder for cohesive cultural identity” [5]. A growing portion of the population have fallen out of touch with the monarchy and Welch highlights the increasing feeling of cultural uncertainty around the surviving monarchy and its unnecessary ceremonies. Nonetheless, whether foraging for cohesive cultural identity or painting a thick facade over a nation’s cultural decline, the value of national parties in celebration of the monarchy cannot be understated.

In the UK, the Queen and other members of the royal family are patrons of over one thousand charities and organisations in the UK and the Commonwealth [6]. This staggering number of charitable organisations that the royal family continue to support highlights their desire to aid those who are less fortunate. The late Prince Philip alone was associated with 992 charities in one capacity or another throughout his 99-year-long life. A testament to his remarkable devotion to his people and a strong example of all surviving monarchies and their capacity for charity. A strong argument amongst those in opposition to the continuation of monarchy throughout Europe is their extreme wealth and the flouting of this wealth while there are those who live in desperate poverty. However, the distribution of this wealth via charity and support of over a thousand organisations helps to distil this animosity. In addition, it must be noted that whilst monarchies are of a particular burden to the average taxpayer, in the UK, for example, in 2021, the Sovereign Grant to the monarchy was £86 million [7] while the estimated income via tourism alone due to the monarchy every year is around £500 million. Therefore, while growing numbers of republicans are particularly offended by the wealth and extravagance of the monarchy, there is strong evidence to suggest that the monarchy is highly profitable, especially in the UK. Considering these figures and the sheer number of charities that the British royalty continue to support, the influence of monarchy over social and financial equality is a crucial element of their existence in modern times.

Moreover, Britain’s Royal Family and its Armed Forces have a special relationship which goes back centuries. As sovereign, the Queen is the official Head of the British Armed Forces, and this is extremely important. Paxman emphasises this, “armies work by cultivating emotion…To do so requires the development of an instinctive loyalty. Military organisations act upon commands, so they need a hierarchy, at the top of which will inevitably sit an individual – the monarch.” [8] The army has a very strong commitment to the queen and their loyalty towards her is unmatched. Further on Paxman quotes The Commandant of Sandhurst who states that he “never, ever heard a soldier say that he is fighting for Britain. They’re fighting for the Queen.” [9] For many soldiers, simply fighting for their own country is not enough motivation, but to fight and defend their Queen, and their monarch is an honour. More to this effect, the Royal Navy has particularly close ties with the Royal Family with numerous members of the House of Windsor such as George V, Edward VIII and Prince Charles all attending naval college and training to become sailors. The idea was for these future monarchs to gain important virtues like punctuality and self-reliance that would be required as future kings of the country. This idea highlights the monarchy’s respect towards the Armed Forces and the close connections which continue to exist between the two prove to be extremely beneficial for the spirit of the Armed Forces and the defence of the United Kingdom.

Similarly, the monarchy is hugely beneficial for the Church of England. As ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’ the Queen is a vital figure and essential for the promotion of faith in the UK and the Commonwealth. The Queen’s strong association with the Church was symbolised at her coronation when she was anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and took an oath to “maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England” [10]. The strong ties to religion and faith add to the mystical aspect of the monarchy which convinces many that they are almost “above human’’. Additionally, with the advice of the Prime Minister, the Queen appoints Archbishops, Bishops, and Deans of the Church of England, who then swear an oath of allegiance to her. Furthermore, the Queen is known to be a devout Christian who regularly attends services with other members of the Royal Family. This is regularly documented and is the perfect advertisement for Christianity and other faiths in England where atheism is on the rise. Once more, the close ties to the monarchy bring huge benefits for religion and particularly the Church of England, with the Queen a perfect image of hope and faith.

However, beside all their current roles and functions as monarchy, one question still remains. What will the monarchy be for in the future? With Queen Elizabeth II turning 96 this year, it is only a matter of time until her legacy is passed down to her first son, Charles. The Queen has endured the longest reign ever seen in the United Kingdom and has rightfully earned the undying support of the majority of her people. How will this change when she dies? The Queen’s death will mark a new age for the monarchy and Prince Charles will have to adapt the monarchy’s function in order to remain relevant and maintain the majority backing from the British public. In his support for global conservation and as a champion for environmental concerns, Charles has found his cause. In a world where global warming is on the rise, serving as a serious threat to human existence, Charles will garner huge support in his campaigning for the protection of our planet. The most important balancing act for the monarchy continues to be staying in touch with the people whilst staying far enough ahead to be marvelled at and admired. In championing conservation across the globe, Charles can connect with the people whilst remaining an idyllic figurehead of our nation. This is only one example of how King Charles may wish to lead his country when the crown arrives on his head, but the central problem that will no doubt outlive his reign, will be how the monarchy, an ancient system of rule, can survive in the twenty-first century.

To draw to a close, in the twenty-first century there are still may roles that remain for monarchies. Arguably the most important, is the devout support for government and the increasing modesty and discretion of modern monarchies which allow democracy to thrive. In the UK, the Queen’s roles as Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Head of the Armed Forces prove vitally important for the sustained popularity of the Church and the strength of will of the British Armed Forces. Lastly, monarchy’s numerous roles in charity and their importance for tourism in modern states continue to provide enormous benefits to their economies and contribute heavily towards social equality. As we look ahead into the future and the rest of the twenty-first century, the problem that surviving monarchies face is their relevance and suitability in modern governments and economies. Their ability to modernise and adapt to the current climate whilst preserving their enchantment of their people. However, for now, the monarchies prove to be tremendous symbols of devotion and commitment to their nations and whether they are removed or not, they will remain hugely important figures of history.


[1] Woolf, After the Deluge, (London: Penguin, 1. Jan 1937), pp. 71-2.







[8] Paxman, On Royalty, (London: Penguin, 2006), p.112

[9] Paxman, On Royalty, (London: Penguin, 2006), p.113



Amman, ‘How monarchies survive modernity’, The Economist, April 27 2019; online edition,[ , accessed 27 July 2022 ]

Johnathan Welch, ‘The power of the pageant’, The Critic, June 5, 2022; online edition, [ , accessed 25 July 2022 ]

‘What is the role of the monarchy?’, UCL, The Constitution Unit, [ , accessed 27 July 2022 ]

‘Royal Finances’, Institute for Government, June 1, 2022, [ , accessed 28 July 2022 ]

The Week Staff, ‘How the world’s monarchs are adapting to modern times’, June 16, 2019; online edition, [ , accessed 23 July 2022 ]

Jeremy Paxman, On Royalty, (London: Penguin, 2006)

A.Purdue, Unsteady Crowns – Why the world’s monarchies are struggling for survival ( Cheltenham: The History Press, 2022)

Andrew Marr, Elizabethans – A history of how modern Britain was forged, (London: William Collins, 2020)

Arts & Humanities Philosophy & Theology

How the criticisms of Utilitarianism underline a fundamental error in our approach to ethical discourse

This article was written by Stuart Brown and was the winning article of the David Garlick essay competition. The judges commented ‘This is a very well written piece with a strong argument, which shows detailed and nuanced understanding of the issues.’

Estimated read time of essay: 6 minutes

Utilitarianism as a normative ethical theory is attacked in a number of different ways, however I hope to show how these criticisms demonstrate a fundamental mistake in the way in which we go about breaking down an ethical theory.

The first criticism which is often asserted is the impracticality of Utilitarianism when it comes to decision making in our daily lives. Even if we accept the idea that we must act in the way that best tends to produce happiness it is impossible to know which actions will cause this. We cannot predict the vast and unforeseeable consequences of our actions and hence Utilitarianism seemingly fails as we cannot effectively and accurately fulfil the task of promoting happiness in the real world. Mill strives to object to this in his book ‘Utilitarianism’ writing ‘that there has been ample time, namely, the whole past duration of the human species.’ His point here is that humans know basically which actions tend to produce more happiness as a result of the cultivated experience of humanity and the general attitudes that we have formed over time to specific actions due to such experience. Therefore, we know which actions to undertake to produce overall greater happiness. However, one must question whether Mill is even obligated to respond to the challenge of impracticality. The truth of the principle of utility and the very ethical theory itself is unaffected and detached from the question of whether it can be usefully applied in the real world. If it is true to seek the happiness of the greatest number, then this remains the case whether or not we able to do so. Hence, we see that when discussing the validity of normative ethical theories, the issue of practicality is unimportant as it has no bearing on the actual truth of the theory. The question of practicality is however not useless but rather misplaced. It should come later once a base ethical theory has been established and we look to how it can be applied.

Another popular yet erroneous approach is to argue from the starting point of a known ethical truth to try and establish or dismiss an ethical theory. To say for example, that murder is always wrong, and then to identify a specific case where Utilitarianism justifies murder is not necessarily a valid argument that Utilitarianism fails as an ethical theory because it appears to justify a wrong action. Whilst this argument may seem logical at first it presupposes that murder, or another action is simply inherently wrong. This is to fall into the fallacy of question begging as it assumes that Utilitarianism is incorrect and that some actions must have inherent value to prove that Utilitarianism is in fact incorrect. This structure of reasoning is common and often used especially in the case of Utilitarianism, but it fails crucially in all cases because it cannot without using circular reasoning establish that any given action is wrong. This problem illustrates a common mistake in how we approach ethics in that we try and find a theory to cohere with our current values. This is problematic as our self-held beliefs cannot act as a firm groundwork for an ethical theory. Instead, we must build up an ethical theory from its very foundation and derive attitudes towards specific actions later.

The trolley problem and how it is discussed often shows our disposition to starting from judgements of specific actions and then working towards an ethical theory to match such assumptions. This is a common introductory thought experiment to the topic of ethics and is one where most start with an opinion on whether it can be right to pull the lever to kill one and save five and work backwards to an ethical position. However, this is foolish as the point of an ethical theory is not to justify our previously held beliefs and judgements but rather to provide a starting framework to build our ethical perspectives anew.

Whilst many of the criticisms of Utilitarianism fail, there is one which is very difficult to overcome and demonstrates the correct way to go about analysing an ethical theory. This criticism is that Utilitarianism fails to successfully establish happiness as having inherent value. Bentham falls victim to the naturalistic fallacy when trying to establish the value of pleasure. This is the fallacy outlined by David Hume that we cannot derive an ought from an is (in this case it is Bentham’s argument that we naturally pursue pain and avoid pleasure and hence we ought to do so). In ‘Introduction to the principle of morals, legislation’ Bentham writes on pleasure and pain ‘it is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do’ showing how his assertion of the principle of utility is fallacious. Most however, accept the inherent value of happiness as a brute fact and do not seek to break down Bentham’s starting assertion although this is exactly what must be done. We must adapt our philosophical approach to examine the foundational assertions of ethical theories and hence decide their merit rather than focusing on the practical application of the theory. This is the key point in the failure of our approach to ethics as it is the starting value assumptions (such as the value of happiness in Utilitarianism) of ethical theories that must be examined as these are the foundations of ethical theories and hence their success is entirely dependent on their truth.

In conclusion, as seen in the mishandled approach to the criticisms of Utilitarianism, we must adapt our approach to the analysis of ethics and shift our focus from the practicalities and repercussions of accepting normative ethical theories. Instead, we must judge their validity on the surety of their foundational claims as only then can we properly assess the truth of an ethical theory.

Arts & Humanities Classics History

Did racism exist in the ancient world?

This long-read article was written by upper sixth former Sebastian Norris.

Estimated read time of introduction: 1 minute

Estimated read time of essay: 11 minutes


Setting aside preconceptions and a modern, judgemental approach is difficult when discussing racism in the ancient world, due to the pertinence of the issue in our society. However, it is also easy to justify ancient attitudes by the argument that racism as we know it has only existed in more modern times. Therefore, to avoid getting involved in debate about how to define racism, I am regarding racism as the belief that one’s race is superior in some way to others, as such beliefs are at the very heart of racial discrimination.

In order to discuss the question in some depth, I am only considering the ancient Greeks, as their beliefs and prejudices have been so influential, especially since they were formative for the Romans’ views and therefore endured for a long time. However, it is also important to consider the difference between racism and xenophobia, as despite the common use of the word racism describing hate crimes or speech, it is fundamentally the ideology of superiority of a race, whereas xenophobia is the fear or hatred of foreigners.

Within these parameters, clearly some form of racism did exist in the ancient world, as the ancient Greeks had a strong sense of superiority over non-Greeks, seen both in their attitude towards foreigners, for whom they had a collective term (‘βαρβαροι’) to signify that they were not Greek, and in how they saw themselves, that is, as a pure race descended from the Earth itself, giving them a sense of superiority over other races.

To view Seb’s full article, follow this link below.

Arts & Humanities FTRP Geography

What does the future hold for town centres?

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Ollie Robinson, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: 2 minutes
Estimated read time of essay: 12 minutes

In order to try and predict a future for the high street, this report will cover its current state and look at whether or not it’ll be able to adapt. In order to survive, the high street will need to reinvent itself, moving its focus on its social aspects. 

Firstly, why is the high street declining? There are three main reasons: 

  1. The high street faces steep competition. Online shopping as well as large out of town stores have been taking customers away from the high street due to their superior convenience and price. 
  1. Poor infrastructure of town centres has been affecting the high street, in the sense of there being not enough parking and expensive public transport, making shopping at the high street even less convenient. 
  1. The high cost of running a physical store means it’s hard for stores to compete with alternatives such as online shopping pricewise. 

All these factors are putting more financial pressure on high street stores, causing many of them to shut. 

So how can the high street tackle its competition? Firstly, the high street could try to match the online stores in price and convenience. This has been attempted by large chain companies through integrating technology with the high street but even their sales have been diminishing. Small high street stores that are already under a lot of financial pressure couldn’t compete with online stores, with any attempt being too expensive. 

Physical stores can’t match their competition. However, there are ways the high street can still compete: 

Firstly, the existence of service stores such as hairdressers may ensure some future for the high street, as we need these stores and need them to be physical. 

Secondly, the social aspects of the high street and face to face interaction is another way the high street can’t be matched by online shopping. The high street’s shift towards social features is a way it can survive and is something that’s already happening. Coffee shops, gyms and pubs (all social stores) have been growing despite the high street’s decline. Similarly, experience-based stores such as theatres stand out as another aspect of the high street that can’t be replicated online. 

One case study is Bristol. In 2008, the shopping centre Cabot Circus was opened in the town. Additionally, more investment was put into the nightlife venues of Bristol’s high street. These are both examples of emphasising social aspects of the high street and these changes were incredibly successful for Bristol’s high street.  

In conclusion, the high street is facing difficulties. Emphasising the social aspects of the high street has been shown to work in strengthening it. The future of the high street could depend on the level of intervention the government is willing to put into facilitating these changes, although the fact that these changes are happening naturally suggests there is a future for the high street as a social hub. 

To read Ollie’s full article, follow this link below.

Arts & Humanities FTRP Psychology

In living colour: how colour has impacted the advertisement industry.

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Alejandro Scholfield-Pérez, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. . The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: 1 minute
Estimated read time of essay: 10 minutes

Colour is a fundamental asset to the metaphorical toolbox of mankind. Approximately 30 million years ago during the Oligocene epoch, the structure of the eye evolved to accommodate simple depictions of colour. Colour would become pivotal to the development of the human eye, an acute sensory organ used primarily to detect prey. Presently, whilst colour is still an important aspect of our vision regarding our survivability, it is far more commonly exploited in the realms of advertising.  

In my FTRP, I dissect the underlying factors contributing to the success of colour implementation in marketing and how chroma and value; which determine a colour’s features, are used to elicit impulses and responses to posters, advertisements and even government campaigns. Throughout this dissertation, I will be assessing the current information present on the effect of colour on brand recognition and critique it in order to discern its impact on the marketing industry. 

In order to achieve a sound understanding of the makeup of colour, I had to research a plethora of articles, magazines and most importantly – consulting my art teachers. Throughout the process of writing this FTRP, I gained a solid foundation in regard to the effect of colour on our everyday lives, and its effect on brand recognition and advertisements which allowed me to properly critique the information that I later researched through scholarly articles.  

My process of writing this dissertation; become one of several hours of work. My goal was to try and relay all the information necessary in a concise, understandable manner to allow for the formation of informed discussion and conversation around the nature surrounding the effectiveness of advertisements. A topic that I believe to be extremely important in the 21st century – where information and influence has become the new global currency.  

To view Alejandro’s full article, follow this link below.

Arts & Humanities FTRP Geography Law & Politics

USA vs New Zealand: To what extent do their national flags represent their population?

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Matthew Kassir, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: < 1 minute
Estimated read time of essay: 12 minutes

For centuries, flags have formed a major part of our national identity, a symbol for which we belong to and believe in. As times changes, so do nations, and this report looks at two topical, yet different flags, namely those of the United States and New Zealand; assessing to what extent these flags still accurately represent their population, and whether a change is due?

Arguably, The Star-Spangled Banner is one of the most compelling symbols of national pride in this world, with the rich history it entails, and its projected message of ‘the American dream’; the post-colonial flag, historically, has been synonymous with the strong patriotism of its citizens. However, as we see more controversies shroud the nation every year, in relation to racial and ethnic equality, Americans demand change – a change so drastic that a new symbol of their nation is vital? 

On the other hand, this report examines the flag of New Zealand, looking closely at the referendum in 2016, and how even though all roads led change for the pre-colonial symbol, 56% of voters decided this outdated and possibly discriminative flag should still represent their national identity. Whether that be due to respect for their fallen soldiers, or even the economic cost of changing it, the report will ask why the flag has not changed, and if it realistically ever should?

To view Matthew’s full article, follow this link below.

Arts & Humanities Classics

Do ancient historians tell us more about myth than real events?

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Mattie Sutton. The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: < 1 minute
Estimated read time of essay: 7 minutes

We’ve all heard of Greek and Roman myths – The Cyclops, Icarus, etc. – they’re one of the most appealing parts of Classics. Another area full of interest is Ancient History, home to defining battles, decisions and speeches that are still studied today. However, sometimes these areas collide, meaning Ancient History isn’t always like the “History” of today. This naturally leads to the question, how useful is Ancient History? Does it tell us more about myth or real events?

In this short essay we’ll examine four titans of historical world: Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius and Livy. We’ll examine what they wrote and why they wrote it, examining how much myth was used, and to what effect. Overall however, we’ll see that it’s not as easy as it first seems to separate myth from fact, and actually myth had its own role to play in Ancient History.

To view Mattie’s full article, follow this link below.

Arts & Humanities Economics Geography Lower School Social Sciences

Have receiving countries benefited from the Belt and Road Initiative?

This long-read article was written by second former Gavin Sivakumaran.

Estimated read time: 8 minutes

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a $1,300,000,000 plan which was initiated by Xi Jinping, the President of China in 2013. Various nations in Africa, Asia and Europe are interconnected with China through land and oceanic networks like highways, seaports and railroads. More than 65 have signed up to the Initiative, to strengthen globalisation across the world, develop economies and infrastructure in countries that are struggling, and open world trade. In this essay, I will judge whether the receiving countries have benefited from China’s Belt and Road Initiative economically and socially. I will look at the projects that have happened in the country, how successful they were and how much debt the country has to China. I will also conclude whether countries have benefited from the Belt and Road Initiative. 

In 2010, China had partially moved out of the manufacturing sector, so it experienced a growth decline. So, the Government thought that investing in other countries could create a lot of money because if the country grows very quickly and pays back loans and interest to China, China could earn a lot of money. However, many critics of the BRI state that China is using the BRI to increase leverage over LICs countries and making them depend on China for their development, leading to China becoming the next global superpower. 

Sri Lanka is one of the countries that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Hambantota Port, a maritime port, was built by China Harbour Engineering Company and with Chinese loans. It was built because more than 23,000 ships pass Hambantota (a district in Sri Lanka), so it would be a good location to load, dock and refuel ships, and would hopefully generate a lot of money. As the port incurred heavy losses, making debt repayment difficult, in 2016 the newly-elected government, led by Ranil Wickremesinghe, decided to privatise an 80% stake of the port and give it to China Merchants Port Holdings Co. for $1.1 billion on a 99-year lease, to raise foreign exchange. The port was built by Chinese people and the shipping workers who work there are mainly Chinese people. The Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport is another example of an infrastructure project that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative. Although Sri Lanka was able to pay for the airport, it had a low number of flights, so it has been dubbed as ‘The World’s Emptiest Airport.’ In addition to this, China has built many factories, highways and power plants in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has not been able to pay back for all of these. As of 2020, there is still an ongoing project called Colombo International Financial Centre better known as Port City Colombo, which will be an environmentally sustainable SEZ (Special Economic Zone), costing $15 billion and is what the Sri Lankan Government believes will generate enough money to pay off all Sri Lanka’s debt and attract top international investors. Most of the construction workers that are working on this project are Chinese but China promises that the SEZ (Special Economic Zone) will create 80,000 new jobs when completed for Sri Lankans. In Sri Lanka, the economic gains from the BRI are less obvious since most of the projects have been given back to China or have not received their full potential; they can be described as a ‘white elephant,’ which means a non-valuable object which its owner cannot easily dispose of. Additionally, social gains are also not obvious because most of the people building the infrastructure in Sri Lanka are Chinese and they also dominate the number of people who work in these projects after construction (shipping workers etc.). Therefore, the BRI has not been beneficial in Sri Lanka. 

Maldives is also one of the countries that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Under the Presidency of Abdullah Yameen, Maldives undertook many China-funded projects. This includes the expansion of their only airport, the construction of several resorts and the construction of the China Maldives Friendship Bridge, which is a bridge that interconnects the island of the capital of Maldives, Malé with the island in which Velana International Airport (Maldives’s only airport) is located. This bridge brought economic and social benefits to the Maldives. Before the bridge was constructed, travellers would have to travel by boat to reach the capital. This bridge allowed taxi drivers in Malé to pick up fares from Velana International Airport. Also, the building of several resorts has created jobs for the locals in the Maldives. In 2018, Maldives owed $600m directly to China (which they have borrowed for housing, the expansion of the airport and the construction of bridges) and was liable for another $935m of guaranteed loans (which they have borrowed for power infrastructure, building resorts and road infrastructure). Altogether, debt to China amounted to one-third of their GDP in 2019. This shows that the Maldives has not benefited economically. Socially, jobs have been created from resorts built by China and taxi drivers have been able to earn more because they can now pick up fares from Velana Airport. Consequently, the BRI has been quite beneficial to the Maldives. 

Pakistan is another country that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In 2013, CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) was introduced by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to further enhance connectivity between the two countries. China and Pakistan are such good friends that during Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan, he stated ‘This will be my first trip to Pakistan, but I feel as if I am going to visit the home of my brother.’ CPEC projects that have already built and that are still being built include several hydropower projects, a railway linking the cities of Karachi and Peshawar, a freight railway linking Kunming and Karachi, Gwadar Port, Gwadar Port City (which includes a coal plant and hospital) and Gwadar International Airport. Most of the people who are building these projects are Chinese workers. $17 billion was owed to China by Pakistan by 2020 (6.25% of GDP that year). In Gwadar, China’s promises of better infrastructure and job creation have not materialised. Most of the people who work in Gwadar Port are Chinese and most Pakistanis living in Gwadar fear that once the Gwadar Port project is finished, they won’t be able to work there, because they think that Chinese workers will be brought to work there. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has raised the expatriate population, which has grown from 20,000 in 2013 to 60,000 in 2018. Also, the Pakistanis in Gwadar cannot continue fishing (the main economic activity in Gwadar) because land reclamation cuts their access to the sea. In 2020, China built a joint naval and air force base in Pakistan. Economic benefits are not apparent because Pakistan has huge sums of debt to China. Furthermore, social gains are less obvious because the people of Gwadar cannot continue their jobs of fishing due to land reclamation for Gwadar Port and they fear that the jobs created by CPEC will be taken by the Chinese expatriate population entering the country. Therefore, the BRI has not benefited Pakistan. 

Kazakhstan is another country that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With the help of China, Kazakhstan has built a multimillion-dollar land port, special economic zone and town with the help of China. All of this was built near the most landlocked, remote place on Earth called the Eurasian Point of Inaccessibility. Kazakhstan and China chose this area to lure manufacturers to the area that might want to take advantage of an overland shipping route to Europe, establishing Kazakhstan as a logistics and manufacturing hub. The infrastructure projects that China has built in Kazakhstan are on the border between the two countries, next to the Xinjiang Province in China. The land port (Khorgos Land Port) is the largest land port in the world. Once the port was built it didn’t attract many clients. Recently, there has been a steady increase, due to heavy subsidies given by the Chinese Government to companies that use the route. Additionally, less cargo has come back from Europe due to the trade imbalance. Looking at how ambitious the Kazakhstan and Chinese Governments were about the project, their predictions have been very higher than reality. Khorgos Land Port had 160,000 TEU of cargo going through the port in 2019. To put that into perspective, Shanghai, the world’s busiest port, had 43.3 million TEU of cargo going through the port in 2019. That is roughly 270 times Khorgos’s amount. Economic gains in Kazakhstan are quite clear because there has been an increase in clients using the Khorgos port. Consequently, the BRI has been quite beneficial to Kazakhstan. 

UK is one of the countries that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Yiwu-London freight train was launched in January 2017. As of 2018, the network had expanded to cover 48 Chinese cities and 42 European destinations, delivering goods between China and Europe. This railway line has not only boosted China – UK trade but has also increased China-Europe. Figures show that nearly 3000 trains between January and April 2020, carrying roughly 262,000 TEU. Economic gains in the UK are very clear due to the increase in trade from the BRI. Therefore, the BRI has benefited the UK. 

Djibouti is another country that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Data shows that in 2020, Djibouti’s debt to China accounted for more than 70% of its GDP. China has constructed two airports in Djibouti, extended Doraleh Port and built a naval base. There have been concerns that China will turn many of the ports constructed across the Indian Ocean into naval bases, to increase its military presence across the world and control the Indian Ocean shipping route. Economic gains in Djibouti are less obvious since debt to China accounts for more than 70% of their GDP. And although Djibouti’s Government agreed to build a naval base for China, this may begin a “String of Pearls” and will affect other countries across the Indian Ocean. Consequently, the BRI has not benefited Djibouti. 

In conclusion, receiving countries have not benefited from the BRI. Many countries have had to sell back projects to China or are in large debt to them. China is using what is referred to as debt-trap diplomacy (where a powerful lending country brings a borrowing country into a debt-trap and increases its leverage over it) to try and become the global superpower. Furthermore, China believes that by creating a network of dependencies across Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America, China will be able to have more influence around the globe (This is known as Infrastructure Imperialism or Infrastructure Diplomacy). The String of Pearls theory, which predicts that China is trying to establish a string of naval bases in the Indian Ocean that will allow it to station ships and guard shipping routes that move through the region (the Indian Ocean is the home to one of the largest shipping routes in the world that interconnect Africa and the Middle East with South East Asia), is likely to become true. 

Arts & Humanities Geography Independent Learning Assignment

The New Cold War – Rising Tensions in the Arctic Circle

This essay was written by upper-sixth former Cameron Philp, and a finalist for the 2020 Independent Learning Assignment. The following provides a short abstract to the full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: 1 minute
Estimated read time of essay: 45 minutes

Unlike the Antarctic and many other parts of the world, the Arctic is a region of unclear territories, rapid change and emerging economic and strategic importance. The Arctic Circle is the northernmost line of latitude on the globe and consists of a deep ocean covered by a drifting expanse of frozen seawater. This ice cap is the major feature of the area and it expands in winter as the sea freezes and reduces in size in the summer as the ice melts. Iceland, Denmark (through Greenland), Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Canada and the United States are the eight ‘Arctic States’ that are located within the Arctic Circle. Approximately 4 million people live and work in the Arctic.

The extent of the Arctic ice cap has been decreasing significantly in the past few decades due to increasing average global temperatures. This rise in average temperature of the Earth’s climate is known as global warming and the Arctic is warming at a rate of almost twice the global average. Global warming is caused by many factors including the release of heat-trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels in power stations, that leads to a greater ‘greenhouse effect’. The ‘greenhouse effect’ is the warming that happens when certain gases in the atmosphere let light in and out but trap heat. Since the Industrial Revolution, the actions of humankind have had an increasingly damaging impact on the planet’s natural environment through an enhanced greenhouse effect. This has led the Arctic ice sheet to melt significantly and continues to at a terrifying rate due to increasing average temperatures. The last three winters in the Arctic have been 6ºC warmer than the average for the region and between 1982 and 2012, Arctic sea ice coverage decreased by over 40% from 8.3 to 4.7 million square kilometres. At the current receding rate, an ice-free Arctic is very likely in the next century and ice-free summers within the next few decades. This has many negative consequences. However, the decreasing ice coverage has meant resources previously inaccessible or too expensive to access are becoming available and commercially viable for exploitation.

To view Cameron’s full article, follow this link below.

FTRP Performing Arts

Tonally Confused

This essay was written by lower-sixth former Ronan Lenane, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. The following provides a short abstract to the full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: 1 minute
Estimated read time of essay: 45-60 minutes

In this piece I wrote a 60-minute comedy TV pilot for the Fifth Form Independent Research Project. 

The pilot is written in the style of an anthology, following four central characters whos paths all cross by the end of episode one, after a series of bizarre and interconnected events. The pilot takes cues from shows like ‘Between two ferns’, ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’ and ‘What We Do in the Shadows’. 

As part of my preparation for this project, I read books on screenwriting and listened to interviews with accomplished screenwriters such as Aaron Sorkin. In addition to this, I investigated classical approaches to drama- such as Aristotle’s Poetics. My research for the content of each section of the pilot consisted largely of watching movies and TV that were thematically or tonally similar to the scenes I was writing. For example, for the Noire section I rewatched films like Chinatown and Sunset Boulevard, taking note of the genre conventions and key stylistic effects in order to imitate them.  

I wrote this Pilot due to a personal interest in creative writing, specifically for Film and TV, and thought it would be an interesting challenge to attempt during quarantine. 

To view Ronan’s full script and documentation of process, follow this links below.