Foundation for the History of Totalitarianism

Essay competition:
Jung Chang and the Cultural revolution

Open for registrations

The Cultural Revolution was one of the most extraordinary events in world history. Chairman Mao Zedong initiated a purge of all those who he claimed were slipping away from communist ideals and behaviour. Children were divided into Reds and Blacks. The Reds were children of peasants, workers or Communist Party officials. The Blacks were the children of middle-class parents, richer farmers or former supporters of the Kuomintang. Red children were encouraged to hate and humiliate Black children.

Jung Chang and her family were deeply caught up in this extraordinary period of turmoil and conflict. The chapters in Wild Swans on this are compelling.

Please note that this essay prize is different from some others. There is no question as such. Essays should include a description of the experiences of Jung Chang and her family. It should also include an account of the Cultural Revolution – how it started, how it progressed and the results. In addition, we hope for your comments or observations about what happened and why. A short list of tips for writing the sort of essay we want is here.

There is no requirement to reference sources but we recommend that you add five to ten endnotes particularly if you refer to a little-known fact or a controversial line of argument.

Essays should be 1,800 to 2,000 words.

UK prize

First prize: £1,500.
Second prize: £600.
Third prize: £400.
Highly commended: £100.

The top prizes will be divided equally between the student and the school. Four to six essays will be highly commended and all the money will go to the students. Another five to seven entries will be commended and receive a certificate.

The essay competition would suit students who want to improve their personal statements in their UCAS forms. The prize is open to students who will be in year 12 or year 13 in the academic year 2024-25. They must be resident in the United Kingdom.

International prize

Students resident outside the UK are eligible for the international prize. The best essay will receive a prize of £200. Other overseas essays may be highly commended or commended according to merit.

Deadline and awards ceremony

The deadline for entries is noon on Sunday January 26, 2025. Each candidate must only submit one entry but there is no limit to the number of entries from any school. There is no fee to enter. See more terms and conditions.

The prizes will be awarded by Jung Chang herself in a ceremony at a prestigious central London location.

Any queries should be emailed to

Please register interest by clicking this button. This does not oblige you to do the essay but will mean you receive updates with useful information such as sources and tips on essay writing.

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