Tuesday, June 2, 2020

JOEL KAI-EN HOE

29 May 2020
SINGAPORE
Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,

I am incredibly overjoyed at this piece of wonderful news! To date, getting published in The Concord Review and receiving the Emerson Prize is undeniably one of my proudest achievements, and it goes without saying that I feel extremely honored and humbled to have my work published alongside a host of other brilliant pieces of historical writing. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you and The Concord Review for your efforts in championing the noble cause of bringing back serious historical research writing at the high school level. Throughout my 5 years of history education in the Singapore education system (based on the Cambridge A levels), the most extensive historical writing assignment I worked on was only approximately 2,000 words long— arguably inadequate to cover any historical topic in great detail. In contrast, my independent research paper of more than 20,000 words, was unlike any project I have ever embarked on, both in scope and depth of research. I believe that it is only through extended historical essays such as those published in the Review that students are successfully able to encapsulate the full nuance and complexity that characterizes the study of history.

Looking back, the process of researching and writing my paper on the Roman military reforms of Augustus was indeed a very enlightening and eye-opening experience for me, as I was able to delve into the intricacies of the Roman military machine that had gone on to carve a extensive empire stretching from Britain to the Middle East. Even more importantly, I am really glad that through the Review’s publication of my paper, I have been able to contribute to the body of knowledge surrounding the Augustan army reforms, which have unfortunately been overshadowed by the earlier Marian reforms, as well as the subsequent structural changes made by the Emperor Claudius. From the outset, my goal was to shed light on this period of great change in the Roman army, to credit the underrepresented yet groundbreaking reforms that were crucial in establishing the Pax Romana; but I also sought to temper any glowing praise of Augustus' reforms by acknowledging some fundamental weaknesses in the system he had created, which precipitated the outbreak of army revolts in various provinces of the empire, as well as the tumultuous period of civil wars in 69 A.D.

During the process of research, I faced a host of obstacles. Most notably, it was a considerable challenge to pinpoint specific dates during which certain structural changes of the Roman military took place, since it was mainly through archaeological evidence and the works of some Roman writers that we glean information about the reforms. Moreover, I was faced with contradictory figures and statistics (say, about the size of the cavalry complement attached to the new legion). This necessitated the painstaking process of cross-referencing across as many sources as I could possibly find, and then settling on a number that was corroborated throughout multiple reliable sources. It is worth mentioning that in the process of researching for my paper, I was also exposed to a rather thorny historiographical debate between two main schools of thought regarding motivations for the far-reaching campaigns of conquest carried out both in the Republic and the early Empire. On the one hand, there was the theory of defensive imperialism, proponents of which postulated that Roman expansion was a reactionary attempt to protect themselves from foreign threats, resulting in the extension of Rome's frontiers to the conveniently defensible borders of the Danube and Rhine rivers. On the other, most contemporary historians argue in favor of the the thesis of aggressive imperialism—the active quest for resources as well as the ideological beliefs in their own superiority over their uncivilized barbarians neighbors. Indeed, when writing my paper and examining the motivations driving Augustus' program of imperial expansion, I struggled (and still struggle) to reconcile the 2 opposing schools of thought.

My point is, writing this paper for The Concord Review gave me a first-hand insight into the everyday life of history researchers and academics, and introduced me to essential research skills that I will undoubtedly put to good use in my subsequent years of tertiary education, as I am planning to pursue further studies in either History or Literature.

Given my strong belief in what The Concord Review is doing to promote academic history writing at the high school level, I have decided to donate my prize money to The Concord Review after discussion with my parents, in order to support the publication of more exemplary history research papers from around the globe! I hope that this will go a long way in allowing more budding historians to realize their potential in research writing and be recognized through the publication of their essays in this wonderful journal. As for the letter, you may send it to my home address. :)

Once again, thank you so much for this humbling recognition of my work, and I am looking forward to your reply!

Best Regards,
Joel Kai-En Hoe
Raffles Institution, Singapore
[Augustan Reforms 30/4]

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