This week, we welcomed respected historian and journalist Giles Udy to Trinity to give a cross-humanities lecture on the Soviet gulag system. Sixth Form students studying History, Politics, English and Religious Studies listened to Giles speak about the prison camp network established by the communist regime which killed millions and inspired the Nazis.
Giles writes and speaks on the gulag as a warning from history about the dangers of political violence and extremism. He has made a long-term study of the history of the gulag camps of Norilsk in the far north of Siberia and his collection of photographs of the camps are in the Hoover Institution Archives.
Students found the talk engaging and thought-provoking and were struck by how little is known about the Soviet gulag system.
Sixth Form student Alfie Edwards (pictured with Giles Udy) commented, “I think I’d describe the lecture as a both fascinating and chilling insight into the importance of looking at history and the atrocities that humans are capable of. Failure to talk openly about past evils will only result in their repetition, or worse, as Mr Udy showed to be the case in modern Russia, their glorification.”
Sixth Form student Amy Clarke (also pictured with Giles Udy in purple) studies English, Religious Studies and History A Levels and said, “The lecture was extremely fascinating and particularly relevant to all three of my A Level subjects. For me, the lecture vividly highlighted the parallels between our historical narrative and the narrative of dystopian novels. People within communities disappeared to Gulags causing an atmosphere of suspicion and terror. This destroyed human connection, as citizens would reinforce the totalitarian regime by informing on those they suspected to be enemies. What shocked me the most was the quotas that the governments had to fill, emphasising the sheer disregard for human life and the dehumanising nature of these regimes. The lecture has made me consider how much we can trust the historical narrative we are taught, and it has made me not take everything at face value.”
Giles is an historian and a journalist. He is a regular contributor to The Times, The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the i, UnHerd and Standpoint magazine. Giles’s 2017 book, Labour and the Gulag examines the British Labour Party’s cover up of conditions under Stalinism and he is currently working on a study of the revolutionary theories of Marx, Engles, Lenin and Trotsky.
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