On doing a History EE on Rasputin
Topic: To What Extent Has Rasputin Been a Victim of History
What made you choose to do a History EE?
Well I had a choice between Lit, Econs and History. I wanted to do an ESS EE, but it wouldn’t have been wise. At the time of EE selection, I wasn’t doing well in Lit and had no confidence in the subject to pursue an EE in it. I would have done a study on Nabokov’s Lolita. I was considering doing an Econs EE on the adult store industry in Singapore, but I figured that data collection would be awkward and possibly illegal (and that the school wouldn’t allow me to for moral reasons).
It’s not like I had no other choice – I really liked History and it was always first on my mind. As you may have guessed from the other things floating around in my head at time (Lolita and adult stores) that I wanted to do my EE on a unique, obscure (and slightly dubious) topic. Thus, my top choice was to do a History EE. On Rasputin.
Seriously though, to begin doing an EE, you need to have a passion for the subject, or a topic in mind.
What do you wish you knew before doing a History EE?
Nothing really caught me by surprise because I’d already heard all the horror stories – yes, doing a History EE is the slack student’s nightmare. What did catch me unawares was the lack of sources on Rasputin. Fair enough, my topic was pretty obscure and this isn’t a necessity for History EE students, but the shortage of sources was alarming.
I had to purchase a book specifically on Rasputin (which saved my life) and read it cover to cover. I scoured library books and often found just one line in one book about the enigmatic figure. All in all, over a hundred hours were spent on research, bearing in mind that a variety of sources must be used, including secondary and primary sources.
Any particular difficulties you faced that you’d like to share?
Even though I knew that I wanted to do a historical investigation on Rasputin, I had a tough time deciding on the exact topic to do. Across all EEs, one of the greatest hurdles is choosing a topic. One might think that ‘Rasputin’ as a scope for an EE is narrow enough – couldn’t be more wrong.
I considered so many different topics:
“To what extent was Rasputin the cause of the Russian Revolution?”
“To what extent was Rasputin responsible for Russia’s poor performance in WWI?”
And many more. Eventually I settled on doing a historiographical investigation (basically investigating how Rasputin has been portrayed by historians). Just choosing an appropriate EE topic can take months. Stay in touch with your mentor – that helps a lot.
**Anything particularly enlightening about your experience?
(This varies from mentor to mentor but…)
I had a lot of fun doing my EE. It was dubious – incredibly dubious. I devoted over 1.5 pages of my 18-page EE to analyse the historical representation of Rasputin’s allegedly 11-inch-unerect-genitals (28.5cm for our purposes) (for our female readers, that’s very, very long.)
Turns out that his organ by EYE WITNESS ACCOUNTS was actually of unextraordinary size. That was a pretty amusing analysis – two contradictory historical perspectives. And in ways I won’t expound on here, this analysis was very important to my EE.
What’s enlightening about this? Well if you aren’t enlightened you must be a poor deprived soul. At very least you should be amused.
But in all seriousness, ACS(I) is a place of academic freedom and flexibility. Nowhere else would you be given the green light from a mentor saying that “oh this will surely captivate the marker’s attention”.
And so that was how my EE delved into an investigation on an incredibly dubious historical figure’s penis. Enlightening!
Any regrets, or anything you would have done differently?
Definitely no regrets choosing History as my EE subject. The difficulty is intense – I argue that it’s just as bad as a Biology EE and you’ve really got to put in the effort to stay afloat. But it was worth it.
I should have managed my time a little better, but no real regrets about that. Planning ahead is important and I wish I were a little more aware of the difficulties I’d face above.
As a whole, my EE journey went very smoothly and though it was tiring, it was rewarding and enjoyable, and I learned a lot about what I sought to find out (and a lot of what I didn’t seek to find out *cough penis cough*)
By all means, do a History EE – it’s an enriching experience. But don’t slack off!
Don’t hesitate to contact me, or any senior for advice and whatever EE you choose to do, I wish you all the best on your journey!
Mitchell Leon is from the graduating batch of 2014.