At the age of 18, Milestone Institute’s Junior Gergely Bérces has already made his mark at Cambridge University: in the course of only a couple of months, he won two of Trinity College’s most prestigious essay prizes – in one of the cases being the first contestant to do so from outside the UK.

Trinity College, Cambridge University

For the first time in its history, the prestigious R. A. Butler Prize for essays in Politics and International Studies – awarded by Cambridge University’s Trinity College – did not go to a British student, but to a Hungarian.

“This was the second prize I won this year; the first was the International Division (for non-UK contestants) of Trinity College’s Robert Walker Prize for Essays in Law. I could have written my essay on the same topic (social media regulation) for the Butler Prize, too, but it would have been so cheap…” Gergő explains, who finally examined and answered the question “Is war an Inevitable Feature of Modern Politics?” in his work. “There’s no separate international division for the Butler, but I had a feeling that I would achieve some good result. I wasn’t sure I’d come in first, though.” – Gergő says so calmly and naturally, as if it were the most self-evident thing to be among the best essay writers in a Cambridge competition.

As a matter of fact, winning the Butler Prize is everything but easy: “There were 168 entries this year, and only 19 were from students at schools outside the UK” – Dr Glen Rangwala, Lecturer of Cambridge University’s Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) explains. Dr Rangwala, who was on the Prize Committee, was truly impressed by Gergő’s work: “It’s evident from the essay that Gergely reads and thinks deeply. He manages to take a familiar theme – why war continues to exist in the world today – and bring an innovative perspective to bear upon it. Just as impressively, his writing is clear, eloquent and persuasive.”

Gergő Bérces at Milestone Institute

Gergő’s mentor, Milestone’s Director of Academic Studies György Greskovits was mainly concerned with how the argument of the essay could be moved towards ‘war’ as a unit in political discourse. “It is here that Gergő’s talents were really revealed as he cut his way through really advanced thought, which often troubles graduates students, from Ernesto Laclau to Carl Schmitt or Giorgio Agamben” – Greskovits says – “The text features very mature insights as to how the notion of war is employed to develop political cleavages and identities, a notion that is core to our understanding of the current political environment.”

The depth of the essay was also emphasised by Head of Department at POLIS, Prize Committee member Professor David Runciman in his commendation: “This is a highly knowledgeable and ambitious essay, fluently and precisely written throughout. …This is an excellent piece of work, one that shows the highest level of aptitude for the study of politics.”

At the moment, Gergő is not sure in what field he would like to continue his studies, but he has narrowed his choices down to three: law, economics, or politics. He is sure, however, that he would choose either Oxford or Cambridge. “Cambridge looked really lovely this Summer, when I visited for the Robert Walker Prize’s award ceremony, but at the Butler’s ceremony in Autumn it was a little dismal” – Gergő speculates – “It’s unfortunate that Oxford doesn’t have such competition, there I haven’t been yet”.

You can read Gergő Bérces’ award-winning essay HERE