The Marshall Society, the economics society of the University of Cambridge, is excited to launch its 2020 essay competition. This is an opportunity for all students currently working towards A-levels, the IB or equivalent qualifications to demonstrate their ability to write a convincing and well-structured essay. Emphasis should be placed on sound explanation of economic theory and well-reasoned arguments, drawing on relevant real-world evidence. Entrants are advised to make their essays as concise as the topic allows: the guideline is 1500 words.

Feel free to either produce your own title or use one of the suggested titles below:

  1. Since World War Two, countries have reduced trade barriers and have tended to move towards free trade. Should the world follow a similar path with respect to immigration and open all borders?
  2. Is it in the United States’ interest to isolate and sanction the Chinese economy, or should it continue its previous policy of greater co-operation and trade?
  3. Climate change is widely considered to be greatest threat facing the human race in the modern era. However, the economic costs of tackling it are significant, with lost growth contributing to greater poverty and potentially human mortality, particularly in the developing world. With these costs in mind, discuss whether it is worth taking drastic global action to stop climate change.
  4. A command economy can never be successful at allocating scarce resources. Discuss.
  5. In a time of crisis and shortage should essentials, such as toilet paper, be subject to price controls to prevent price gouging?
  6. ‘It occurred to me one day that Sparta, though among the most thinly populated of states, was evidently the most powerful and most celebrated city in Greece; and I fell to wondering how this could have happened. But when I considered the institutions of the Spartans, I wondered no longer’ – Xenophon in Constitution of the Lacedaemonians
    Pick one event, period, or country in history and argue whether its institutions can account for its success or failure in promoting economic development.

Pick one event, period, or country in history and argue whether its institutions can account for its success or failure in promoting economic development.

All essays will be judged impartially, irrespective of whether students use their own title or a suggested title.

Entries should be submitted via email attachment to (please ensure that it is attached as either a Microsoft Word or PDF file, and is titled in the format ‘Last Name, First Name’). The email should contain your full name, school, date of birth and a declaration of any assistance you received from teachers or tutors.

The deadline for essay submissions is 11:59pm 1st September 2020.

The essays will be judged individually and the shortlist, runners up, and winner will be announced in September. Prizes TBA.

In addition to this, a selection of the best essays will be published in the 2020-2021 edition of the Marshall Society’s magazine, The Dismal Scientist. If you have any queries regarding the competition, please contact the magazine editor at

Please also observe that by entering you agree to the terms and conditions listed below:

  1. Your submitted essay must be your work alone and any assistance given to you whilst writing your essay must be declared in your email.
  2. You cannot make any revisions to your essay once it has been submitted.
  3. Only students who have not started an undergraduate degree can enter. Please note that you do not have to be studying in the UK to enter.
  4. Any personal data relating to entrants will be used solely for the purpose of this competition and will not be disclosed to any third parties for any purpose without prior consent.
  5. The essay that is entered may not be entered into any other competition.
  6. The winner, runners up and those with shortlisted essays will be contacted via the email used to submit the essay. Unfortunately, any other feedback will not be possible to any of the entrants.
  7. The Marshall Society reserves the final right, where necessary, to make amendments to the above terms and conditions and to select the winners of the competition.