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History essays (page 1), impact of the pax ramana peace treaty.

Example essay. Last modified: 14th Dec 2021

The Pax Romana was a peace treaty that had existed between cities in the roman empire. This paper provides an overview of the pact and the influence it had on shaping the future....

Influence of Ideology on Chinese Civilization

Although imbalances exist between ideologies, some ideologies have a deeper impact than others. Such phenomenon that was created by these ideologies play a very important role in the Chinese civilization....

Eli Whitney: How One Man’s Invention Changed America

Eli Whitney, an American inventor, born on December 8, 1765 in Westborough, Massachusetts, unknowingly invented a simple machine that caused a massive expansion of slavery in the U.S that would arguably play a role in what led to the Civil War....

The History of American Sign Language (ASL)

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet is known as the founder of American Sign Language, even though there are reports of some forms of sign language from the French to some Native Indians....

Causes of the “Fall of The Roman Empire” in the West

A multitude of factors ranging from various political, religious and economic factors contributed to the tumble or fall of the Roman Empire in the West. This paper delves into the main causes and provides an explanation of these factors....

Sojourner Truth and Her Ain't I A Woman Speech

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in New York State around 1797. In 1851, Sojourner Truth attended a Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. She delivered her famous “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech....

Hierarchy of Censorship in 1789-1814 France

This essay will discuss the existence of ‘une censure’ that can be defined as a system of censorship that functioned as a hierarchy, employing fear as the principle method of controlling the publication and circulation of printed material....

Was the Cold War the Result of Soviet and American Aggression, or a Series of Misunderstandings?

The cold war is regarded as one of the greatest proxy wars in the 20th century. The hostel relationship between the newly established powers of the US and USSR that led to the divide between the east and west. But what were the causes?...

To What Extent Were the West of Britain and Ireland ‘Celtic’ in the Early Middle Ages?

Example essay. Last modified: 6th Dec 2021

The Celtic culture influenced place names, art and languages that are still spoken today. This essay will discuss the evidence that shows that both Ireland and Britain were Celtic in the early Middle Ages....

British Colonization of America

Example essay. Last modified: 29th Nov 2021

The year 1607 was quite exceptional for the British because that was when they started to permanently settle in the US. This essay provides an overview of British America....

Retracing the New York Women's Suffrage Party steps from 1909 to 1919

Example essay. Last modified: 16th Nov 2021

This essay will focus particularly on the influence of the Women's Suffrage party in New York City from 1909 to 1919 starting with its creation, its formation, the key member's roles and the overall accomplishments made by the party....

Chinese Essence and Western Instrument

In this article, the author concludes and analyses the reformation process of China in the nineteenth century....

The Reign of Elizabeth I

Example essay. Last modified: 10th Nov 2021

Several decades ago, a distinguished historian of Elizabethan England declared that if Queen Elizabeth had died about fifteen years after taking the throne (the early 1570s), we would today consider her reign to have been a terrible failure....

Masculinity and Race in Victorian Britain

Example essay. Last modified: 9th Nov 2021

British men in the Victorian Britain wanted to create a kind of masculinity which would serve as the embodiment of national values....

The Effects of Irish Immigration on New York City

By strengthening and expanding the Roman Catholic Church, engaging unified political interest, and being active members of labour unions, Irish immigrants made a very notable impact on the culture of New York....

The Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century

The seventeenth-century commencement is famous and called the ...

Factors that Determined the Outcome of the Battle of Britain

This essay will argue that British air defence organisation and the ability to maintain effective forces combined with inadequate German intelligence were the key factors in determining the result of the Battle of Britain....

Impact of Industrialization and Capitalism on Nineteenth Century Germany

A discussion on the impact of industrialization and capitalism on nineteenth-century Germany and how these phenomena shaped the social, economic, and political conditions of daily life....

The Military Machine of the Habsburg Monarchy

The Habsburgs ruled Europe from the early thirteenth century to the twentieth, eight hundred years, that is no small feat. The formation of the Habsburg Dynasty had its origins with the crowning of Rudolf I in Germany in 1273 along with the Duchy of Austria in 1282....

The Preserved Cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum

The lost cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum are extremely significant historical sites, which give a comprehensive understanding into the life of ordinary Romans....

Limitations of Freedom Throughout American History

Example essay. Last modified: 5th Nov 2021

Freedom has clearly had its limitations throughout American history. Since the beginning of American civilization, minorities, such as people of colour, immigrants, and women, have been repressed and stripped of their civil liberties....

American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence

Example essay. Last modified: 2nd Nov 2021

A review of 'American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence' by Pauline Maier. American Scripture is a historical analysis book published in 1997 by Vintage Publishing....

The Black Patch Tobacco War

Example essay. Last modified: 29th Oct 2021

The Black Patch Tobacco War was not a war as you may typically think of one. This was not a war fought between two opposing countries with armies and massive weapons. This was a war between small town farmers and “big business”....

The Rise and Fall of Piracy Between 1650 and 1750

This essay will argue that the eventual downfall of pirates was induced by their simplistic lifestyle and powerlessness against the colonial empires....

History of Luxor and the Karnak Temple

Luxor is a current Egyptian city that lies in an antiquated city that the Greeks named ...

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The Importance of History Essay

Handicappped by history summary.

History, a collection of the past, holds a lot of information about events and society to help inform us in the present as it is the only data

The Magna Carta, English Bill Of Rights, And Philosophers

The importance of our world's history is huge because it teaches us about our past and how we came to be in the world we live in today. History can help you learn about our ancestor’s origins and cultures.

Analysis Of Howard Zinn 's ' The Mind Behind Dozens Of Books '

History can be defined as the study of past events, focused particularly in human affairs. Historians must research and infer to propose educated guesses to correctly document events of the past, which leaves a lot up to personal interpretation of limited facts. People often forget there is not just one sole history of something. Rather, a history of a people is composed of many different individuals living in the same time. Perspective can skew what history becomes. The past does not change, but our interpretations of the past do. More often than not, however, only one perspective is included in the retelling of a historical event.

Analysis Of Keep Memory Alive By Elie Wiesel

To begin with, what is history? The answer to this question varies depending on whom is being inquired. Predominantly, history is regarded as the study of the evolution of ideas or events in chronological order. History is frequently applied to study topics such as economics, culture, politics and society. However, it can also be utilized to clarify alternative topics such as science, ideology, technology and more. The challenging aspect of history is to obtain documents and sources that are not biased or are coherent enough to trust.

The importance of our world's history is huge, because it teaches us about our past and how we came to be in the world we live in today. History can help you learn about our ancestor’s origins and cultures.

Hist 415 Week 1 Homework Essay

Why is history important? It is both necessary and helpful to the study the context of prior history because it reveals who we are in relation to other people, cultures, and countries. History influences the way people can process information viewed from other races, and cultures, and even speak, “The old saying is, if we don’t know where we came from then we don’t know where we are going.” By studying history we can take what others’ have done and build on it.

King Leopolds Ghost Analysis

Adam Hochschild’s “King Leopold’s Ghost” is an account of a man’s rise of power who was very cruel and did unimaginable things. When I began reading, I wasn’t sure where the novel was going, but I soon caught on to what Hochschild was revealing. As the story begins to unfold he tells a story of King Leopold II of Belgium who managed to seize land next to the Congo River in Africa. King Leopold used political manipulation and lies to get what he wanted. King Leopold had everyone fooled that he was a humanitarian and he was in the Congo for the greater good, but that was not the case. He claimed that civilizing the Congo would keep out “Arab slave- traders” to gain support of people, but Leopold wanted something else. Leopold was very

King Leopold's Ghost Essay

1909, over one hundred years ago, was the death of King Leopold of Belgium the sole owner of the Congo. Even years after he has left this earth and is no longer in the reign, the long-lasting effects he has had on the people and the land has forever changed the Congo. The memories left behind from the atrocities that occurred and the diminished resources due to extreme exploitation has prompted the author Adam Hochschild to write the novel, King Leopold’s Ghost. Using an Afrocentric point of view Hochschild describes how the events that took place under Leopold’s orders were acts of true terror and inhumanity.

Black History & Religion

History is the study of the human past. The past has left many traditions, folk tales, and works of art, archaeological objects, and books and written records of our accomplishments. Historians have been recording the events of history since the Phoenicians in Africa invented the first alphabet.

How Does Howard Zinn Relate To Change The Way Of History

History is a look into the past, showing how the world used to be compared to how the world is now. History is the structure we live by. It is how we came to be. Without history we would not know any of the important details about the past. For example, it is important to know why certain events happened. The different movements that caused the world to change and work the way it works today. History has a way to be very helpful. Knowing where we came from in this world and how we got to this point and time in our lives. Learning about what has happened in the past can also teach what not to do, so we do not repeat it.

The Columbian Exchange: The Relevance Of History In My Life

“I don’t understand why I have to take this class. All that old history stuff has no relevance to my life, and it is a waste of time to fool with it. My life today is more important than the lives of all those dead and boring people.” This remark is said more frequently than we realize. History is a combination of events that created our present and future today. The past it what simply gives our present it’s value. Another way to look at history is it can be compared to our ancestry line. Without our ancestors we wouldn’t have the make-up of genes that we do today. For example, the Columbian exchange is one of the events in history that has really impacted our world. Not only did one change come from the event but a variety including food, plants, animals, goods and knowledge. History also exposes knowledge to us. It is the resource that allows us to better our lives and expand our knowledge. Believe it or not, our life we peruse everyday consist of history. Including languages, we inherited, religions that weren’t just created on the spot, technologies that have been upgraded in the past years, and the clothing we decided to put on our backs everyday that has evolved from different materials to different fittings. The world has evolved in many ways in the past and it continues to evolve.

History In Tim O Brien's The Things They Carried

“History is the study of any past or present happening or events for which there is physical, written or oral evidence available to substantiate the happenings or events. Some students of history have difficulty with their motivation for the subject because they cannot identify with the personal value of history” (A Guide to Critical Thinking in the Social Studies 1). Clearly, there are many approaches to the study of an era or theme, but those most frequently relied upon in all levels of education are those which seek to present facts, documented from a wide number of sources, primary and secondary, as objectively as possible, a practice which detaches students from their studies and seemingly takes the “story” out of history. Relying upon

Critical Analysis Of E. H. Carr

What is History? This is the question posed by historian E.H. Carr in his study of historiography. Carr debates the ongoing argument which historians have challenged for years, on the possibility that history could be neutral. In his book he discusses the link between historical facts and the historians themselves. Carr argues that history cannot be objective or unbiased, as for it to become history, knowledge of the past has been processed by the historian through interpretation and evaluation. He argues that it is the necessary interpretations which mean personal biases whether intentional or not, define what we see as history. A main point of the chapter is that historians select the facts they think are significant which ultimately

Reflection Of History : The History Of My Family

History is defined as the study of the science of humanity in the past. It's a broad subject that spans over countless people groups throughout the years that the world has been around. Even before the times we have written word history was still being made, and it is still extremely important. We tend to forget that in our average day to day lives we are still making history. That all over the globe everyone is taking part in what might be in a history book someday.

Defining History Essay

In the document, "Indians: Textualism, Morality, and The Problem of History," Jane Tompkins examines the conflicts between the English settlers and the American Indians. After examining several primary sources, Tompkins found that different history books have different perspectives. It wasn’t that the history books took different angles that was troubling, but the viewpoints contradicted one another. People who experience the same event told it through their reality. This becomes a problem when a person who didn’t experience the effect wants to know what happened. Tompkins said, "The problem id that if all accounts of events are determined through and through by the observer’s frame of reference, that one will never know,

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Writing a history essay.

history essay

An essay is a piece of sustained writing in response to a question, topic or issue. Essays are commonly used for assessing and evaluating student progress in history. History essays test a range of skills including historical understanding, interpretation and analysis, planning, research and writing.

To write an effective essay, students should examine the question, understand its focus and requirements, acquire information and evidence through research, then construct a clear and well-organised response.

Writing a good history essay should be rigorous and challenging, even for stronger students. As with other skills, essay writing develops and improves over time. Each essay you complete helps you become more competent and confident in exercising these skills.

Study the question

This is an obvious tip but one sadly neglected by some students. The first step to writing a good essay, whatever the subject or topic, is to give plenty of thought to the question.

An essay question will set some kind of task or challenge. It might ask you to explain the causes and/or effects of a particular event or situation. It might ask if you agree or disagree with a statement. It might ask you to describe and analyse the causes and/or effects of a particular action or event. Or it might ask you to evaluate the relative significance of a person, group or event.

You should begin by reading the essay question several times. Underline, highlight or annotate keywords or terms in the text of the question. Think about what it requires you to do. Who or what does it want you to concentrate on? Does it state or imply a particular timeframe? What problem or issue does it want you to address?

Begin with a plan

Every essay should begin with a written plan. Start constructing a plan as soon as you have received your essay question and given it some thought.

Prepare for research by brainstorming and jotting down your thoughts and ideas. What are your initial responses or thoughts about the question? What topics, events, people or issues are connected with the question? Do any additional questions or issues flow from the question? What topics or events do you need to learn more about? What historians or sources might be useful?

If you encounter a mental ‘brick wall’ or are uncertain about how to approach the question, don’t hesitate to discuss it with someone else. Consult your teacher, a capable classmate or someone you trust. Bear in mind too that once you start researching, your plan may change as you locate new information.

Start researching

After studying the question and developing an initial plan, start to gather information and evidence.

Most will start by reading an overview of the topic or issue, usually in some reliable secondary sources. This will refresh or build your existing understanding of the topic and provide a basis for further questions or investigation.

Your research should take shape from here, guided by the essay question and your own planning. Identify terms or concepts you do not know and find out what they mean. As you locate information, ask yourself if it is relevant or useful for addressing the question. Be creative with your research , looking in a variety of places.

If you have difficulty locating information, seek advice from your teacher or someone you trust.

Develop a contention

All good history essays have a clear and strong contention. A contention is the main idea or argument of your essay. It serves both as an answer to the question and the focal point of your writing.

Ideally, you should be able to express your contention as a single sentence. For example, the following contention might form the basis of an essay question on the rise of the Nazis:

Q. Why did the Nazi Party win 37 per cent of the vote in July 1932? A. The Nazi Party’s electoral success of 1932 was a result of economic suffering caused by the Great Depression, public dissatisfaction with the Weimar Republic’s democratic political system and mainstream parties, and Nazi propaganda that promised a return to traditional social, political and economic values.

An essay using this contention would then go on to explain and justify these statements in greater detail. It will also support the contention with argument and evidence.

At some point in your research, you should begin thinking about a contention for your essay. Remember, you should be able to express it briefly as if addressing the essay question in a single sentence, or summing up in a debate.

Try to frame your contention so that is strong, authoritative and convincing. It should sound like the voice of someone well informed about the subject and confident about their answer.

Plan an essay structure

history essay outline

Once most of your research is complete and you have a strong contention, start jotting down a possible essay structure. This need not be complicated, a few lines or dot points is ample.

Every essay must have an introduction, a body of several paragraphs and a conclusion. Your paragraphs should be well organised and follow a logical sequence.

You can organise paragraphs in two ways: chronologically (covering events or topics in the order they occurred) or thematically (covering events or topics based on their relevance or significance). Every paragraph should be clearly signposted in the topic sentence. 

Once you have finalised a plan for your essay, commence your draft.

Write a compelling introduction

Many consider the introduction to be the most important part of an essay. It is important for several reasons. It is the reader’s first experience of your essay. It is where you first address the question and express your contention. It is also where you lay out or ‘signpost’ the direction your essay will take.

Aim for an introduction that is clear, confident and punchy. Get straight to the point – do not waste time with a rambling or storytelling introduction.

Start by providing a little context, then address the question, articulate your contention and indicate what direction your essay will take.

Write fully formed paragraphs

Many history students fall into the trap of writing short paragraphs, sometimes containing as little as one or two sentences. A good history essay contains paragraphs that are themselves ‘mini-essays’, usually between 100-200 words each.

A paragraph should focus on one topic or issue only – but it should contain a thorough exploration of that topic or issue.

A good paragraph will begin with an effective opening sentence, sometimes called a topic sentence or signposting sentence. This sentence introduces the paragraph topic and briefly explains its significance to the question and your contention. Good paragraphs also contain thorough explanations, some analysis and evidence, and perhaps a quotation or two.

Finish with an effective conclusion

The conclusion is the final paragraph of your essay. A good conclusion should do two things. First, it should reiterate or restate the contention of your essay. Second, it should close off your essay, ideally with a polished ending that is not abrupt or awkward.

One effective way to do this is with a brief summary of ‘what happened next’. For example, an essay discussing Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 might close with a couple of sentences about how he consolidated and strengthened his power in 1934-35.

Your conclusion need not be as long or as developed as your body paragraphs. You should avoid introducing new information or evidence in the conclusion.

Reference and cite your sources

A history essay is only likely to succeed if it is appropriately referenced. Your essay should support its information, ideas and arguments with citations or references to reliable sources.

Referencing not only acknowledges the work of others, but it also gives authority to your writing and provides the teacher or assessor with an insight into your research. More information on referencing a piece of history writing can be found here .

Proofread, edit and seek feedback

Every essay should be proofread, edited and, if necessary, re-drafted before being submitted for assessment. Essays should ideally be completed a few days before their due date, then put aside for a day or two before proofreading.

When proofreading, look first for spelling and grammatical errors, typographical mistakes, incorrect dates or other errors of fact.

Think then about how you can improve the clarity, tone and structure of your essay. Does your essay follow a logical structure or sequence? Is the signposting in your essay clear and effective? Are some sentences too long or ‘rambling’? Do you repeat yourself? Do paragraphs need to be expanded, fine-tuned or strengthened with more evidence? 

Read your essay aloud, either to yourself or another person. Seek feedback and advice from a good writer or someone you trust (they need not have expertise in history, only in effective writing).

More history essay tips

You may also find our page on writing for history to be useful.

Citation information Title: “Writing a history essay” Authors: Jennifer Llewellyn , Steve Thompson Publisher: Alpha History URL: Date published: April 13, 2019 Date updated: December 20, 2022 Date accessed: February 09, 2023 Copyright: The content on this page may not be republished without our express permission. For more information on usage, please refer to our Terms of Use .

How to Write a History Essay, According to a History Professor

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

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essay of history

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In nearly every history class, you'll need to write an essay . But what if you've never written a history paper? Or what if you're a history major who struggles with essay questions?

I've written over 100 history papers between my undergraduate education and grad school — and I've graded more than 1,500 history essays, supervised over 100 capstone research papers, and sat on more than 10 graduate thesis committees. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

Here's my best advice on how to write a history paper.

How to Write a History Essay in 6 Simple Steps

You have the prompt or assignment ready to go, but you're stuck thinking, "How do I start a history essay?" Before you start typing, take a few steps to make the process easier.

Whether you're writing a three-page source analysis or a 15-page research paper , understanding how to start a history essay can set you up for success.

Step 1: Understand the History Paper Format

You may be assigned one of several types of history papers. The most common are persuasive essays and research papers. History professors might also ask you to write an analytical paper focused on a particular source or an essay that reviews secondary sources.

Spend some time reading the assignment. If it's unclear what type of history paper format your professor wants, ask.

Regardless of the type of paper you're writing, it will need an argument. A strong argument can save a mediocre paper — and a weak argument can harm an otherwise solid paper.

Your paper will also need an introduction that sets up the topic and argument, body paragraphs that present your evidence, and a conclusion .

Step 2: Choose a History Paper Topic

If you're lucky, the professor will give you a list of history paper topics for your essay. If not, you'll need to come up with your own.

What's the best way to choose a topic? Start by asking your professor for recommendations. They'll have the best ideas, and doing this can save you a lot of time.

Alternatively, start with your sources. Most history papers require a solid group of primary sources. Decide which sources you want to use and craft a topic around the sources.

Finally, consider starting with a debate. Is there a pressing question your paper can address?

Before continuing, run your topic by your professor for feedback. Most students either choose a topic so broad it could be a doctoral dissertation or so narrow it won't hit the page limit. Your professor can help you craft a focused, successful topic. This step can also save you a ton of time later on.

Step 3: Write Your History Essay Outline

It's time to start writing, right? Not yet. You'll want to create a history essay outline before you jump into the first draft.

You might have learned how to outline an essay back in high school. If that format works for you, use it. I found it easier to draft outlines based on the primary source quotations I planned to incorporate in my paper. As a result, my outlines looked more like a list of quotes, organized roughly into sections.

As you work on your outline, think about your argument. You don't need your finished argument yet — that might wait until revisions. But consider your perspective on the sources and topic.

Jot down general thoughts about the topic, and formulate a central question your paper will answer. This planning step can also help to ensure you aren't leaving out key material.

Step 4: Start Your Rough Draft

It's finally time to start drafting! Some students prefer starting with the body paragraphs of their essay, while others like writing the introduction first. Find what works best for you.

Use your outline to incorporate quotes into the body paragraphs, and make sure you analyze the quotes as well.

When drafting, think of your history essay as a lawyer would a case: The introduction is your opening statement, the body paragraphs are your evidence, and the conclusion is your closing statement.

When writing a conclusion for a history essay, make sure to tie the evidence back to your central argument, or thesis statement .

Don't stress too much about finding the perfect words for your first draft — you'll have time later to polish it during revisions. Some people call this draft the "sloppy copy."

Step 5: Revise, Revise, Revise

Once you have a first draft, begin working on the second draft. Revising your paper will make it much stronger and more engaging to read.

During revisions, look for any errors or incomplete sentences. Track down missing footnotes, and pay attention to your argument and evidence. This is the time to make sure all your body paragraphs have topic sentences and that your paper meets the requirements of the assignment.

If you have time, take a day off from the paper and come back to it with fresh eyes. Then, keep revising.

Step 6: Spend Extra Time on the Introduction

No matter the length of your paper, one paragraph will determine your final grade: the introduction.

The intro sets up the scope of your paper, the central question you'll answer, your approach, and your argument.

In a short paper, the intro might only be a single paragraph. In a longer paper, it's usually several paragraphs. The introduction for my doctoral dissertation, for example, was 28 pages!

Use your introduction wisely. Make a strong statement of your argument. Then, write and rewrite your argument until it's as clear as possible.

If you're struggling, consider this approach: Figure out the central question your paper addresses and write a one-sentence answer to the question. In a typical 3-to-5-page paper, my shortcut argument was to say "X happened because of A, B, and C." Then, use body paragraphs to discuss and analyze A, B, and C.

Tips for Taking Your History Essay to the Next Level

You've gone through every step of how to write a history essay and, somehow, you still have time before the due date. How can you take your essay to the next level? Here are some tips.

Congratulations — you finished your history essay! When your professor hands back your paper, be sure to read their comments closely. Pay attention to the strengths and weaknesses in your paper. And use this experience to write an even stronger essay next time.

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How To Write a Good History Essay

The former editor of History Review Robert Pearce gives his personal view.

First of all we ought to ask, What constitutes a good history essay? Probably no two people will completely agree, if only for the very good reason that quality is in the eye – and reflects the intellectual state – of the reader. What follows, therefore, skips philosophical issues and instead offers practical advice on how to write an essay that will get top marks.

Witnesses in court promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. All history students should swear a similar oath: to answer the question, the whole question and nothing but the question. This is the number one rule. You can write brilliantly and argue a case with a wealth of convincing evidence, but if you are not being relevant then you might as well be tinkling a cymbal. In other words, you have to think very carefully about the question you are asked to answer. Be certain to avoid the besetting sin of those weaker students who, fatally, answer the question the examiners should have set – but unfortunately didn’t. Take your time, look carefully at the wording of the question, and be certain in your own mind that you have thoroughly understood all its terms.

If, for instance, you are asked why Hitler came to power, you must define what this process of coming to power consisted of. Is there any specific event that marks his achievement of power? If you immediately seize on his appointment as Chancellor, think carefully and ask yourself what actual powers this position conferred on him. Was the passing of the Enabling Act more important? And when did the rise to power actually start? Will you need to mention Hitler’s birth and childhood or the hyperinflation of the early 1920s? If you can establish which years are relevant – and consequently which are irrelevant – you will have made a very good start. Then you can decide on the different factors that explain his rise.

Or if you are asked to explain the successes of a particular individual, again avoid writing the first thing that comes into your head. Think about possible successes. In so doing, you will automatically be presented with the problem of defining ‘success’. What does it really mean? Is it the achievement of one’s aims? Is it objective (a matter of fact) or subjective (a matter of opinion)? Do we have to consider short-term and long-term successes? If the person benefits from extraordinary good luck, is that still a success? This grappling with the problem of definition will help you compile an annotated list of successes, and you can then proceed to explain them, tracing their origins and pinpointing how and why they occurred. Is there a key common factor in the successes? If so, this could constitute the central thrust of your answer.

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The key word in the above paragraphs is think . This should be distinguished from remembering, daydreaming and idly speculating. Thinking is rarely a pleasant undertaking, and most of us contrive to avoid it most of the time. But unfortunately there’s no substitute if you want to get the top grade. So think as hard as you can about the meaning of the question, about the issues it raises and the ways you can answer it. You have to think and think hard – and then you should think again, trying to find loopholes in your reasoning. Eventually you will almost certainly become confused. Don’t worry: confusion is often a necessary stage in the achievement of clarity. If you get totally confused, take a break. When you return to the question, it may be that the problems have resolved themselves. If not, give yourself more time. You may well find that decent ideas simply pop into your conscious mind at unexpected times.

You need to think for yourself and come up with a ‘bright idea’ to write a good history essay. You can of course follow the herd and repeat the interpretation given in your textbook. But there are problems here. First, what is to distinguish your work from that of everybody else? Second, it’s very unlikely that your school text has grappled with the precise question you have been set.

The advice above is relevant to coursework essays. It’s different in exams, where time is limited. But even here, you should take time out to do some thinking. Examiners look for quality rather than quantity, and brevity makes relevance doubly important. If you get into the habit of thinking about the key issues in your course, rather than just absorbing whatever you are told or read, you will probably find you’ve already considered whatever issues examiners pinpoint in exams.

The Vital First Paragraph

Every part of an essay is important, but the first paragraph is vital. This is the first chance you have to impress – or depress – an examiner, and first impressions are often decisive. You might therefore try to write an eye-catching first sentence. (‘Start with an earthquake and work up to a climax,’ counselled the film-maker Cecil B. De Mille.) More important is that you demonstrate your understanding of the question set. Here you give your carefully thought out definitions of the key terms, and here you establish the relevant time-frame and issues – in other words, the parameters of the question. Also, you divide the overall question into more manageable sub-divisions, or smaller questions, on each of which you will subsequently write a paragraph. You formulate an argument, or perhaps voice alternative lines of argument, that you will substantiate later in the essay. Hence the first paragraph – or perhaps you might spread this opening section over two paragraphs – is the key to a good essay.

On reading a good first paragraph, examiners will be profoundly reassured that its author is on the right lines, being relevant, analytical and rigorous. They will probably breathe a sign of relief that here is one student at least who is avoiding the two common pitfalls. The first is to ignore the question altogether. The second is to write a narrative of events – often beginning with the birth of an individual – with a half-hearted attempt at answering the question in the final paragraph.

Middle Paragraphs

Philip Larkin once said that the modern novel consists of a beginning, a muddle and an end. The same is, alas, all too true of many history essays. But if you’ve written a good opening section, in which you’ve divided the overall question into separate and manageable areas, your essay will not be muddled; it will be coherent.

It should be obvious, from your middle paragraphs, what question you are answering. Indeed it’s a good test of an essay that the reader should be able to guess the question even if the title is covered up. So consider starting each middle paragraph will a generalisation relevant to the question. Then you can develop this idea and substantiate it with evidence. You must give a judicious selection of evidence (i.e. facts and quotations) to support the argument you are making. You only have a limited amount of space or time, so think about how much detail to give. Relatively unimportant background issues can be summarised with a broad brush; your most important areas need greater embellishment. (Do not be one of those misguided candidates who, unaccountably, ‘go to town’ on peripheral areas and gloss over crucial ones.)

The regulations often specify that, in the A2 year, students should be familiar with the main interpretations of historians. Do not ignore this advice. On the other hand, do not take historiography to extremes, so that the past itself is virtually ignored. In particular, never fall into the trap of thinking that all you need are sets of historians’ opinions. Quite often in essays students give a generalisation and back it up with the opinion of an historian – and since they have formulated the generalisation from the opinion, the argument is entirely circular, and therefore meaningless and unconvincing. It also fatuously presupposes that historians are infallible and omniscient gods. Unless you give real evidence to back up your view – as historians do – a generalisation is simply an assertion. Middle paragraphs are the place for the real substance of an essay, and you neglect this at your peril.

Final Paragraph

If you’ve been arguing a case in the body of an essay, you should hammer home that case in the final paragraph. If you’ve been examining several alternative propositions, now is the time to say which one is correct. In the middle paragraph you are akin to a barrister arguing a case. Now, in the final paragraph, you are the judge summing up and pronouncing the verdict.

It’s as well to keep in mind what you should not be doing. Do not introduce lots of fresh evidence at this stage, though you can certainly introduce the odd extra fact that clinches your case. Nor should you go on to the ‘next’ issue. If your question is about Hitler coming to power, you should not end by giving a summary of what he did once in power. Such an irrelevant ending will fail to win marks. Remember the point about answering ‘nothing but the question’? On the other hand, it may be that some of the things Hitler did after coming to power shed valuable light on why he came to power in the first place. If you can argue this convincingly, all well and good; but don’t expect the examiner to puzzle out relevance. Examiners are not expected to think; you must make your material explicitly relevant.

Final Thoughts

A good essay, especially one that seems to have been effortlessly composed, has often been revised several times; and the best students are those who are most selfcritical. Get into the habit of criticising your own first drafts, and never be satisfied with second-best efforts. Also, take account of the feedback you get from teachers. Don’t just look at the mark your essay gets; read the comments carefully. If teachers don’t advise how to do even better next time, they are not doing their job properly.

Relevance is vital in a good essay, and so is evidence marshalled in such a way that it produces a convincing argument. But nothing else really matters. The paragraph structure recommended above is just a guide, nothing more, and you can write a fine essay using a very different arrangement of material. Similarly, though it would be excellent if you wrote in expressive, witty and sparklingly provocative prose, you can still get top marks even if your essay is serious, ponderous and even downright dull.

There are an infinite number of ways to write an essay because any form of writing is a means of self-expression. Your essay will be unique because you are unique: it’s up to you to ensure that it’s uniquely good, not uniquely mediocre.

Robert Pearce is the editor of History Review .

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Importance Of History Essay

History is a series of important past events that connect with something. History is what makes people make better decisions. There are many definitions of history and everyone has their own. In my opinion , history is something that helps us remember the past , in order to better our future decisions. History is about the important past events that had a large impact back in the day, which contributed to the removal and or addition of certain things that build up our society today. People tend to do better once they become educated on what was going on in our past history. Having knowledge about the history of something is how one starts to progress in life and make adjustments in order to make your future into whatever you desire. If history didn’t exist we would have to …show more content…

In this essay, the author

Learning about history helps us learn about the humanities own reflection and what’s good or bad about it. This is just like a diary , people and by people I mean historians , just wrote what they saw and what seemed to cause a major change in society and we just happen to be reading it a couple of years later. I believe that historians actually wrote historical truth because it makes sense and it has been scientifically proven It is important to study history because it teaches us about not only our own culture but about cultures all around the world. Learning about other cultures and how they look a the world and what their opinion on certain things are , helps us learn better ways of avoiding conflicts. History is just a way of getting us to understand human life and helping us embrace new ways of making a healthier lifestyle. Studying history is very important to all of our society because it answers every question. History is everywhere so why not learn about

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essay of history

How to write source-based history essays

Carcassone, Languedoc.

The biggest assessment task you will be required to complete is a written research essay which develops an argument and uses a range of sources.

All types of assessment tasks will need you to use essay-writing skills in some form, but their fundamental structure and purpose remains the same. Therefore, learning how to write essays well is central to achieving high marks in History.

What is an 'essay'?

A History essay is a structured argument that provides historical evidence to substantiate its points. 

To achieve the correct structure for your argument, it is crucial to understand the separate parts that make up a written essay. If you understand how each part works and fits into the overall essay, you are well on the way to creating a great assessment piece.

Most essays will require you to write:

Explanations for how to structure and write each of these paragraphs can be found below, along with examples of each: 

Essay paragraph writing advice

essay of history

How to write an Introductory Paragraph

This page explains the purpose of an introduction, how to structure one and provides examples for you to read.

essay of history

How to write Body Paragraphs

This page explains the purpose of body paragraphs, how to structure them and provides examples for you to read.

essay of history

How to write a Conclusion

This page explains the purpose of conclusions, how to structure them and provides examples for you to read.

More essay resources

What do you need help with, download ready-to-use digital learning resources.

essay of history

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Writing a History Essay

Writing a history essay—the basics.

1. Identify the assignment’s goals.  

The first thing you should do is identify what you should and should not be focusing on—in other words, answer the question that is actually asked! 

For example:   Let’s assume that the question is “There are several interpretations for what caused the French Revolution, but which interpretation(s) to you believe are the most credible?” You should…

1) Determine what you believe were the causes of the French Revolution.

2) You should not focus on what happened after the French Revolution began; the question concerns its causes, not its subsequent development.  Nor should you focus on the wars of the French Revolution, or the philosophy of the French Revolution—make sure you answer the question that is asked!

2. Review the available material on the question.  

Reread the information about the topic in your textbook as well as any other class materials, including handouts and your class notes that might be helpful. 

For Example:  If the question concerned the what caused the fall of the Roman Empire, you should review the materials on the various possible reasons why the Roman Empire fell.  This will help you…

3. Formulate a thesis.  

A thesis is the central argument of your paper based on the evidence you have discovered in your research.  Weigh the evidence and decide what you believe is the truth—then state it, clearly and precisely, in the first paragraph.  Remember that a thesis statement may be longer than a single sentence, and in a complicated question, the answer will likely have to be more than one sentence.

For Example:  Let’s assume the question concerned whether or not the New Deal was effective.  After reviewing and rereading the material on the New Deal, you could decide that

a)      the New Deal policies were effective,

b)      the New Deal policies were not effective,

c)      the New Deal policies were effective in a limited way, or

d)      the New Deal policies were effective for certain people but not others.

Clearly, there are numerous conclusions that are possible.  In this case, let’s say that you concluded that the bulk of the evidence demonstrates that the New Deal did help to restore public confidence, promoted a partial economic recovery, and created many beneficial programs.  You could then state your thesis as follows:

“The New Deal did not end the Depression, and many programs were either unsuccessful or struck down by the courts.  Yet the New Deal was effective because it restored public confidence and created new programs that brought relief to millions of Americans.  Roosevelt’s policies proved especially effective in promoting economic recovery.” 

Notice that the “thesis statement” was more than one sentence.  In high school, many teachers insist that the “thesis statement” should only be one sentence—indeed, many teachers require you to underline the sentence (sound familiar?)  The reason they do this is to get you accustomed to making a simple argument; the problem is that few arguments are ever simple.  In almost all circumstances, it will require several sentences (and, as you progress into upper-level classes, several paragraphs) to fully explain your argument or thesis.  In this course, there will be no way to write an effective thesis in a single sentence—it will require a paragraph to do so in all cases.

4. Organize the supporting evidence for your thesis.  

After writing your thesis paragraph, you need to support it with evidence and arguments.  You should have done most of the work in this area already when you went back to the textbook and class materials.  You may, however, wish to do a little more checking now that you have settled on a thesis.  You want to use the information that will best strengthen your argument, or, adjust the thesis to accommodate any new information you uncover.

For example:  If the question concerned who will win the Super Bowl, and you concluded that it will undoubtedly be the Philadelphia Eagles, you may have found the following evidence in support of your thesis:

1)      The Eagles face little playoff competition in their own division, and you have the numbers and anecdotal evidence to support the claim,

2)      They have two premier quarterbacks, and you have the numbers and figures as evidence to back up the claim,

3)      The Eagles’ players have the playoff experience required to make a championship run, and you have league stats as evidence.

Although you may have found even more evidence to support your thesis, remember that you cannot include everything in a 2-3 page paper.  Limit yourself to the points you believe best support your thesis.  Sometimes you may only be able to use 3 of the 4 areas, so you WILL have to pick and choose between them!

5. What to do with contradictory evidence. 

When you find evidence that contradicts your thesis, don’t ignore it!  You should touch upon these points briefly in your paper, but you do not want to spend excessive time on them.  Acknowledge the evidence, and then explain how it is either less important than, or outweighed by the evidence that supports your thesis.

For Example:  Let’s go back to the question about the New Deal.  You decided that it was effective in many ways, and you wrote a thesis to that effect.  However, you also found two key pieces of evidence that partially contradicts your thesis:

1)      The New Deal did not end the Depression.

2)      The Supreme Court declared some New Deal programs unconstitutional, and this drastically limited the overall effectiveness of FDR’s policies.

In this case you could argue that while the Supreme Court ruined several programs, the most important remained unaffected.  Or you could argue that while the New Deal did not end the Depression, the economy was on the road to recovery, and compared to earlier policies in the Hoover administration, this was a positive step.

Professor Chew’s Top Eight Ways to Improve Your Writing

1. Know your audience or “ideal reader”

Many students have trouble getting started on a paper—a phenomenon broadly known as “writer’s block.”  One of the key causes is the lack of an audience.  Nobody gets writer’s block when writing an email to a friend or a letter to uncle Bob.  Why not?  Because you have a person you are writing to.  To overcome writer’s block, and to help you determine what information and how much of it you will include in your essay, you should write your paper to an audience, or “ideal reader.”

Of course, your audience for a history paper is usually the professor who will grade it.  This leads many students to assume that their audience or “ideal reader” is the professor, and the professor is already familiar with the material.  As a result, student writers often take shortcuts by failing to place information within its context, or by neglecting to define terms.  Writing this way puts you at risk of providing insufficient information; when grading the essay the instructor is likely to assume that you are not familiar with the context or terms. 

The best way to overcome writer’s block and determine what information to include is to write your paper so that a general reader unfamiliar with the topic would be able to read and understand the essay—that’s your “ideal reader.”  The best example is a fellow student who is NOT enrolled in this course—this person can follow an argument, but they are unfamiliar with the material. 

2. Write in the simple past tense.

In English or Lit courses, the default tense is always the present tense.  In history, however, we are concerned about past or completed actions (most of the time).  Since you’re writing about the past, you need to write in the past tense.

Correct: Roosevelt ordered the banks closed until auditors verified that they were solvent.

Incorrect: Roosevelt orders the banks closed until auditors verify that they are solvent.

3. Avoid excessive use of the passive voice.

The passive voice often fails to identify who or what is performing the actions you are describing.  Also, the passive voice tends to result in excessive use of various forms of the verb “to be,” which leads to wordiness.   Phrasing sentences in the active voice allows you to use active verbs that are more descriptive and that enliven your writing.

Passive voice: Many programs were created to put Americans back to work.

Active voice: The government created many programs to put Americans back to work.

In the passive voice example, the reader does not learn who created the programs.  Was it government, private corporations, or some other organization?  The active voice clearly indicates where the programs originated.

4. Avoid using the pronoun “I”

Unless your professor instructs you otherwise, you should avoid the use of “I” in college writing, as it is too informal.  Using the first person also emphasizes the idea that you are “merely” expressing opinion, while writing in the third person creates the illusion of objectivity.  It’s a rhetorical trick, of course; you are still expressing an opinion or view, but in the third person, it sounds more authoritative than if expressed in the first person. 

More effective: The WPA was one of the most successful New Deal p        programs.

Less effective: I think that the WPA was one of the most successful New Deal programs.

5. Avoid the use of qualifying terms.  Be confident in your writing!!

Terms such as “possibly,” “probably,” “seems,” “may,” and “might” indicate weaknesses in your argument.  In some cases where evidence is almost completely lacking, such words can be used, but when the preponderance of evidence points in one direction, do not use qualifiers.

Correct: The “Bank Holiday” restored public confidence in the financial system.

Incorrect: The “Bank Holiday” probably restored public confidence in the financial system.

6. Avoid slang and needless words.

Unless you are using a direct quotation that employs slang, do not use it.  Slang will ruin the tone of your paper.  State your ideas as directly as possible using a conversational tone.  Excessive use of adverbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases can clutter a sentence, obscuring rather than amplifying your points.  Many students load their papers with “filler” words in order to meet a minimum length requirement.  This is obvious to the reader, and does more harm than good.

Clear and succinct: The CCC employed thousands of workers to construct hiking trails in national parks.

More cumbersome: The CCC kept thousands of guys busily banging away at putting up the long hiking trails through America’s beautiful national parks.

7. Vary your sentence structure. 

Blend brief, direct statements with longer, more complex sentences.  This improves the flow of your paper and makes it more readable.  Too many short sentences make your paper choppy and difficult to read.  An endless string of long sentences confuses the reader.


Hearing your own words will help you identify run-on sentences, awkward phrasing, and other problems that might otherwise escape your attention.  Do not read silently, because your eyes will gloss over words and phrases that should be removed, and insert words and phrases that actually are not on the page.  Your ears will catch those problems, and it is the best chance you have for self-editing.  It is also the most effective way to proofread your work before turning it in.

The preceding information has been substantially modified, but is based on a handout originally prepared by Richard Chew and Kyle Zelner for the History Writing Resources Center at the College of William and Mary.

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