Roman expansion

Rome is commonly known as one of the most powerful empires in the ancient world with territory and authority spreading throughout the Mediterranean. Rome falls into a grey area of history. Often it is thought that Rome expanded aggressively, that it was an established goal that Rome set out to conquer Italy and large amounts … Read more

History questions

1. Describe one geographic region prior to European contact. What were the defining political, economic, and social features of that place? How was the region in question connected to the rest of Native North America? Often in American history classrooms, the first classroom period begins when Columbus first arrived on North American shores in 1492 … Read more

German Americans

“To Hell with the Kaiser!” proclaimed Fort Wayne News Sentinel on September 28, 1918. Almost three years earlier, on Columbus Day 1915, former Theodore Roosevelt asserted a similar message to German-Americans: “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an … Read more

Battle of Stalingrad

From July 17, 1942 to February 2, 1943 the bloodiest and most influential battle of World War II was fought in and around the Soviet city of Stalingrad. The battle involved the belligerent Nazi Germany Sixth Army led by General Paulus and overseen by Adolf Hitler. It also involved the Soviet Red Army led by … Read more

German occupation of the Netherlands

On 10th May 1940 German troops invaded the Netherlands and, after five days of fighting, the Dutch officially surrendered on 15th May 1940. In so doing, the German occupation of the Netherlands began (Romjin, 2006, pp.33-35). Having initially thought about installing a Militarverwaltung (Military administration), as had been done in Belgium, Hitler opted for a … Read more

The extent to which the Spanish Ulcer contributed to Napoleon’s downfall

Personal leadership/political It is evident that the ‘Spanish Ulcer,’ as it was referred to by Napoleon, had the greatest impact on his downfall due to his underestimation of opposition throughout the Napoleonic wars, Historian David Chandler agrees when he writes that “Napoleon’s policy in Spain proved one of his greatest blunders” and that “Nothing turned … Read more

The Mine Fire of Centralia

In the year 1866 a mining town by the name of Centralia was founded in the state of Pennsylvania. At the high of Centralia’s prosperity in the 1890’s its population was around 2800 people. When the mid 1950’s hit the towns economy took a hit because of declined demand for coal energy. The main substance … Read more

French Colonisation

As a person of Arab origin and identity, I always found it fascinating how every arabic-speaking country has its own dialect, and even more so, the fact that some of these dialects sound like completely different languages to me. One of these is the North African Arabic dialect, specifically Tunisian, Moroccan, and Algerian dialects which … Read more

The Translation of the Bible

There is no evidence on how the Bible was written, the only knowledge we have on it comes from it itself. It was rewritten many times throughout centuries just based off of what was written before then. There is a three-step process that you must follow to see if something is truly history. The first … Read more

Manifest Destiny and the territorial expansion (19th Century)

Manifest Destiny and the territorial expansion westward was a result of rampant nationalism in the United States. The territorial disputes which resulted from this expansion allowed the sectionalization of political parties and the division between Northerners and Southerners to grow stronger. Conflicting beliefs about the consequences or benefits of moving westward are visible through policy … Read more

The Fall of Agricultural Prices in 1873

During the panic of 1873 agriculture prices fell rapidly and created economic troubles for once well to do farmers. Farmers began to blame the government for their financial struggles they had been facing. Since the United States currency policies were created by Bankers and Industrialists, farmers argued that they did not care for or know … Read more

The Harlem Renaissance

It was Malcom X who, famously, said, “if this is a country of freedom, let it be a country of freedom; and if it’s not a country of freedom, change it.” While his philosophy of Black Nationalism is still popularly viewed as insurgent, as the saying goes, “one mans terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” … Read more

Ancient Warriors in Japan

In ancient Japan, there were warriors that were part of the high noble classes called Samurai. These warriors were loyal to their country and to their emperor. Also during this time there was another warrior group named the ninjas. These warriors were not part of the social class and did not fight like the samurai. … Read more

Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography and the Declaration of Independence

Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography and the Declaration of Independence both share many common Enlightenment ideas that were put into practice and that have become a pillar of American society. In Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Franklin is seen as a Renaissance man who has mastered many traits and his willingness to learn numerous subjects such as history, philosophy … Read more

The Progressivism Era

The progressivism era, an time after the Industrial Revolution, where people started to fix the problems caused by the Industrial Revolution. Like the urbanization, the process of making an area more urban, the destruction of forest and the building of factor releasing smog into the air. People with skills at the job they worked at, … Read more

The Spanish Civil War (1936)

The Spanish Civil War started on July 17, 1936 and lasted until April 1, 1939. This orinal conflict began in 1931 when King Alfonso XIII agreed to have elections to choose what the government of Spain shall be. The voters decided to get rid of the monarchy and with the dictatorship the King went too. … Read more

King Philip’s War

King Philip’s War was the last major effort of the Native Americans to drive the English colonists out of New England. It happened in 1675 and 1676, and the Natives were led by Metacom (called King Philip by the English), a Pokunoket chief. The Wampanoags, Nipmucks, Pocumtucks, and Narragansetts all banded together in a bloody … Read more

The Tombstone of Regina

The Tombstone of Regina dates to 200 AD and is made of sandstone. It stands at a height of 130x70cm and was found at the Roman fort of Arbeia, now South Shields, in 1878. Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums now has both the original and a cast of the tombstone in their collection. In … Read more

The Progressivism Era

The progressivism era, an time after the Industrial Revolution, where people started to fix the problems caused by the Industrial Revolution. Like the urbanization, the process of making an area more urban, the destruction of forest and the building of factor releasing smog into the air. People with skills at the job they worked at, … Read more

How to write a history essay

History essays focus more on demonstrating that you have an understanding of the issues to a set question than to finding the correct answer to the set question.

It is rather difficult to arrive at a definite answer with most historical problems. In general for each historical question there will be a body of evidence that will be relevant to it. This body of evidence typically will explain about the events and phenomena under discussion. A good answer will need to bring together all of this evidence and explain why particular items have been dismissed as having no bearing on the problem.

Analyse the Question

You must have a thorough understanding of the question by identifying the exact nature of the question; what are you being asked, this will help in giving an adequate answer that is the kind of information you will need to answer the question. Historical essays do not involve simply reporting information, rather it requires you to understand the question and make a judgment on the issue. Paying keen attention to keywords in the question is also important; words such as: discuss, explain, compare, evaluate and so on.

Here we explain how to write a history essay and expand on some of the keywords that are so important to understand:

‘Explain’ and ‘why’ questions:

These type of questions demand a list of reasons or one big reason; each reason will have to be explained – that is, clarified, expanded upon, and illustrated.

Analyse:

This is to break-down something. To determine the nature and relationship of the parts of; say “how” or “why” something happened. This could be likened to “cause and effect”.

‘Assess’ and ‘evaluate’:

This is how true or false something is. To judge value of its character; this should be supported by explanations and evidence. Evaluate discuss merits and de-merits, it is giving an opinion regarding the value of it.

Compare:

This demands the purpose of identifying similarities and differences. When the question calls for comparisons, they expect you to include differences as well. One way of going about such an essay would be to distinguish areas of similarity and differences; furthermore give a section in which you would assess the degree of similarity and reach a sub-conclusion.

Describe:

Give an account of; tell about; give a word picture of.

Discuss:

Show the different sides of, and argue from various points of views.

Examine:

Make known in detail, to make clear or plain.

‘What-role-did-X-play-in-Y’ questions:

This requires you to identify the function of some group or institution within some specific system. This is the functionalist approach. The subject of the question is the ‘Y’ rather than the ‘X’ element. This question requires a discussion of the system as a whole and the consideration of alternative explanations of how ‘X’ worked within it.

To What Extent and In What Ways:

Involves measure of, that is, how much? For instance, Examine five spheres which cast light on the extent of Jewish influence in high medieval France: namely, their role in the commercial life of the towns, the role of Jewish banking in the agrarian economy, their influence on Christian intellectual life and so on. It has been seen that the Jews exerted a profound influence on the intellectual life of the universities but almost none on that of the established monastic orders.

In what ways should show how an event or condition relates to another. Understand what was done and what was left to be done. In this you should expect counter-arguments, did an event or condition relate to another?

Knowing how to write a history essay is not just about knowing facts and figures. It’s also about how you structure your writing so it flows.

Structure

The introduction:

It is usually one paragraph and its purpose is to clearly set out the problem to be discussed in the paper, define key terms that will be used, outline the structure of the argument and to clearly state the thesis. The thesis statement is the version of your argument. The thesis thus presents new information to your reader, however, for it to be a good thesis it will require you to introduce the concepts in it before presenting the thesis itself. That is the task of the introductory paragraph and that’s how the thesis fits in the introductory paragraph.

For instance, “The nature of slave rights had a dual character. On the one hand, in order to maintain the total dominance of the white master class, the law denied any rights to slaves. Publicly, the slave was merely property, and not human at all. Yet the personal records of many planters suggest that slaves often proved able to demand customary “rights” from their masters. In the privacy of the master-slave relationship, the black man did indeed have rights which the white man was bound to respect, on pain of losing his labor or subjecting himself to violence. This conflict between slaves’ lack of “public” rights and masters’ “private” acknowledgment of slaves’ rights undermined planters’ informal rule and permitted slaves a degree of freedom within an oppressive system.” The thesis is clearly structured between two concepts public and private rights which are included into the thesis. This gives the reader a clear idea of what the paper will need to argue to prove its thesis.

The body:

You need an organising scheme for your paper, which most often will be suggested by your thesis. Let’s take this thesis: “In the 1950s, American auto workers developed their identities as laborers in the home as well as the workplace.” This thesis suggests a structure: at the very least, you will have to divide things up into “home” and “workplace.” The general flow in the body is from the general to the specific. Start with general statements, such as “Federal policy towards native peoples aimed at either assimilating Indians or exterminating them.” Then move on to specific statements which support your general statement, such as “The origins of the policy of assimilation can be traced back to Puritan missionaries of the 1650s.”

The use of paragraphs is essential and must start with a topic sentence. Each paragraph should have a main point with a small argument to support the paragraph. The paragraphs of the paper must flow from one idea to the next. Arguing in the body need not be heated emotions and raised voices rather it should be intended to convince the reader through reason. One must anticipate counter-arguments which one can either: refute by proving it is false, as in, “While the federal census of 1890 seems to suggest an increase in black mortality, that census was infamous for recording specious data”. Or you may accept certain true statements which refute your argument but explain why they do not harm your arguments, as in, “It was indeed true that Latino youth were incarcerated at a rate three to four times greater than Anglo youth, yet this may suggest the iniquitous workings of the local justice system rather than a Latino propensity towards crime.”

This kind of arguing in the body will give more credibility to the paper and make it more persuasive.

Conclusion:

This usually gives a brief explanation on your thesis, and pulls all your arguments together. The conclusion should show why the argument is important in the bigger picture of things, or suggest areas for further research. Or it could raise a bigger question.

We hope you gained a lot from reading our free ‘how to write a history essay’ guide.