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

Herbals used throughout history

Herbals are selections of texts about the medicinal use of herbs and plants, created and used for over four thousand years; herbals are an important part of botanical history. The first ever herbals are believed to have been created in China at around 2700BC, the Egyptian, Arab and Graeco-Roman people produced them. The first printed … Read more

The Estates-General

The Estates-General was only summoned in times of extreme national crisis. This assembly was composed of three estates – the clergy, nobility, and commoners – who had power to decide on the levying of new taxes and to undertake reform in the country. Prior to the 1789 meeting of the Estates-General, there was a separate … Read more

The Spanish and Ottoman Empire

The Spanish empire and the Ottoman empire were both large empires, and they got empires, and they get there by conquering lands, cities, and other empires. The Spanish empire set out towards the Americans, the same way they drove out the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish also used conquistadors which were conquerors that … Read more

Britain’s Role in the Slave Trade

Peak of Transatlantic Slave Trade – end of the 18th century. Though there were other European countries involved during this time, Britain was the key player in the slave trade. In Britain, abolitionists began a mass social movement calling for an end to the slave trade. Once Britain finally abolished the trade in 1807, other … Read more

The Nuremburg Rallies

The seventh of September 1934, Nuremberg, Zeppelin field; Adolf Hitler steps up to a podium surrounded by microphones and swastika flags, singularly orating the Nazi ideology to an estimated 200,000 supporters (Wilson, 2012;42)- an iconic symbol of the Nazi state. The Nuremburg Rallies were large scale state rituals performed from 1933 to 1938 (Nuremberg Municipal … Read more

The New Deal

The New Deal was intended to help nearly everyone at a time when nearly everyone needed help. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt started the new deal in 1933 to address a problem that was already old. The stock market crash of 1929 caused banks to fail, and there wasn’t enough money for people to buy things. … Read more

Marriage – Elizabeth I

Prospect of Marriage Elizabeth I’s avoidance of royal intermarriage through her early years and throughout her reign ultimately allowed her to keep total control of the powers given to her as Queen. Throughout European history the practice of royal intermarriage occurred when members of ruling families married into other powerful families. Often arranged, these marriages … Read more

THE INFLUENCE OF MATSUOKA YOSUKE IN US-JAPANESE RELATIONS PRECEDING THE ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR, 1930–1942

THE INFLUENCE OF MATSUOKA YOSUKE IN US-JAPANESE RELATIONS PRECEDING THE ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR, 1930–1942 To what extent did Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka’s pro-Nazi stance influence Japan’s decision to attack the U.S.? Abstract History reveals that all nations encounter a crossroads in their collective progress, one that insists upon the nation to decide between momentous … Read more

An Unseen Invention: Gunpowders Overlooked Impacts on Warfare and Society

Introduction Opening Statement: In the greater scheme of wars studied throughout history, gunpowder is often overlooked in its importance to the outcome of battles. Despite its negative connotation due to its primary function residing in firearms, gunpowder has had many overlooked significant impacts in history, namely its use in trade and naval warfare. It has … Read more

The witchcraft prosecutions

The witchcraft prosecutions reached its peak from 1560 to 1660; however, the belief in witchcraft existed long before the Early modern period. Early estimates claimed that around nine to ten million were killed during the witch hunts despite this recent research has proved that the number of those claimed to have been brought to trial … 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.