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Writing History: An Introductory Guide to How History Is Produced

What is history.

Most people believe that history is a "collection of facts about the past." This is reinforced through the use of textbooks used in teaching history. They are written as though they are collections of information. In fact, history is NOT a "collection of facts about the past." History consists of making arguments about what happened in the past on the basis of what people recorded (in written documents, cultural artifacts, or oral traditions) at the time. Historians often disagree over what "the facts" are as well as over how they should be interpreted. The problem is complicated for major events that produce "winners" and "losers," since we are more likely to have sources written by the "winners," designed to show why they were heroic in their victories.

History in Your Textbook

Many textbooks acknowledge this in lots of places. For example, in one book, the authors write, "The stories of the conquests of Mexico and Peru are epic tales told by the victors. Glorified by the chronicles of their companions, the conquistadors, or conquerors, especially Hernán Cortés (1485-1547), emerged as heroes larger than life." The authors then continue to describe Cortés ’s actions that ultimately led to the capture of Cuauhtómoc, who ruled the Mexicas after Moctezuma died. From the authors’ perspective, there is no question that Moctezuma died when he was hit by a rock thrown by one of his own subjects. When you read accounts of the incident, however, the situation was so unstable, that it is not clear how Moctezuma died. Note: there is little analysis in this passage. The authors are simply telling the story based upon Spanish versions of what happened. There is no interpretation. There is no explanation of why the Mexicas lost.   Many individuals believe that history is about telling stories, but most historians also want answers to questions like why did the Mexicas lose?

What Are Primary Sources?

To answer these questions, historians turn to primary sources, sources that were written at the time of the event, in this case written from 1519-1521 in Mexico. These would be firsthand accounts. Unfortunately, in the case of the conquest of Mexico, there is only one genuine primary source written from 1519-1521. This primary source consists of the letters Cortés wrote and sent to Spain. Other sources are conventionally used as primary sources, although they were written long after the conquest. One example consists of the account written by Cortés ’s companion, Bernal Díaz del Castillo. Other accounts consist of Mexica and other Nahua stories and traditions about the conquest of Mexico from their point of view.

Making Arguments in the Textbook

Historians then use these sources to make arguments, which could possibly be refuted by different interpretations of the same evidence or the discovery of new sources.  For example, the Bentley and Ziegler textbook make several arguments on page 597 about why the Spaniards won:

"Steel swords, muskets, cannons, and horses offered Cortés and his men some advantage over the forces they met and help to account for the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire".

"Quite apart from military technology, Cortés' expedition benefited from divisions among the indigenous peoples of Mexico."

"With the aid of Doña Marina, the conquistadors forged alliances with peoples who resented domination by the Mexicas, the leaders of the Aztec empire...."

Ideally, under each of these "thesis statements," that is, each of these arguments about why the Mexicas were defeated, the authors will give some examples of information that backs up their "thesis." To write effective history and history essays, in fact to write successfully in any area, you should begin your essay with the "thesis" or argument you want to prove with concrete examples that support your thesis.  Since the Bentley and Ziegler book does not provide any evidence to back up their main arguments, you can easily use the material available here to provide evidence to support your claim that any one of the above arguments is better than the others.  You could also use the evidence to introduce other possibilities:  Mocteuzuma's poor leadership, Cortés' craftiness, or disease.

Become a Critical Reader

To become a critical reader, to empower yourself to "own your own history," you should think carefully about whether the evidence the authors provide does in fact support their theses.  Since the Bentley and Ziegler book provides only conclusions and not much evidence to back up their main points, you may want to explore your class notes on the topic and then examine the primary sources included on the Conquest of Mexico on this web site.

Your Assignment for Writing History with Primary Sources

There are several ways to make this a successful assignment. First, you might take any of the theses presented in the book and use information from primary sources to disprove it—the "trash the book" approach. Or, if your professor has said something in class that you are not sure about, find material to disprove it—the "trash the prof" approach (and, yes, it is really okay if you have the evidence ). Another approach is to include new information that the authors ignored . For example, the authors say nothing about omens. If one analyzes omens in the conquest, will it change the theses or interpretations presented in the textbook? Or, can one really present a Spanish or Mexica perspective?  Another approach is to make your own thesis, i.e., one of the biggest reasons for the conquest was that Moctezuma fundamentally misunderstood Cortés.

When Sources Disagree

If you do work with the Mexican materials, you will encounter the harsh reality of historical research: the sources do not always agree on what happened in a given event. It is up to you, then, to decide who to believe. Most historians would probably believe Cortés’ letters were the most likely to be accurate, but is this statement justified? Cortés was in the heat of battle and while it looked like he might win easy victory in 1519, he did not complete his mission until 1521.  The Cuban Governor, Diego Velázquez wanted his men to capture Cortés and bring him back to Cuba on charges of insubordination.  Was he painting an unusually rosy picture of his situation so that the Spanish King would continue to support him? It is up to you to decide. Have the courage to own your own history! Díaz Del Castillo wrote his account later in his life, when the Spaniards were being attacked for the harsh policies they implemented in Mexico after the conquest.  He also was upset that Cortés' personal secretary published a book that made it appear that only Cortés was responsible for the conquest. There is no question that the idea of the heroic nature of the Spanish actions is clearest in his account. But does this mean he was wrong about what he said happened and why? It is up to you to decide. The Mexica accounts are the most complex since they were originally oral histories told in Nahuatl that were then written down in a newly rendered alphabetic Nahuatl. They include additional Mexica illustrations of their version of what happened, for painting was a traditional way in which the Mexicas wrote history. Think about what the pictures tell us. In fact, a good paper might support a thesis that uses a picture as evidence. Again, how reliable is this material? It is up to you to decide.

One way to think about the primary sources is to ask the questions: (1) when was the source written, (2) who is the intended audience of the source, (3) what are the similarities between the accounts, (4) what are the differences between the accounts, (5) what pieces of information in the accounts will support your thesis, and (6) what information in the sources are totally irrelevant to the thesis or argument you want to make.

UCLA History Department

Steps for Writing a History Paper

Writing a history paper is a process.  Successful papers are not completed in a single moment of genius or inspiration, but are developed over a series of steps.  When you first read a paper prompt, you might feel overwhelmed or intimidated.  If you think of writing as a process and break it down into smaller steps, you will find that paper-writing is manageable, less daunting, and even enjoyable.  Writing a history paper is your opportunity to do the real work of historians, to roll up your sleeves and dig deep into the past.

What is a History paper?

History papers are driven by arguments.  In a history class, even if you are not writing a paper based on outside research, you are still writing a paper that requires some form of argument.  For example, suppose your professor has asked you to write a paper discussing the differences between colonial New England and colonial Virginia.  It might seem like this paper is straightforward and does not require an argument, that it is simply a matter of finding the “right answer.”  However, even here you need to construct a paper guided by a larger argument.  You might argue that the main differences between colonial New England and Virginia were grounded in contrasting visions of colonization.  Or you might argue that the differences resulted from accidents of geography or from extant alliances between regional Indian groups.  Or you might make an argument that draws on all of these factors.  Regardless, when you make these types of assertions, you are making an argument that requires historical evidence.  Any history paper you write will be driven by an argument demanding evidence from sources.

History writing assignments can vary widely–and you should always follow your professor’s specific instructions–but the following steps are designed to help no matter what kind of history paper you are writing.  Remember that the staff of the History Writing Center is here to assist you at any stage of the writing process.

  • Sometimes professors distribute prompts with several sub-questions surrounding the main question they want you to write about.  The sub-questions are designed to help you think about the topic.  They offer ideas you might consider, but they are not, usually, the key question or questions you need to answer in your paper.  Make sure you distinguish the key questions from the sub-questions.  Otherwise, your paper may sound like a laundry list of short-answer essays rather than a cohesive argument. A helpful way to hone in on the key question is to look for action verbs, such as “analyze” or “investigate” or “formulate.”  Find such words in the paper prompt and circle them.  Then, carefully consider what you are being asked to do.  Write out the key question at the top of your draft and return to it often, using it to guide you in the writing process.  Also, be sure that you are responding to every part of the prompt.  Prompts will often have several questions you need to address in your paper.  If you do not cover all aspects, then you are not responding fully to the assignment.  For more information, visit our section, “Understanding Paper Prompts.”
  • Before you even start researching or drafting, take a few minutes to consider what you already know about the topic.  Make a list of ideas or draw a cluster diagram, using circles and arrows to connect ideas–whatever method works for you.  At this point in the process, it is helpful to write down all of your ideas without stopping to judge or analyze each one in depth.  You want to think big and bring in everything you know or suspect about the topic.  After you have finished, read over what you have created.  Look for patterns or trends or questions that keep coming up.  Based on what you have brainstormed, what do you still need to learn about the topic?  Do you have a tentative argument or response to the paper prompt?  Use this information to guide you as you start your research and develop a thesis.
  • Depending on the paper prompt, you may be required to do outside research or you may be using only the readings you have done in class.  Either way, start by rereading the relevant materials from class.  Find the parts from the textbook, from the primary source readings, and from your notes that relate to the prompt. If you need to do outside research, the UCLA library system offers plenty of resources.  You can begin by plugging key words into the online library catalog.  This process will likely involve some trial and error.  You will want to use search terms that are specific enough to address your topic without being so narrow that you get no results.  If your keywords are too general, you may receive thousands of results and feel overwhelmed.  To help you narrow your search, go back to the key questions in the essay prompt that you wrote down in Step 1.  Think about which terms would help you respond to the prompt.  Also, look at the language your professor used in the prompt.  You might be able to use some of those same words as search terms. Notice that the library website has different databases you can search depending on what type of material you need (such as scholarly articles, newspapers, books) and what subject and time period you are researching (such as eighteenth-century England or ancient Rome).  Searching the database most relevant to your topic will yield the best results.  Visit the library’s History Research Guide for tips on the research process and on using library resources.  You can also schedule an appointment with a librarian to talk specifically about your research project.  Or, make an appointment with staff at the History Writing Center for research help.  Visit our section about using electronic resources as well.
  • By this point, you know what the prompt is asking, you have brainstormed possible responses, and you have done some research.  Now you need to step back, look at the material you have, and develop your argument.  Based on the reading and research you have done, how might you answer the question(s) in the prompt?  What arguments do your sources allow you to make?  Draft a thesis statement in which you clearly and succinctly make an argument that addresses the prompt. If you find writing a thesis daunting, remember that whatever you draft now is not set in stone.  Your thesis will change.  As you do more research, reread your sources, and write your paper, you will learn more about the topic and your argument.  For now, produce a “working thesis,” meaning, a thesis that represents your thinking up to this point.  Remember it will almost certainly change as you move through the writing process.  For more information, visit our section about thesis statements.  Once you have a thesis, you may find that you need to do more research targeted to your specific argument.  Revisit some of the tips from Step 3.
  • Now that you have a working thesis, look back over your sources and identify which ones are most critical to you–the ones you will be grappling with most directly in order to make your argument.  Then, annotate them.  Annotating sources means writing a paragraph that summarizes the main idea of the source as well as shows how you will use the source in your paper.  Think about what the source does for you.  Does it provide evidence in support of your argument?  Does it offer a counterpoint that you can then refute, based on your research?  Does it provide critical historical background that you need in order to make a point?  For more information about annotating sources, visit our section on annotated bibliographies. While it might seem like this step creates more work for you by having to do more writing, it in fact serves two critical purposes: it helps you refine your working thesis by distilling exactly what your sources are saying, and it helps smooth your writing process.  Having dissected your sources and articulated your ideas about them, you can more easily draw upon them when constructing your paper.  Even if you do not have to do outside research and are limited to working with the readings you have done in class, annotating sources is still very useful.  Write down exactly how a particular section in the textbook or in a primary source reader will contribute to your paper.
  • An outline is helpful in giving you a sense of the overall structure of your paper and how best to organize your ideas.  You need to decide how to arrange your argument in a way that will make the most sense to your reader.  Perhaps you decide that your argument is most clear when presented chronologically, or perhaps you find that it works best with a thematic approach.  There is no one right way to organize a history paper; it depends entirely on the prompt, on your sources, and on what you think would be most clear to someone reading it. An effective outline includes the following components: the research question from the prompt (that you wrote down in Step 1), your working thesis, the main idea of each body paragraph, and the evidence (from both primary and secondary sources) you will use to support each body paragraph.  Be as detailed as you can when putting together your outline.

If you have trouble getting started or are feeling overwhelmed, try free writing.  Free writing is a low-stakes writing exercise to help you get past the blank page.  Set a timer for five or ten minutes and write down everything you know about your paper: your argument, your sources, counterarguments, everything.  Do not edit or judge what you are writing as you write; just keep writing until the timer goes off.  You may be surprised to find out how much you knew about your topic.  Of course, this writing will not be polished, so do not be tempted to leave it as it is.  Remember that this draft is your first one, and you will be revising it.

A particularly helpful exercise for global-level revision is to make a reverse outline, which will help you look at your paper as a whole and strengthen the way you have organized and substantiated your argument.  Print out your draft and number each of the paragraphs.  Then, on a separate piece of paper, write down each paragraph number and, next to it, summarize in a phrase or a sentence the main idea of that paragraph.  As you produce this list, notice if any paragraphs attempt to make more than one point: mark those for revision.  Once you have compiled the list, read it over carefully.  Study the order in which you have sequenced your ideas.  Notice if there are ideas that seem out of order or repetitive.  Look for any gaps in your logic.  Does the argument flow and make sense?

When revising at the local level, check that you are using strong topic sentences and transitions, that you have adequately integrated and analyzed quotations, and that your paper is free from grammar and spelling errors that might distract the reader or even impede your ability to communicate your point.  One helpful exercise for revising on the local level is to read your paper out loud.  Hearing your paper will help you catch grammatical errors and awkward sentences.

Here is a checklist of questions to ask yourself while revising on both the global and local levels:

– Does my thesis clearly state my argument and its significance?

– Does the main argument in each body paragraph support my thesis?

– Do I have enough evidence within each body paragraph to make my point?

– Have I properly introduced, analyzed, and cited every quotation I use?

– Do my topic sentences effectively introduce the main point of each paragraph?

– Do I have transitions between paragraphs?

– Is my paper free of grammar and spelling errors?

  • Congratulate yourself. You have written a history paper!

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How to Write a Good History Essay. A Sequence of Actions and Useful Tips

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Before you start writing your history essay, there is quite a lot of work that has to be done in order to gain success.

You may ask: what is history essay? What is the difference between it and other kinds of essays? Well, the main goal of a history essay is to measure your progress in learning history and test your range of skills (such as analysis, logic, planning, research, and writing), it is necessary to prepare yourself very well.

Your plan of action may look like this. First of all, you will have to explore the topic. If you are going to write about a certain historical event, think of its causes and premises, and analyze what its impact on history was. In case you are writing about a person, find out why and how he or she came to power and how they influenced society and historical situations.

The next step is to make research and collect all the available information about the person or event, and also find evidence.

Finally, you will have to compose a well-organized response.

During the research, make notes and excerpts of the most notable data, write out the important dates and personalities. And of course, write down all your thoughts and findings.

It all may seem complicated at first sight, but in fact, it is not so scary! To complete this task successfully and compose a good history essay, simply follow several easy steps provided below.

Detailed Writing Instruction for Students to Follow

If you want to successfully complete your essay, it would be better to organize the writing process. You will complete the assignment faster and more efficient if you divide the whole work into several sections or steps.

  • Introduction

Writing a good and strong introduction part is important because this is the first thing your reader will see. It gives the first impression of your essay and induces people to reading (or not reading) it.

To make the introduction catchy and interesting, express the contention and address the main question of the essay. Be confident and clear as this is the moment when you define the direction your whole essay will take. And remember that introduction is not the right place for rambling! The best of all is, to begin with, a brief context summary, then go to addressing the question and express the content. Finally, mark the direction your essay about history will take.

Its quality depends on how clear you divided the whole essay into sections in the previous part. As long as you have provided a readable and understandable scheme, your readers will know exactly what to expect.

The body of your essay must give a clear vision of what question you are considering. In this section, you can develop your idea and support it with the evidence you have found. Use certain facts and quotations for that. When being judicial and analytical, they will help you to easily support your point of view and argument.

As long as your essay has a limited size, don’t be too precise. It is allowed to summarize the most essential background information, for example, instead of giving a precise list of all the issues that matter.

It is also good to keep in mind that each paragraph of your essay’s body must tell about only one issue. Don’t make a mess out of your paper!

It is not only essential to start your essay well. How you will end it also matters. A properly-written conclusion is the one that restates the whole paper’s content and gives a logical completion of the issue or question discussed above. Your conclusion must leave to chance for further discussion or arguments on the case. It’s time, to sum up, give a verdict.

That is why it is strongly forbidden to provide any new evidence or information here, as well as start a new discussion, etc.

After you finish writing, give yourself some time and put the paper away for a while. When you turn back to it will be easier to take a fresh look at it and find any mistakes or things to improve. Of course, remember to proofread your writing and check it for any grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. All these tips will help you to learn how to write a history essay.

what is history essay

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How to Write a History Essay

Last Updated: December 27, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Emily Listmann, MA . Emily Listmann is a private tutor in San Carlos, California. She has worked as a Social Studies Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and an SAT Prep Teacher. She received her MA in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2014. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 240,826 times.

Writing a history essay requires you to include a lot of details and historical information within a given number of words or required pages. It's important to provide all the needed information, but also to present it in a cohesive, intelligent way. Know how to write a history essay that demonstrates your writing skills and your understanding of the material.

Preparing to Write Your Essay

Step 1 Evaluate the essay question.

  • The key words will often need to be defined at the start of your essay, and will serve as its boundaries. [2] X Research source
  • For example, if the question was "To what extent was the First World War a Total War?", the key terms are "First World War", and "Total War".
  • Do this before you begin conducting your research to ensure that your reading is closely focussed to the question and you don't waste time.

Step 2 Consider what the question is asking you.

  • Explain: provide an explanation of why something happened or didn't happen.
  • Interpret: analyse information within a larger framework to contextualise it.
  • Evaluate: present and support a value-judgement.
  • Argue: take a clear position on a debate and justify it. [3] X Research source

Step 3 Try to summarise your key argument.

  • Your thesis statement should clearly address the essay prompt and provide supporting arguments. These supporting arguments will become body paragraphs in your essay, where you’ll elaborate and provide concrete evidence. [4] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • Your argument may change or become more nuanced as your write your essay, but having a clear thesis statement which you can refer back to is very helpful.
  • For example, your summary could be something like "The First World War was a 'total war' because civilian populations were mobilized both in the battlefield and on the home front".

Step 4 Make an essay...

  • Pick out some key quotes that make your argument precisely and persuasively. [5] X Research source
  • When writing your plan, you should already be thinking about how your essay will flow, and how each point will connect together.

Doing Your Research

Step 1 Distinguish between primary and secondary sources.

  • Primary source material refers to any texts, films, pictures, or any other kind of evidence that was produced in the historical period, or by someone who participated in the events of the period, that you are writing about.
  • Secondary material is the work by historians or other writers analysing events in the past. The body of historical work on a period or event is known as the historiography.
  • It is not unusual to write a literature review or historiographical essay which does not directly draw on primary material.
  • Typically a research essay would need significant primary material.

Step 2 Find your sources.

  • Start with the core texts in your reading list or course bibliography. Your teacher will have carefully selected these so you should start there.
  • Look in footnotes and bibliographies. When you are reading be sure to pay attention to the footnotes and bibliographies which can guide you to further sources a give you a clear picture of the important texts.
  • Use the library. If you have access to a library at your school or college, be sure to make the most of it. Search online catalogues and speak to librarians.
  • Access online journal databases. If you are in college it is likely that you will have access to academic journals online. These are an excellent and easy to navigate resources.
  • Use online sources with discretion. Try using free scholarly databases, like Google Scholar, which offer quality academic sources, but avoid using the non-trustworthy websites that come up when you simply search your topic online.
  • Avoid using crowd-sourced sites like Wikipedia as sources. However, you can look at the sources cited on a Wikipedia page and use them instead, if they seem credible.

Step 3 Evaluate your secondary sources.

  • Who is the author? Is it written by an academic with a position at a University? Search for the author online.
  • Who is the publisher? Is the book published by an established academic press? Look in the cover to check the publisher, if it is published by a University Press that is a good sign.
  • If it's an article, where is published? If you are using an article check that it has been published in an academic journal. [8] X Research source
  • If the article is online, what is the URL? Government sources with .gov addresses are good sources, as are .edu sites.

Step 4 Read critically.

  • Ask yourself why the author is making this argument. Evaluate the text by placing it into a broader intellectual context. Is it part of a certain tradition in historiography? Is it a response to a particular idea?
  • Consider where there are weaknesses and limitations to the argument. Always keep a critical mindset and try to identify areas where you think the argument is overly stretched or the evidence doesn't match the author's claims. [9] X Research source

Step 5 Take thorough notes.

  • Label all your notes with the page numbers and precise bibliographic information on the source.
  • If you have a quote but can't remember where you found it, imagine trying to skip back through everything you have read to find that one line.
  • If you use something and don't reference it fully you risk plagiarism. [10] X Research source

Writing the Introduction

Step 1 Start with a strong first sentence.

  • For example you could start by saying "In the First World War new technologies and the mass mobilization of populations meant that the war was not fought solely by standing armies".
  • This first sentences introduces the topic of your essay in a broad way which you can start focus to in on more.

Step 2 Outline what you are going to argue.

  • This will lead to an outline of the structure of your essay and your argument.
  • Here you will explain the particular approach you have taken to the essay.
  • For example, if you are using case studies you should explain this and give a brief overview of which case studies you will be using and why.

Step 3 Provide some brief context for your work.

Writing the Essay

Step 1 Have a clear structure.

  • Try to include a sentence that concludes each paragraph and links it to the next paragraph.
  • When you are organising your essay think of each paragraph as addressing one element of the essay question.
  • Keeping a close focus like this will also help you avoid drifting away from the topic of the essay and will encourage you to write in precise and concise prose.
  • Don't forget to write in the past tense when referring to something that has already happened.

Step 3 Use source material as evidence to back up your thesis.

  • Don't drop a quote from a primary source into your prose without introducing it and discussing it, and try to avoid long quotations. Use only the quotes that best illustrate your point.
  • If you are referring to a secondary source, you can usually summarise in your own words rather than quoting directly.
  • Be sure to fully cite anything you refer to, including if you do not quote it directly.

Step 4 Make your essay flow.

  • Think about the first and last sentence in every paragraph and how they connect to the previous and next paragraph.
  • Try to avoid beginning paragraphs with simple phrases that make your essay appear more like a list. For example, limit your use of words like: "Additionally", "Moreover", "Furthermore".
  • Give an indication of where your essay is going and how you are building on what you have already said. [15] X Research source

Step 5 Conclude succinctly.

  • Briefly outline the implications of your argument and it's significance in relation to the historiography, but avoid grand sweeping statements. [16] X Research source
  • A conclusion also provides the opportunity to point to areas beyond the scope of your essay where the research could be developed in the future.

Proofreading and Evaluating Your Essay

Step 1 Proofread your essay.

  • Try to cut down any overly long sentences or run-on sentences. Instead, try to write clear and accurate prose and avoid unnecessary words.
  • Concentrate on developing a clear, simple and highly readable prose style first before you think about developing your writing further. [17] X Research source
  • Reading your essay out load can help you get a clearer picture of awkward phrasing and overly long sentences. [18] X Research source

Step 2 Analyse don't describe.

  • When you read through your essay look at each paragraph and ask yourself, "what point this paragraph is making".
  • You might have produced a nice piece of narrative writing, but if you are not directly answering the question it is not going to help your grade.

Step 3 Check your references and bibliography.

  • A bibliography will typically have primary sources first, followed by secondary sources. [19] X Research source
  • Double and triple check that you have included all the necessary references in the text. If you forgot to include a reference you risk being reported for plagiarism.

Sample Essay

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  • ↑ http://www.historytoday.com/robert-pearce/how-write-good-history-essay
  • ↑ https://www.hamilton.edu/academics/centers/writing/writing-resources/writing-a-good-history-paper
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/thesis_statement_tips.html
  • ↑ http://history.rutgers.edu/component/content/article?id=106:writing-historical-essays-a-guide-for-undergraduates
  • ↑ https://guides.lib.uw.edu/c.php?g=344285&p=2580599
  • ↑ http://www.hamilton.edu/documents/writing-center/WritingGoodHistoryPaper.pdf
  • ↑ http://www.bowdoin.edu/writing-guides/
  • ↑ https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/hppi/publications/Writing-History-Essays.pdf

About This Article

Emily Listmann, MA

To write a history essay, read the essay question carefully and use source materials to research the topic, taking thorough notes as you go. Next, formulate a thesis statement that summarizes your key argument in 1-2 concise sentences and create a structured outline to help you stay on topic. Open with a strong introduction that introduces your thesis, present your argument, and back it up with sourced material. Then, end with a succinct conclusion that restates and summarizes your position! For more tips on creating a thesis statement, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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what is history essay

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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How to Write a History Essay?

04 August, 2020

10 minutes read

Author:  Tomas White

There are so many types of essays. It can be hard to know where to start. History papers aren’t just limited to history classes. These tasks can be assigned to examine any important historical event or a person. While they’re more common in history classes, you can find this type of assignment in sociology or political science course syllabus, or just get a history essay task for your scholarship. This is Handmadewriting History Essay Guide - let's start!

History Essay

Purpose  of a History Essay

Wondering how to write a history essay? First of all, it helps to understand its purpose. Secondly, this essay aims to examine the influences that lead to a historical event. Thirdly, it can explore the importance of an individual’s impact on history.

However, the goal isn’t to stay in the past. Specifically, a well-written history essay should discuss the relevance of the event or person to the “now”. After finishing this essay, a reader should have a fuller understanding of the lasting impact of an event or individual.

Need basic essay guidance? Find out what is an essay with this 101 essay guide: What is an Essay?

Elements for Success

Indeed, understanding how to write a history essay is crucial in creating a successful paper. Notably, these essays should never only outline successful historic events or list an individual’s achievements. Instead, they should focus on examining questions beginning with what , how , and why . Here’s a pro tip in how to write a history essay: brainstorm questions. Once you’ve got questions, you have an excellent starting point.

Preparing to Write

Evidently, a typical history essay format requires the writer to provide background on the event or person, examine major influences, and discuss the importance of the forces both then and now. In addition, when preparing to write, it’s helpful to organize the information you need to research into questions. For example:

  • Who were the major contributors to this event?
  • Who opposed or fought against this event?
  • Who gained or lost from this event?
  • Who benefits from this event today?
  • What factors led up to this event?
  • What changes occurred because of this event?
  • What lasting impacts occurred locally, nationally, globally due to this event?
  • What lessons (if any) were learned?
  • Why did this event occur?
  • Why did certain populations support it?
  • Why did certain populations oppose it?

These questions exist as samples. Therefore, generate questions specific to your topic. Once you have a list of questions, it’s time to evaluate them.

Evaluating the Question

Seasoned writers approach writing history by examining the historic event or individual. Specifically, the goal is to assess the impact then and now. Accordingly, the writer needs to evaluate the importance of the main essay guiding the paper. For example, if the essay’s topic is the rise of American prohibition, a proper question may be “How did societal factors influence the rise of American prohibition during the 1920s? ”

This question is open-ended since it allows for insightful analysis, and limits the research to societal factors. Additionally, work to identify key terms in the question. In the example, key terms would be “societal factors” and “prohibition”.

Summarizing the Argument

The argument should answer the question. Use the thesis statement to clarify the argument and outline how you plan to make your case. In other words. the thesis should be sharp, clear, and multi-faceted. Consider the following tips when summarizing the case:

  • The thesis should be a single sentence
  • It should include a concise argument and a roadmap
  • It’s always okay to revise the thesis as the paper develops
  • Conduct a bit of research to ensure you have enough support for the ideas within the paper

Outlining a History Essay Plan

Once you’ve refined your argument, it’s time to outline. Notably, many skip this step to regret it then. Nonetheless, the outline is a map that shows where you need to arrive historically and when. Specifically, taking the time to plan, placing the strongest argument last, and identifying your sources of research is a good use of time. When you’re ready to outline, do the following:

  • Consider the necessary background the reader should know in the introduction paragraph
  • Define any important terms and vocabulary
  • Determine which ideas will need the cited support
  • Identify how each idea supports the main argument
  • Brainstorm key points to review in the conclusion

Gathering Sources

As a rule, history essays require both primary and secondary sources . Primary resources are those that were created during the historical period being analyzed. Secondary resources are those created by historians and scholars about the topic. It’s a good idea to know if the professor requires a specific number of sources, and what kind he or she prefers. Specifically, most tutors prefer primary over secondary sources.

Where to find sources? Great question! Check out bibliographies included in required class readings. In addition, ask a campus Librarian. Peruse online journal databases; In addition, most colleges provide students with free access. When in doubt, make an appointment and ask the professor for guidance.

Writing the Essay

Now that you have prepared your questions, ideas, and arguments; composed the outline ; and gathered sources – it’s time to write your first draft. In particular, each section of your history essay must serve its purpose. Here is what you should include in essay paragraphs.

Introduction Paragraph

Unsure of how to start a history essay? Well, like most essays, the introduction should include an attention-getter (or hook):

  • Relevant fact or statistic
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Interesting quotation
  • Application anecdote if appropriate

Once you’ve captured the reader’s interest, introduce the topic. Similarly, present critical historic context. Namely, it is necessary to introduce any key individuals or events that will be discussed later in the essay. At last, end with a strong thesis which acts as a transition to the first argument.

Body Paragraphs

Indeed, each body paragraph should offer a single idea to support the argument. Then, after writing a strong topic sentence, the topic should be supported with correctly cited research. Consequently, a typical body paragraph is arranged as follows:

  • Topic sentence linking to the thesis
  • Background of the topic
  • Research quotation or paraphrase #1
  • Explanation and analysis of research
  • Research quotation or paraphrase #2
  • Transition to the next paragraph

Equally, the point of body paragraphs is to build the argument. Hence, present the weakest support first and end with the strongest. Admittedly, doing so leaves the reader with the best possible evidence.

Conclusion Paragraph

You’re almost there! Eventually, conclusion paragraphs should review the most important points in the paper. In them, you should prove that you’ve supported the argument proposed in the thesis. When writing a conclusion paragraph keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep it simple
  • Avoid introducing new information
  • Review major points
  • Discuss the relevance to today
Problems with writing Your History essay ? Try our Essay Writer Service!

history essay

Proofreading Your Essay

Once the draft is ready and polished, it’s time to proceed to final editing. What does this process imply? Specifically, it’s about removing impurities and making the essay look just perfect. Here’s what you need to do to improve the quality of your paper:

  • Double check the content. In the first place, it’s recommended to get rid of long sentences, correct vague words. Also, make sure that all your paragrahps contain accurate sentences with transparent meaning. 
  • Pay attention to style. To make the process of digesting your essay easier, focus on crafting a paper with readable style, the one that is known to readers. Above all, the main mission here is to facilitate the perception of your essay. So, don’t forget about style accuracy.
  • Practice reading the essay. Of course, the best practice before passing the paper is to read it out loud. Hence, this exercise will help you notice fragments that require rewriting or a complete removal.  

History Essay Example

Did you want a history essay example? Take a look at one of our history essay papers. 

Make it Shine

An A-level essay takes planning and revision, but it’s achievable. Firstly, avoid procrastination and start early. Secondly, leave yourself plenty of time to brainstorm, outline, research and write. Finally, follow these five tips to make your history essay shine:

  • Write a substantial introduction. Particularly, it’s the first impression the professor will have of the paper.
  • State a clear thesis. A strong thesis is easier to support.
  • Incorporate evidence critically. If while researching you find opposing arguments, include them and discuss their flaws.
  • Cite all the research. Whether direct quotations or paraphrases, citing evidence is crucial to avoiding plagiarism, which can have serious academic consequences.
  • Include primary and secondary resources. While primary resources may be harder to find, the professor will expect them—this is, after all, a history essay.

History Essay Sample

Ready to tackle the history essay format? Great! Check out this history essay sample from an upper-level history class. While the essay isn’t perfect, the professor points out its many strengths.

Remember: start early and revise, revise, revise . We can’t revise history, but you can revise your ideas until they’re perfect.

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How to Write History Essays

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How to write history essays is a question that students have asked for many years. And many students mistakenly believe that it is a very difficult task.

However, it is not as difficult as it seems. There are some basic steps that you can follow to make sure that your essay is well-written and informative.

Once you've mastered the basics of writing a history essay, you will be surprised just how easy it is. In this article, we will discuss the different aspects of writing a history essay and what makes good historical writing.

We will also provide steps in preparing a history essay and Dos and Don'ts in history essay writing. So, if you are looking to write a great history essay, read on!

What is History Essay?

Many students who ask us; can you write my essay in most cases don't really understand what is needed in writing this type of essay. Now, a history essay is a piece of written work that focuses on the user's historical perspective.

The purpose of a history essay is to communicate the writer's knowledge about a specific event, person, or place in history. A history essay can be either an argumentative essay or a descriptive essay.

An argumentative essay presents an argument for or against a specific claim, while a descriptive essay provides a detailed description of one particular event, person, or place.

History Essay: Sources to Use

All our history essay writers acknowledge that a thorough history essay is as good as its sources. This means that the credibility and validity of your essay will be judged not only on the strength of your argument but also on the quality and relevancy of your sources.

If you can back up your argument with credible sources, your reader will be more likely to take your argument seriously. There are two sources you can use in your history essay; primary and secondary sources. We explain each of them below;

Primary sources

These are first-hand accounts of an event that was created at the time the event took place. This can include letters, diary entries, speeches, and other documents.

Using primary sources is important because it allows you to see the event from the perspective of someone who was actually there. This can give you a better understanding of what happened and why.

Secondary sources

These are interpretations of primary sources. This can include books, articles, and other works that analyze and discuss primary sources.

Using secondary sources is important because it allows you to see how historians have interpreted the primary sources. This can give you a different perspective on the event and help you form your own opinion.

History Essay Formats

History essays have two common formats: the chronological format and the thematic format. The chronological format is where you arrange your essay in chronological order.

This means that you will start with the earliest event and end with the most recent event. The thematic format is where you arrange your essay around a specific theme.

For example, you could write about the causes of the American Civil War or the impact of the Industrial Revolution.

Both formats have their advantages and disadvantages. The chronological format is good for giving an overview of a specific time period.

The thematic format is good for discussing specific events in more depth. Ultimately, the format you choose will depend on your preference and your assignment's requirements.

How to Choose History Essay Topics

A good history essay should be challenging and encourage you to critically engage with the material. However, it should also be accessible enough that you can confidently approach the task without feeling overwhelmed.

The best way to find a good balance is to choose a specific and manageable topic. For example, rather than writing an essay on the entire history of the United States, you could write about the impact of the Industrial Revolution on American society.

This narrow focus will allow you to really delve into the details and explore different aspects of the topic in depth. When choosing a topic, it is also important to consider available resources.

There is no point in choosing a topic so obscure that there is almost no material to work with. Choosing a good topic for your history essay is an important first step in ensuring you get a great grade.

With a little planning, you can set yourself up for success. Below are some history essay topic examples you may want to consider:

  • How did the Industrial Revolution change American society?
  • What were the causes of the American Civil War?
  • What was the impact of World War II on American society?
  • The rise of the civil rights movement in the United States.
  • The history of immigration in the United States.

History Essay Outline

A good history essay should have a clear and concise structure. By following an outline, you can ensure that your essay is well-organized and flows smoothly.

An essay's basic structure is composed of three parts:

  • The introduction
  • Body paragraphs, and
  • The conclusion.

The introduction should give an overview of the main points of your essay. It should also introduce the reader to the main historical characters and events you will discuss.

The body paragraphs are where you will develop your argument and support your thesis statement. Each body paragraph should focus on a specific point.

The conclusion should summarize your main points and briefly restate your thesis statement. Below is a simplified guide on how to go about these different parts of your essay:

How to Start a Strong History Essay

The best way to start a history essay is to first understand the question that has been asked. Once you clearly understand what is being asked, you can begin to formulate your thesis statement.

Your thesis statement is the central argument of your essay. It should be concise and clear and state your position on the topic.

Once you have a thesis statement, you can begin to outline your essay. Begin by brainstorming ideas and organizing them into main points.

These main points will form the body paragraphs of your essay. As you brainstorm, you may also want to consider the resources that are available to you.

Do you have access to primary sources? What about secondary sources? By considering your resources, you can start to narrow down your focus and choose a specific angle to approach the topic.

How to Write Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph should focus on a specific point. This point should be directly related to your thesis statement.

As you write each body paragraph, you will want to provide evidence to support your main point. This evidence can come in the form of quotes from historical texts, statistics, or data.

When using evidence, it is important to be sure to cite your sources. This will show that you have done your research and are familiar with the material.

It is also important to explain how this evidence supports your main point. This will help solidify your argument and ensure your reader understands the connection between the evidence and your thesis.

How to Write a Conclusion

The conclusion of your essay should briefly sum up your main points and restate your thesis statement. You may also want to briefly discuss the implications of your argument. What does your argument mean for the larger history of the topic?

By considering the implications of your argument, you can show that you have thought critically about the topic and made a well-reasoned argument.

Steps in Preparing a Historical Essay

  • Choose a topic
  • Research your topic
  • Develop a thesis statement
  • Outline your essay
  • Write your essay
  • Edit and proofread your essay

Dos and Don'ts in History Essay Writing

  • Do narrow down your focus to a specific time period, event, or individual
  • Do use primary and secondary sources to support your argument
  • Do cite your sources using proper MLA or APA format
  • Don't choose a topic that is too broad
  • Don't rely solely on secondary sources
  • Don't plagiarize your sources

What tense should a history essay be written in?

Generally, history essays are written in the past tense. This tense is used to describe events that have already happened.

What makes good historical writing?

Good historical writing is clear, concise, and well-organized arguments supported by evidences.

How many paragraphs should a history essay have?

There is no set number of paragraphs for a history essay. However, most essays will typically have 3-5 body paragraphs.

Writing a good history essay doesn't have to cause so much stress. Follow the steps outlined above to plan and write a well-organized essay that packs a punch.

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How To Write A History Essay

  • Essay Writing Guides

how to write a good hook for a history essay

Essay writing is one of the most effortful student assignments. Not everybody can skillfully enunciate their views and ideas, especially when it comes to an essay that requires the presentation of arguments and counterarguments. Simultaneously, it is one of the best tools to improve your critical thinking and research skills.  

A history essay is a particular type of creative work that requires brilliant research potential and the ability to analyze and track the consistent picture of historical events. To craft a successful history essay, students should go beyond the regular history classes and demonstrate their significant knowledge in political science, sociology, and even psychology. 

If you were lucky to get a creative assignment in history, get ready to experience not the easiest time in your life. To make the overall process more efficient and straightforward, use this history essay writing guide for assistance. 

What is a History Essay?

To elaborate an impeccable history paper, it is crucial to answer the ‘what is history essay’ question. The history essay’s essence lies in the successful introduction and confirmation of statements related to some historical events or personalities. To make your work sound professional, you need to:

  • elucidate the factors that have led to such consequences;
  • build a logical bridge between the past and the present by describing the importance of the phenomenon you are dealing with.

A top-notch history paper never focuses on the past mainly. It rather comes up with the impact the past events have on the present. An ability to fully reveal the given influence is the most significant proof that the author has a good understanding of the topic and can easily share their perspective professionally and to the point. 

Having the instructions and practical tips on how to write a history essay is the first key to a successful paper. Many students just start rewriting the historical events in their own words at this stage. Instead, your essay should provide clear answers to three central questions: what, why, and how. These questions may become good starting points for your history essay and help you stay coherent. 

Before You Start: Preparing to Write

how to write history essays

Having three questions in mind when preparing to write a history essay is already half a work done. Carry out a little brainstorm session and formulate several sub-questions using the mentioned interrogative adverbs. They will contribute much to the creation of an effective structure in your history essay. Here’s a breakdown of the main questions addressed.

  • Who are the main characters of the given events?
  • Who is against the given events?
  • Who won from the given events? Who lost?
  • Who is currently in the winning position thanks to the mentioned events?
  • What circumstances caused the given events?
  • What changes did the given events cause?
  • What kind of effect did the events have on the present?
  • What conclusions have been made after these events?
  • Why did the given events take place?
  • Why were they supported/not supported by people?

You may also come up with your suggestions regarding the specific topic to make your essay even more professional. 

Nonetheless, it is not enough only to write down the questions. You have to analyze and evaluate them profoundly. You may be very accurate about the described shreds of evidence, proofs, and arguments. However, if your essay doesn’t provide precise answers to the fundamental questions, it is unlikely to be highly scored. To stay coherent and to the point, use an explanation/interpretation scheme that implies the reasons why something has happened, followed by the profound analysis of the events. 

When the above-mentioned work is done and questions have been answered, you are ready to form your paper’s thesis statement. If we talk about the history essay, its thesis statement should be strong enough to prove the significance and value of your work. Besides, convincing arguments help create a solid bone to structure your essay around.

Your paper’s thesis statement should accurately elucidate the essay’s essence and be supported with the concise arguments that would become its paragraphs. All you need to do is specify them and then elaborate in more detail.

You can change the arguments throughout the essay, but the thesis statement should remain the same and be rational enough to stay relevant till the end. 

Research Stage

Nominally, the sources you will be using for your history essay can be divided into primary and secondary ones. Primary sources refer directly to the description of the events or personalities you base your paper on. Secondary sources represent the works of experienced historians, sociologists, and politicians that contain the profound analysis of the events described within your topic.

The professional history essay cannot exist without trustful primary sources. It can be challenging to find and identify them. Fortunately, the XXIst century provides a decent range of opportunities to complete thorough research work. You can have access to the best scholars’ papers, databases of the world libraries, and blogs of famous experts. Crowd-sourced websites can also be of good service. However, they should be used very selectively after you make sure they are credible. 

Secondary sources are as important as the primary ones. You need to be sure of their credibility and choose exclusively scholarly works. Check whether the author of the paper you are going to use in your essay is a professional historian and can be trusted. To make the right choice, ask yourself several questions before referring to any source:

  • What do you know about the author? 
  • Does the author have an academic degree and enough experience to be trusted?
  • What can you say about the publishing house? Is it academic? If it is a website, check its nature and audience. The idea to use materials published on Government online platforms in your paper sounds just perfect.

History Essay Outline

Coming to the outline stage means that you have done all the preparatory work and are ready to move forward. The outline is frequently skipped by students, which makes them regret it later. The outline is a so-called roadmap to indicate the direction you need to move in and mark the proper placing of arguments and ideas. 

Like all other types of essays, a history paper consists of an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. 

Introduction 

Are you wondering how to start a history essay? With the catching introduction, of course. Introduction to your history essay should serve as a so-called hook to immediately grab the readers’ attention. To make it as catching as possible, you may use a few simple yet trusting methods:

  • Include some facts or impressive statistics. This will help easily win people’s trust and make your paper more relevant;
  • Rhetorical questions always help define the sense of your creative work. Use them in the introduction to indicate the main points your work will be based on;
  • Quotations may also be of good service in case you want to make people intrigued.

Provided the hook has worked, don’t hesitate to introduce your paper’s theme: mention the key events or persons your essay is about. Usually, a good introduction ends with a strong thesis statement. Make it short and up to the point. Besides, make sure it provides a smooth transition to the body section of your history essay.

Divide your critical ideas described in the essay and between the paragraphs: one paragraph = one idea. Each idea needs to be supported by concise arguments. There is no standard scheme to build your body paragraphs on. However, you may take the following algorithm for the basis:

  • A sentence related to the thesis statement and elucidating the idea;
  • Context of your history essay; 
  • Facts in the form of quotation or rewritten
  • Analysis and your point of view
  • Description of the controversial points
  • Smooth transition to the next paragraph

It is highly recommended to place the arguments of your body section in correct order. Start with the weakest ones and leave the strongest ones for a dessert. 

You should put your best effort into making this paragraph as impressive and convincing as possible. The final part of your paper should focus on the main points of the essay and again prove the theory mentioned in the thesis statement. Don’t make the conclusion too complicated – it needs to be simple and straightforward. The conclusion is not a part of the paper where you may introduce some new facts and ideas. Its main goal is in summarizing the critical points previously specified in the essay. If you want to make a conclusion sound professional, don’t forget to mention the historical events’ relevance to today’s reality.

How to Choose a Topic for a History Essay?

In case you were lucky to choose the topic for your history essay by yourself, don’t skip this part. Selecting from a pile of history essay topics may be challenging as you need to know your educational level, interests, and ability to elaborate on the theme. An adequately chosen history essay topic is a basis for a good paper. It affects the overall writing process and the level of your engagement in the subject. Use these tips to choose the best topic for your history paper:

  • Focus on the theme that sounds interesting to you. If history is not your cup of tea, try to pick the theme that seems more interesting than others. History is tightly connected with all aspects of human life. So, there should be something that makes your heart beat faster.
  • Don’t be guided by interest only when choosing a topic for the history essay. You should know at least something about the given theme. Even the most exciting issues can turn out to be a nightmare to deal with if you know absolutely nothing about them.
  • Analyze the broadness of the topic. If it is too broad, you won’t be able to elaborate the theme decently. For example, the topic “Ancient Egypt” is unclear. You won’t be able to elucidate all its aspects and perspectives properly. However, dealing with “Attitudes Towards Women in Ancient Egypt” narrows your research scope and lets you stay clear and precise. 
  • Make sure the topic you are going to choose has been analyzed before, and you can find a lot of credible materials to base your research on. Even narrow themes can be challenging if they are unexplored.
  • If you have a chance to use the theme you have already been dealing with before, don’t hesitate to do it. There is no need to rewrite your old paper – you have an excellent opportunity to analyze things from another perspective. Reusing the topic is hugely advantageous, as you have all the research work done already and may concentrate on your personal opinion.
  • In case sitting on the fence while choosing the topic for your history essay becomes unbearable, you can always ask your tutor for a piece of advice. In such a way, you will demonstrate your respect and trust. 
  • Avoid offbeat themes. They may be interesting, however, totally new. If you are not afraid of being stuck at the research stage – go ahead!
  • Make a little brainstorm session before choosing any topic. Provided you can come up with at least five strong arguments related to the theme, don’t hesitate to pick it. 

History Essay Examples 

Nothing can be more helpful than a brilliant history essay example you can use for your future work. You may take a look at the essay’s purpose, analyze the structure, get an idea about transitions and vocabulary used. Check on these top-notch examples of history paper to get inspired and motivated:

https://www.slideshare.net/alipinedo/us-history-slavery-essay

https://studentshare.org/visual-arts-film-studies/1494729-art-history-paper

http://www.markedbyteachers.com/international-baccalaureate/history/compare-and-contrast-the-causes-of-the-first-world-war-and-the-second-world-war.html

http://www.markedbyteachers.com/international-baccalaureate/history/how-far-do-trotsky-fa-a-tm-s-own-misjudgments-account-for-his-failure-in-the-power-struggle-which-followed-lenin-fa-a-tm-s-death.html

http://www.markedbyteachers.com/international-baccalaureate/history/compare-and-contrast-the-policies-of-alexander-ii-and-alexander-iii.html

Writing Tips for a History Essay

Interpretation of the past may be pretty controversial. So are the rules on how to write a perfect history essay. Nevertheless, there are some standard conventions and guidelines for elaborating professional history papers without any special effort from your side. Just follow the below tips to get the highest grade under the toughest history essay rubric.

Use the past tense

The present tense is just inappropriate when dealing with the history essay. Moreover, it can undermine confidence in the qualifications and expertise of the author. The present tense is acceptable only when you draw parallels between past events and the current time. 

Avoid generalizations

Specificity and accuracy are the best friends of a highly professional history essay. If you talk about some specific period, introduce exact dates or centuries. In case you mention some personalities, provide their full names. History paper is senseless without these critical details. 

Exclude anachronisms

When dealing with some historical events from today’s perspective, it is easy to get lost in chronological order. Such a jumble can confuse the readers and make your work less credible. Mind the vocabulary you use when talking about a specific epoch.

Try not to judge the epoch from a modern perspective

Every generation has its advantages and drawbacks. Your main task as an author is to analyze both and convey them clearly to a reader. Don’t be judgmental.

Paraphrasing is always better than quoting

Stuffing your history essay with the quotes can be more of a hindrance than help. Don’t be afraid to showcase your analytical skills and dive deep into the profound analysis of past events. If paraphrasing is impossible, use the quote indicating its source.

Be responsible for the context

As an author, you assume full responsibility for your personal opinion and ideas. At the same time, you should be sure of the sources you use in your paper. History essays don’t stand uncertainty and double standards. 

Choose the proper citation style

As a rule, history papers require Chicago citation style. A poorly arranged citation page can question your reputation as a history expert. 

Stick to the proper voice

A formal academic voice is the most appropriate one when we talk about the history essay. Also, avoid passive voice phrases, redundant constructions, and generalizations. 

Take care of thorough proofreading

You have made it: your history essay is ready and waits to be polished. The editing stage is crucial as even the brightest ideas can get lost in a sea of mistakes, impurities, and vague phrases. How to proofread your history essay to make it shine? Check the below instructions to learn how to do it:

  • Read your history essay aloud several times to make sure it is clear and sounds smooth. Avoid long sentences and inaccurate phrases with unclear meaning.
  • Proper style is  important when we talk about the academic history essay. Make sure it is formal but readable. Readers should easily percept your message and clearly understand the goal of your research.
  • Proofreading may be challenging in case you have spent a lot of time elaborating on the content. If you can ask someone to look at your history paper with a fresh pair of eyes, it would be perfect. Independent readers can identify the weak places in your work faster, and you will get a valuable second opinion on your piece of writing.

Write My History Essay for Me, Please!

History paper is one of the most complicated types of writing. Students dealing with history topics should know more than just a material of a regular history syllabus. Moreover, this paper requires a lot of time and effort to do research, analyze, and establish logical connections and predictions. You have to deal with the vast amount of dates, personalities, and theories that may not always be true. No wonder a lot of students choose to ask someone to write their history assignment for them. This decision appears to be justified as our essay writing service offers help provided by the actual history scholars who, by the way, are excellent in writing. 

All you need to do is formulate the task specifying the detailed instructions to your assignment and indicate the deadline. In case you want some specific sources to be used when elaborating on your history paper, you should mention them in your reference list.

In case your history essay is ready and you just need to make it shine, our essay service is always ready to help you with editing and proofreading. In such a way, you pay only for a specific service, not for the whole writing package.

A brilliantly elaborated history essay can serve as a good base for all your future works. You may get a clear idea about the content, research process, vocabulary, structure, and citation style. Just place the order, and our highly professional expert will be there to help you with your history paper. 

  • Academic Writing Guides
  • Citation Guides
  • Essay Samples
  • Essay Topics
  • Research Paper Topics
  • Research Paper Writing Guides
  • Study Tips and Tricks

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what is history essay

How to write an introduction for a history essay

Gladiator equipment

Every essay needs to begin with an introductory paragraph. It needs to be the first paragraph the marker reads.

While your introduction paragraph might be the first of the paragraphs you write, this is not the only way to do it.

You can choose to write your introduction after you have written the rest of your essay.

This way, you will know what you have argued, and this might make writing the introduction easier.

Either approach is fine. If you do write your introduction first, ensure that you go back and refine it once you have completed your essay. 

What is an ‘introduction paragraph’?

An introductory paragraph is a single paragraph at the start of your essay that prepares your reader for the argument you are going to make in your body paragraphs .

It should provide all of the necessary historical information about your topic and clearly state your argument so that by the end of the paragraph, the marker knows how you are going to structure the rest of your essay.

In general, you should never use quotes from sources in your introduction.

Introduction paragraph structure

While your introduction paragraph does not have to be as long as your body paragraphs , it does have a specific purpose, which you must fulfil.

A well-written introduction paragraph has the following four-part structure (summarised by the acronym BHES).

B – Background sentences

H – Hypothesis

E – Elaboration sentences

S - Signpost sentence

Each of these elements are explained in further detail, with examples, below:

1. Background sentences

The first two or three sentences of your introduction should provide a general introduction to the historical topic which your essay is about. This is done so that when you state your hypothesis , your reader understands the specific point you are arguing about.

Background sentences explain the important historical period, dates, people, places, events and concepts that will be mentioned later in your essay. This information should be drawn from your background research . 

Example background sentences:

Middle Ages (Year 8 Level)

Castles were an important component of Medieval Britain from the time of the Norman conquest in 1066 until they were phased out in the 15 th and 16 th centuries. Initially introduced as wooden motte and bailey structures on geographical strongpoints, they were rapidly replaced by stone fortresses which incorporated sophisticated defensive designs to improve the defenders’ chances of surviving prolonged sieges.

WWI (Year 9 Level)

The First World War began in 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The subsequent declarations of war from most of Europe drew other countries into the conflict, including Australia. The Australian Imperial Force joined the war as part of Britain’s armed forces and were dispatched to locations in the Middle East and Western Europe.

Civil Rights (Year 10 Level)

The 1967 Referendum sought to amend the Australian Constitution in order to change the legal standing of the indigenous people in Australia. The fact that 90% of Australians voted in favour of the proposed amendments has been attributed to a series of significant events and people who were dedicated to the referendum’s success.

Ancient Rome (Year 11/12 Level)  

In the late second century BC, the Roman novus homo Gaius Marius became one of the most influential men in the Roman Republic. Marius gained this authority through his victory in the Jugurthine War, with his defeat of Jugurtha in 106 BC, and his triumph over the invading Germanic tribes in 101 BC, when he crushed the Teutones at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae (102 BC) and the Cimbri at the Battle of Vercellae (101 BC). Marius also gained great fame through his election to the consulship seven times.

2. Hypothesis

Once you have provided historical context for your essay in your background sentences, you need to state your hypothesis .

A hypothesis is a single sentence that clearly states the argument that your essay will be proving in your body paragraphs .

A good hypothesis contains both the argument and the reasons in support of your argument. 

Example hypotheses:

Medieval castles were designed with features that nullified the superior numbers of besieging armies but were ultimately made obsolete by the development of gunpowder artillery.

Australian soldiers’ opinion of the First World War changed from naïve enthusiasm to pessimistic realism as a result of the harsh realities of modern industrial warfare.

The success of the 1967 Referendum was a direct result of the efforts of First Nations leaders such as Charles Perkins, Faith Bandler and the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

Gaius Marius was the most one of the most significant personalities in the 1 st century BC due to his effect on the political, military and social structures of the Roman state.

3. Elaboration sentences

Once you have stated your argument in your hypothesis , you need to provide particular information about how you’re going to prove your argument.

Your elaboration sentences should be one or two sentences that provide specific details about how you’re going to cover the argument in your three body paragraphs.

You might also briefly summarise two or three of your main points.

Finally, explain any important key words, phrases or concepts that you’ve used in your hypothesis, you’ll need to do this in your elaboration sentences.

Example elaboration sentences:

By the height of the Middle Ages, feudal lords were investing significant sums of money by incorporating concentric walls and guard towers to maximise their defensive potential. These developments were so successful that many medieval armies avoided sieges in the late period.

Following Britain's official declaration of war on Germany, young Australian men voluntarily enlisted into the army, which was further encouraged by government propaganda about the moral justifications for the conflict. However, following the initial engagements on the Gallipoli peninsula, enthusiasm declined.

The political activity of key indigenous figures and the formation of activism organisations focused on indigenous resulted in a wider spread of messages to the general Australian public. The generation of powerful images and speeches has been frequently cited by modern historians as crucial to the referendum results.

While Marius is best known for his military reforms, it is the subsequent impacts of this reform on the way other Romans approached the attainment of magistracies and how public expectations of military leaders changed that had the longest impacts on the late republican period.

4. Signpost sentence

The final sentence of your introduction should prepare the reader for the topic of your first body paragraph. The main purpose of this sentence is to provide cohesion between your introductory paragraph and you first body paragraph .

Therefore, a signpost sentence indicates where you will begin proving the argument that you set out in your hypothesis and usually states the importance of the first point that you’re about to make. 

Example signpost sentences:

The early development of castles is best understood when examining their military purpose.

The naïve attitudes of those who volunteered in 1914 can be clearly seen in the personal letters and diaries that they themselves wrote.

The significance of these people is evident when examining the lack of political representation the indigenous people experience in the early half of the 20 th century.

The origin of Marius’ later achievements was his military reform in 107 BC, which occurred when he was first elected as consul.

Putting it all together

Once you have written all four parts of the BHES structure, you should have a completed introduction paragraph. In the examples above, we have shown each part separately. Below you will see the completed paragraphs so that you can appreciate what an introduction should look like.

Example introduction paragraphs: 

Castles were an important component of Medieval Britain from the time of the Norman conquest in 1066 until they were phased out in the 15th and 16th centuries. Initially introduced as wooden motte and bailey structures on geographical strongpoints, they were rapidly replaced by stone fortresses which incorporated sophisticated defensive designs to improve the defenders’ chances of surviving prolonged sieges. Medieval castles were designed with features that nullified the superior numbers of besieging armies, but were ultimately made obsolete by the development of gunpowder artillery. By the height of the Middle Ages, feudal lords were investing significant sums of money by incorporating concentric walls and guard towers to maximise their defensive potential. These developments were so successful that many medieval armies avoided sieges in the late period. The early development of castles is best understood when examining their military purpose.

The First World War began in 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The subsequent declarations of war from most of Europe drew other countries into the conflict, including Australia. The Australian Imperial Force joined the war as part of Britain’s armed forces and were dispatched to locations in the Middle East and Western Europe. Australian soldiers’ opinion of the First World War changed from naïve enthusiasm to pessimistic realism as a result of the harsh realities of modern industrial warfare. Following Britain's official declaration of war on Germany, young Australian men voluntarily enlisted into the army, which was further encouraged by government propaganda about the moral justifications for the conflict. However, following the initial engagements on the Gallipoli peninsula, enthusiasm declined. The naïve attitudes of those who volunteered in 1914 can be clearly seen in the personal letters and diaries that they themselves wrote.

The 1967 Referendum sought to amend the Australian Constitution in order to change the legal standing of the indigenous people in Australia. The fact that 90% of Australians voted in favour of the proposed amendments has been attributed to a series of significant events and people who were dedicated to the referendum’s success. The success of the 1967 Referendum was a direct result of the efforts of First Nations leaders such as Charles Perkins, Faith Bandler and the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. The political activity of key indigenous figures and the formation of activism organisations focused on indigenous resulted in a wider spread of messages to the general Australian public. The generation of powerful images and speeches has been frequently cited by modern historians as crucial to the referendum results. The significance of these people is evident when examining the lack of political representation the indigenous people experience in the early half of the 20th century.

In the late second century BC, the Roman novus homo Gaius Marius became one of the most influential men in the Roman Republic. Marius gained this authority through his victory in the Jugurthine War, with his defeat of Jugurtha in 106 BC, and his triumph over the invading Germanic tribes in 101 BC, when he crushed the Teutones at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae (102 BC) and the Cimbri at the Battle of Vercellae (101 BC). Marius also gained great fame through his election to the consulship seven times. Gaius Marius was the most one of the most significant personalities in the 1st century BC due to his effect on the political, military and social structures of the Roman state. While Marius is best known for his military reforms, it is the subsequent impacts of this reform on the way other Romans approached the attainment of magistracies and how public expectations of military leaders changed that had the longest impacts on the late republican period. The origin of Marius’ later achievements was his military reform in 107 BC, which occurred when he was first elected as consul.

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History Essay Examples

Cathy A.

Top History Essay Examples To Get Inspired By

Published on: May 4, 2023

Last updated on: Jul 21, 2023

history essay examples

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History essays are a crucial component of many academic programs, helping students to develop their critical thinking, research, and writing skills. 

However, writing a great history essay is not always easy, especially when you are struggling to find the right approach. This is where history essay examples come in handy. 

By reading and examining samples of successful history essays, you can gain inspiration, learn new ways to approach your topic. Moreover, you can develop a better understanding of what makes a great history essay.

In this blog, you will find a range of history essay examples that showcase the best practices in history essay writing. 

Read on to find useful examples.

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Sample History Essays

Explore our collection of excellent history paper examples about various topics. Download the pdf examples for free and read to get inspiration for your own essay.

History Essay Samples for Middle School

The Impact of Ancient Civilizations on Modern Society

The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire

The Causes and Consequences of the American Revolution

History Writing Samples for High School Students

The Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Society

Grade 10 History Essay Example: World War 1 Causes and Effects

Grade 12 History Essay Example: The Impact of Technology on World War II

Ancient History Essay Examples

The Societal and Political Structures of the Maya Civilization

The Role of Phoenicians in the Development of Ancient Mediterranean World

The Contributions of the Indus Civilization

Medieval History Essay Examples

The Crusades Motivations and Consequences

The Beginning of Islamic Golden Age

The Black Death

Modern History Essay Examples

The Suez Crisis and the End of British Dominance

The Rise of China as an Economic Powerhouse

World History Essay Examples

The Role of the Silk Road in Shaping Global Trade and Culture

The Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Empire

The Legacy of Ancient Greek Philosophy and Thought

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American History Essay Examples

The Civil Rights Movement and its Impact on American Society

The American Civil War and its Aftermath

The Role of Women in American Society Throughout History

African History Essay Examples

The Impact of Colonialism on African Societies

The Rise and Fall of the Mali Empire

European History Essay Examples

The Protestant Reformation and the Rise of Protestantism in Europe

The French Revolution and its Impact on European Politics and Society

The Cold War and the Division of Europe

Argumentative History Essay Examples

Was the US Civil War Primarily About Slavery or States

The Effects of British Colonization on Colonies

Art History Essay Examples 

The Influence of Greek and Roman Art on Neoclassicism

The Depiction of Women in Art Throughout History

The Role of Art in the Propaganda of Fascist Regimes

How to Use History Essay Examples

History essay examples are a valuable tool for students looking for inspiration and guidance on how to approach their own essays. 

By analyzing successful essays, you can learn effective writing techniques that can be expected in a high-quality history essay. 

Here are some tips that will help you take full advantage of the samples above.

Tips for Effectively Using History Essay Examples

  • Analyze the Structure:

Pay close attention to how the essay is organized, including the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Look for how the author transitions between paragraphs and the use of evidence to support their argument.

  • Study the Thesis Statement:

The thesis statement is the backbone of any successful history essay. Analyze how the author crafted their thesis statement, and consider how you can apply this to your own writing.

  • Take Note of the Evidence: 

Effective history essays rely on using strong evidence to support their arguments. Take note of the sources and types of evidence used in the essay. Consider how you can apply similar evidence to support your own arguments.

  • Pay Attention to the Formatting and Other Academic Formalities:

The sample essays also demonstrate how you can incorporate academic formalities and standards while keeping the essay engaging. See how these essays fulfill academic standards and try to follow them in your own writing.

  • Practice Writing:

While analyzing history essay examples can be helpful, it is important to also practice writing your own essays. Use the examples as inspiration, but try to craft your own unique approach to your topic. 

History essays are an essential aspect of learning and understanding the past. By using history essay examples, students can gain inspiration on how to develop their history essays effectively. 

Furthermore, following the tips outlined in this blog, students can effectively analyze these essay samples and learn from them. 

However, writing a history essay can still be challenging. 

This is where CollegeEssay.org comes in. With a team of qualified and experienced history writers, our history essay writing service can help students overcome their challenges. 

Our AI essay writing tools are advanced in producing high-quality, original essays.

So don’t wait any longer if you need essay help, contact our paper writing service today!

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Do You Know What is History Essay?

Crafting the keystone of your history essay – thesis statement, the weight of evidence, nurturing citations and references, the polish of proofreading and editing.

In the world of academia and intellectual inquiry, the term “history essay” holds a unique and profound significance. In this guide, we will try to uncover the essence of what is history essay, dissecting its anatomy, purpose, and how to craft a compelling one that captivates both scholars and casual readers. It is not merely a piece of prose; it is a key that unlocks the door to the past, a narrative interwoven with facts, interpretations, and the timeless pursuit of understanding our world’s trajectory.

Defining a History Essay

The Essence of Historical Exploration

At its core, a history essay is a written exploration of past events and their significance. It serves as a means to analyze, interpret, and present historical information to convey a particular message or argument.

So What is History essay?

Every history essay thrives on context. It’s not just about recounting events; it’s about delving into the circumstances, ideologies, and societal norms that shaped those events.

The Role of Extensive Research

Extensive research is the lifeblood of a history essay. This involves sifting through primary and secondary sources, corroborating facts, and identifying credible accounts of history.

A well-crafted thesis statement is the keystone of a history essay. It’s a concise, arguable assertion that guides your entire essay, providing direction and purpose.

The Art of Composition can Define What is History Essay

Building the Foundation – Introduction

The introduction is where the stage is set for your essay . It should provide context, introduce your thesis, and entice the reader to delve further into your exploration of history.

Constructing the Body

what is history essay purpose

The body of your history essay comprises a series of interconnected paragraphs. Each paragraph should revolve around a distinct point or argument, supported by evidence and analysis.

Unearthing Historical Insights

Analysis is the heart of your essay. It’s where you dissect historical evidence, evaluate its significance, and present your interpretation. Don’t just narrate; analyze.

Evidence can take various forms – quotes, statistics, documents, or artifacts. Ensure that you cite your sources meticulously and explain their relevance.

Acknowledging Counterarguments

A robust history essay acknowledges opposing viewpoints and counters them. This demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of the topic and strengthens your argument.

Crafting a Memorable Conclusion

Your conclusion should reiterate your thesis and summarize your key arguments. It’s the last chance to leave a lasting impression on your reader.

Proper citation is non-negotiable in history essays. Follow the citation style specified by your institution and include a bibliography or references page.

Before you share your historical insights with the world, meticulously proofread and edit your essay. Look for clarity, coherence, and grammar.

what is history essay type

Embracing the Challenge and Understanding What is History Essay?

History essays are not mere academic exercises; they are journeys through time and human experiences. They require patience, diligence, and a genuine passion for unraveling the mysteries of the past. So, whether you are a student embarking on your first historical exploration or a seasoned historian, remember that every history essay is a chance to contribute to the ongoing conversation about our shared history.

In conclusion, answering the question, what is history essay is more than just a collection of facts; it is a gateway to understanding our past, shaping our present, and envisioning our future. Crafting a captivating history essay involves a delicate balance of research, analysis, and storytelling. By embracing the fundamentals of historical context, research, and interpretation, you can embark on a journey through time, shedding light on the intricacies of our collective human story.

So, the next time you ponder the question, “What is history essay?” remember that it is not merely an assignment; it is an opportunity to unearth the narratives of the past and breathe life into them through your words.

Thank you for taking this historical journey with us. If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts on the topic, feel free to leave a comment below. Happy writing!

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The Essay: History and Definition

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"One damned thing after another" is how Aldous Huxley described the essay: "a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything."

As definitions go, Huxley's is no more or less exact than Francis Bacon's "dispersed meditations," Samuel Johnson's "loose sally of the mind" or Edward Hoagland's "greased pig."

Since Montaigne adopted the term "essay" in the 16th century to describe his "attempts" at self-portrayal in prose , this slippery form has resisted any sort of precise, universal definition. But that won't an attempt to define the term in this brief article.

In the broadest sense, the term "essay" can refer to just about any short piece of nonfiction  -- an editorial, feature story, critical study, even an excerpt from a book. However, literary definitions of a genre are usually a bit fussier.

One way to start is to draw a distinction between articles , which are read primarily for the information they contain, and essays, in which the pleasure of reading takes precedence over the information in the text . Although handy, this loose division points chiefly to kinds of reading rather than to kinds of texts. So here are some other ways that the essay might be defined.

Standard definitions often stress the loose structure or apparent shapelessness of the essay. Johnson, for example, called the essay "an irregular, indigested piece, not a regular and orderly performance."

True, the writings of several well-known essayists ( William Hazlitt and Ralph Waldo Emerson , for instance, after the fashion of Montaigne) can be recognized by the casual nature of their explorations -- or "ramblings." But that's not to say that anything goes. Each of these essayists follows certain organizing principles of his own.

Oddly enough, critics haven't paid much attention to the principles of design actually employed by successful essayists. These principles are rarely formal patterns of organization , that is, the "modes of exposition" found in many composition textbooks. Instead, they might be described as patterns of thought -- progressions of a mind working out an idea.

Unfortunately, the customary divisions of the essay into opposing types --  formal and informal, impersonal and familiar  -- are also troublesome. Consider this suspiciously neat dividing line drawn by Michele Richman:

Post-Montaigne, the essay split into two distinct modalities: One remained informal, personal, intimate, relaxed, conversational and often humorous; the other, dogmatic, impersonal, systematic and expository .

The terms used here to qualify the term "essay" are convenient as a kind of critical shorthand, but they're imprecise at best and potentially contradictory. Informal can describe either the shape or the tone of the work -- or both. Personal refers to the stance of the essayist, conversational to the language of the piece, and expository to its content and aim. When the writings of particular essayists are studied carefully, Richman's "distinct modalities" grow increasingly vague.

But as fuzzy as these terms might be, the qualities of shape and personality, form and voice, are clearly integral to an understanding of the essay as an artful literary kind. 

Many of the terms used to characterize the essay -- personal, familiar, intimate, subjective, friendly, conversational -- represent efforts to identify the genre's most powerful organizing force: the rhetorical voice or projected character (or persona ) of the essayist.

In his study of Charles Lamb , Fred Randel observes that the "principal declared allegiance" of the essay is to "the experience of the essayistic voice." Similarly, British author Virginia Woolf has described this textual quality of personality or voice as "the essayist's most proper but most dangerous and delicate tool."

Similarly, at the beginning of "Walden, "  Henry David Thoreau reminds the reader that "it is ... always the first person that is speaking." Whether expressed directly or not, there's always an "I" in the essay -- a voice shaping the text and fashioning a role for the reader.

Fictional Qualities

The terms "voice" and "persona" are often used interchangeably to suggest the rhetorical nature of the essayist himself on the page. At times an author may consciously strike a pose or play a role. He can, as E.B. White confirms in his preface to "The Essays," "be any sort of person, according to his mood or his subject matter." 

In "What I Think, What I Am," essayist Edward Hoagland points out that "the artful 'I' of an essay can be as chameleon as any narrator in fiction." Similar considerations of voice and persona lead Carl H. Klaus to conclude that the essay is "profoundly fictive":

It seems to convey the sense of human presence that is indisputably related to its author's deepest sense of self, but that is also a complex illusion of that self -- an enactment of it as if it were both in the process of thought and in the process of sharing the outcome of that thought with others.

But to acknowledge the fictional qualities of the essay isn't to deny its special status as nonfiction.

Reader's Role

A basic aspect of the relationship between a writer (or a writer's persona) and a reader (the implied audience ) is the presumption that what the essayist says is literally true. The difference between a short story, say, and an autobiographical essay  lies less in the narrative structure or the nature of the material than in the narrator's implied contract with the reader about the kind of truth being offered.

Under the terms of this contract, the essayist presents experience as it actually occurred -- as it occurred, that is, in the version by the essayist. The narrator of an essay, the editor George Dillon says, "attempts to convince the reader that its model of experience of the world is valid." 

In other words, the reader of an essay is called on to join in the making of meaning. And it's up to the reader to decide whether to play along. Viewed in this way, the drama of an essay might lie in the conflict between the conceptions of self and world that the reader brings to a text and the conceptions that the essayist tries to arouse.

At Last, a Definition—of Sorts

With these thoughts in mind, the essay might be defined as a short work of nonfiction, often artfully disordered and highly polished, in which an authorial voice invites an implied reader to accept as authentic a certain textual mode of experience.

Sure. But it's still a greased pig.

Sometimes the best way to learn exactly what an essay is -- is to read some great ones. You'll find more than 300 of them in this collection of  Classic British and American Essays and Speeches .

  • What Are the Different Types and Characteristics of Essays?
  • What Is a Personal Essay (Personal Statement)?
  • Rhetorical Analysis Definition and Examples
  • The Writer's Voice in Literature and Rhetoric
  • What Is Expository Writing?
  • Point of View in Grammar and Composition
  • What Is Tone In Writing?
  • The Difference Between an Article and an Essay
  • How to Write a Narrative Essay or Speech
  • Topical Organization Essay
  • Writers on Writing: The Art of Paragraphing
  • What is a Familiar Essay in Composition?
  • Compose a Narrative Essay or Personal Statement
  • Mood in Composition and Literature
  • Writing Prompt (Composition)

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Home — Essay Samples — History — What Is History — The Importance of History

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The Importance of History

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Published: Oct 16, 2018

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What is history, the importance of understanding history, works cited:.

  • Boyne, J. (2006). The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Random House.
  • Crowe, D. (2008). The Holocaust in the eyes of children. The English Journal, 97(4), 25-31.
  • Edelman, L. (1995). The Ghetto Fights. Holocaust Library.
  • Finkelstein, N. G. (2003). The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. Verso Books.
  • Gilroy, A. (2011). Ethnic and racial studies. Between camps: Race and culture in postmodernity, 34(3), 458-469.
  • Gleeson-White, J. (2011). Double vision: The Holocaust and representation. Australian Humanities Review, (50), 89-102.
  • Roth, J. K. (2006). Teaching about the Holocaust: essays by college and university teachers. University Press of America.
  • Snyder, T. (2015). Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. Crown/Archetype.
  • Wistrich, R. S. (2003). Holocaust and genocide studies. The long road back: Jewish intellectual refugees in post-war Europe, 17(2), 180-199.
  • Zuckerman, M. (1999). A dream undone: The integration of soldiers in World War II. University of California Press.

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what is history essay

What is history? essay

Why do we need to spend time grasping and comprehending what has been? Why is it worthy for our present and future conditions? Defining history, it is simply the study of the past. It analyzes and chronologically records the development of a certain person, institution, phenomena, and past events (Pickett, 2002). Why take account studying the past? History is very necessary in our present and future state of affairs. History gives as the idea about the different kinds of societies and human behaviors. For example, how can we evaluate something that is not happening at the moment?

Well, the best way is to rely on the past experiences or any other historical materials. How can we understand how a genius became a genius; how technology improved through time; or why there are differences in the cultures of the countries in the globe; if we don’t know where it all originated? History serves as a fundamental evidence for the deliberation and analysis of how societies function. It can give us details and justifications about change and progress in the societies. Remember that today would not exist if yesterday didn’t happen, so as the future.

The present depends on the past, same as the future depends on what is happening today. Only history can answer the questions like “how things change”, “what are the factors that cause change”, “what fundamentals of the society suffer regardless of change? ”, and many others (Stearns, 2007). History also gives essential contributions when it comes to ethical awareness. An individual’s experiences and circumstances in his past allow a history student to test his own moral sense, using the complexities and difficult settings that the others have already faced as his guides.

An individual learn from his past. If others would also learn about it, then they would know how to deal with it once they will be experiencing it, too (Stearns, 2007). History helps present individuality and identity. Historical facts are mostly about how groups, institutions, societies and countries were formed and evolved (Stearns, 2007). I believe it is important for all of us to be knowledgeable about where we all came from and how we were brought where we are now. Who would want not knowing who their parents are, where they can be found, and why he can’t be with them?Knowing history develops our sense of awareness, national values and commitment.

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Marwick, Arthur. (n. d. ) The Fundamentals of History. The Institute of Historical Research site. 21 January 2008 <http://www. history. ac. uk/ihr/Focus/Whatishistory/marwick1. html>. Stearns, Peter N. ( 24 July 2007)Why Study History? American Historical Association. 21 January 2008 < http://www. historians. org/PUBS/Free/WhyStudyHistory. htm >. Pickett, J. (2002) The American Heritage College Dictionary.

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Learn from history's greatest innovators, founders, and investors with a mix of interviews and summaries of the best books, essays, and lectures. Each week, Daniel Scrivner decodes the ideas, strategies, and frameworks used by the best innovators, founders, and investors. Past guests include Scott Belsky (Adobe), Gokul Rajaram (DoorDash), Kevin Kelly (WIRED), Sir Ronald Cohen (IMPACT), Erling Kagge (Everest Explorer), along with the founders of Wealthfront, Public.com, Primal Kitchen, 1-800-GOT-JUNK, Levels, and Eight Sleep. Visit OutlierAcademy.com for episode notes, searchable transcripts, videos, and more. Outliers with Daniel Scrivner is a mix of Founders Podcast, How I Built This, Business Breakdowns, Invest Like The Best, Founder's Field Guide, 20VC (20 Minute VC), The Knowledge Project, What It Takes, and The Tim Ferriss Show.

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The Essays of Warren Buffett by Lawrence Cunningham For over 50 years, Warren Buffett has written an annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway's shareholders. Many people set it as a goal to read all of Warren’s shareholder letters chronologically. Which is certainly a fascinating way to see how Berkshire Hathaway evolved year after year. This book is different. It breaks from this chronological order to instead group things Warren has said over the years by topic. So, for instance, you can see his ideas on the importance of culture or the power of incentives holistically — as a single body of work. What I love about this book is the focus on Warren’s ideas. Warren Buffett has built one of the largest conglomerates in history — full of incredible companies from See’s Candies to GEICO — from a standing start in 1965. I would argue that if you only have time to study one entrepreneur and investor, that you should study Warren Buffett. There’s no better way to do that than with this book. I know it’s one I’ll be re-reading for the rest of my life. Listen to Part 2. https://www.outlieracademy.com/episode/166 Watch and listen. Watch this episode on YouTube Find this episode in your favorite podcast app Get new episodes delivered via email Read the full book summary. The Essays of Warren Buffett: Warren's Ideas from 50+ Years Grouped by Topic Brought to you by HVMN. With Ketone-IQ, fuel your best anytime with a boost of awesome-feeling energy and clarity. Unlock the power of nature's superfuel—no fasting or keto diet required. Advertise with Outliers and reach our global community Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Trailer - Book: “The Essays of Warren Buffett” by Lawrence Cunningham

The Essays of Warren Buffett by Lawrence Cunningham For over 50 years, Warren Buffett has written an annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway's shareholders. Many people set it as a goal to read all of Warren’s shareholder letters chronologically. Which is certainly a fascinating way to see how Berkshire Hathaway evolved year after year. This book is different. It breaks from this chronological order to instead group things Warren has said over the years by topic. So, for instance, you can see his ideas on the importance of culture or the power of incentives holistically — as a single body of work. What I love about this book is the focus on Warren’s ideas. Warren Buffett has built one of the largest conglomerates in history — full of incredible companies from See’s Candies to GEICO — from a standing start in 1965. I would argue that if you only have time to study one entrepreneur and investor, that you should study Warren Buffett. There’s no better way to do that than with this book. I know it’s one I’ll be re-reading for the rest of my life. Watch and listen Watch this episode on YouTube Find this episode in your favorite podcast app Get new episodes delivered via email Read the full book summary The Essays of Warren Buffett: Warren's Ideas from 50+ Years Grouped by Topic Brought to you by HVMN. With Ketone-IQ, fuel your best anytime with a boost of awesome-feeling energy and clarity. Unlock the power of nature's superfuel—no fasting or keto diet required. Advertise with Outliers and reach our global community Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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In 2016, Apple published a limited edition anthology, chronicling the last 20 years of Apple's designs simply titled Designed by Apple in California. The book is dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs. “The idea of genuinely trying to make something great for humanity was Steve’s motivation from the beginning, and it remains both our ideal and our goal as Apple looks to the future,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer. “This archive is intended to be a gentle gathering of many of the products the team has designed over the years. We hope it brings some understanding to how and why they exist, while serving as a resource for students of all design disciplines.” The book was written and curated over an eight-year period by Jony Ive and features photos by award-winning photographer Andrew Zuckerman. All of the photos were shot in a deliberately spare style that has become a hallmark of Apple's design aesthetic. The books 450 images illustrates Apple’s design process as well as its finished products. Summary‍ In this episode, Daniel Scrivner explores the book 'Designed by Apple in California' and reads the introduction written by Jony Ive. The book is a collection of Apple's designs over the last 20 years and serves as an archive of their work. Jony Ive dedicated the book to Steve Jobs, highlighting his essential role in the creation of these products. The book showcases Apple's design aesthetic and the evolution of forms and materials. It emphasizes the importance of simplicity and communication in product design. Chapters‍ (00:00) Introduction‍ (01:19) Designed by Apple in California‍‍ (03:13) Objective Representation of Work‍‍ (04:11) Collaboration and Design Process‍‍ (05:05) Evolution of Forms and Materials‍‍‍ (06:05) Simplicity and Communication‍‍‍ (‍07:01) Dedication to Steve Jobs‍‍‍ (08:24) Book Overview‍‍‍ (09:51) Johnny Ive's Perspective Subscribe to newsletter: https://newsletter.outlieracademy.com Subscribe to podcast: https://pod.link/outlieracademy Learn more about Steve Jobs: https://www.danielscrivner.com/articles/who-was-steve-jobs-wisdom-from-the-man-who-built-apple-and-pixar Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • NOV 26, 2023

Trailer: Essay Breakdown: Jony Ive's Dedication to Steve Jobs in "Designed by Apple in California"

Subscribe to newsletter: https://newsletter.outlieracademy.com Subscribe to podcast: https://pod.link/outlieracademy In 2016, Apple published a limited edition anthology, chronicling the last 20 years of Apple's designs simply titled Designed by Apple in California. The book is dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs. “The idea of genuinely trying to make something great for humanity was Steve’s motivation from the beginning, and it remains both our ideal and our goal as Apple looks to the future,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer. “This archive is intended to be a gentle gathering of many of the products the team has designed over the years. We hope it brings some understanding to how and why they exist, while serving as a resource for students of all design disciplines.” The book was written and curated over an eight-year period by Jony Ive and features photos by award-winning photographer Andrew Zuckerman. All of the photos were shot in a deliberately spare style that has become a hallmark of Apple's design aesthetic. The books 450 images illustrates Apple’s design process as well as its finished products. This is a breakdown of Jony Ive's introduction at the beginning of the book. Learn more about Steve Jobs: https://www.danielscrivner.com/articles/who-was-steve-jobs-wisdom-from-the-man-who-built-apple-and-pixar Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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IDF fires artillery shells into Gaza as fighting between Israeli troops and Islamist Hamas militants continues on Oct. 12, 2023.

Middle East crisis — explained

The conflict between Israel and Palestinians — and other groups in the Middle East — goes back decades. These stories provide context for current developments and the history that led up to them.

Despite backlash, Masha Gessen says comparing Gaza to a Nazi-era ghetto is necessary

Rachel Treisman

Leila Fadel, photographed for NPR, 2 May 2022, in Washington DC. Photo by Mike Morgan for NPR.

Leila Fadel

what is history essay

Journalist Masha Gessen received a prize named after political theorist Hannah Ahrendt in Bremen, Germany on Saturday. The ceremony almost didn't happen after sponsors condemned Gessen's recent remarks on the Middle East. Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images hide caption

Journalist Masha Gessen received a prize named after political theorist Hannah Ahrendt in Bremen, Germany on Saturday. The ceremony almost didn't happen after sponsors condemned Gessen's recent remarks on the Middle East.

Prominent Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen received a prestigious award for political thought over the weekend, in a ceremony that almost didn't happen due to backlash over their recent writings on Israel-Gaza.

Israel's air-and-ground assault on Gaza has killed more than 20,000 people in the 10 weeks since the Hamas-led attack on Israel killed some 1,200 people and took more than 240 others hostage.

Gaza health officials say Israel's offensive has now killed more than 20,000 people

Gaza health officials say Israel's offensive has now killed more than 20,000 people

Gessen, who is Jewish and whose family lost loved ones in the Holocaust, has been criticized for a New Yorker essay published earlier this month in which they likened the Gaza Strip to the WWII-era ghettos that Nazis developed to segregate and control Jewish people in occupied Europe.

Gessen argues in the essay that treating the Holocaust as a "singular event," unlike anything that has occurred before or after in history, not only is incorrect but makes it impossible to learn lessons from the Holocaust that are needed to prevent future genocides.

The accounts of freed Israeli hostages add pressure to save those still in captivity

The accounts of freed Israeli hostages add pressure to save those still in captivity

The term "would have given us the language to describe what is happening in Gaza now. The ghetto is being liquidated," they wrote, referring to the process in which Jews were either killed in ghettos or forced out to concentration camps.

Gessen notes there are key differences between the two: The Nazi claim that ghettos were necessary to protect non-Jews from disease "had no basis in reality," while Israel's stance that the isolation of Gaza is necessary to protect against Palestinian terrorist attacks "stems from actual and repeated acts of violence."

"Yet both claims propose that an occupying authority can choose to isolate, immiserate — and now, mortally endanger — an entire population of people in the name of protecting its own," they contend.

Germany's strict support for Israel, informed by history

The essay was published — and made waves — just as Gessen was preparing to travel to Bremen, Germany to accept the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought . The award, which is funded by the left-leaning Heinrich Böll Foundation and the government of Bremen, honors those who contribute to public thought in the tradition of the influential 20th-century philosopher.

Both the foundation and Bremen's town hall quickly withdrew their support from the awards ceremony, which was originally set for last Friday. A scaled-down ceremony was held in a different venue the following day.

Shortly after, Gessen spoke to Morning Edition 's Leila Fadel about the controversy and the essay that started it.

This Q&A with Masha Gessen has excerpts that were not part of the broadcast version. It has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Leila Fadel: I want to lay out the point and the argument of your piece before we get to the backlash that happened. In your recent essay for The New Yorker , you discuss how "the politics of memory of the Holocaust and antisemitism obscure what we see in Israel and Gaza today." ... What is the central argument in your piece?

Masha Gessen : It's an argument for comparing the Holocaust to present-day situations, and I make this argument both explicitly and implicitly.

I believe that to deliver on the promise of "Never Again," we have to constantly be checking to see if we are once again sliding into the darkness, which I believe is something that's happening in Gaza today. The essay looks at how memory culture, particularly in Germany, has sort of ossified and given birth to a vast and rather bizarre bureaucracy that polices what it perceives as antisemitism. But antisemitism is often too often defined as criticism of Israel, rather than actual antisemitic attacks and harassment.

LF: I wondered if you saw any similar policing here in the U.S. of the discourse around Israel's policies.

The Anatomy Of Autocracy: Masha Gessen

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The anatomy of autocracy: masha gessen.

MG: I think we're increasingly hearing that anti-Zionism is antisemitism. When Jewish activists and especially Israeli-Jewish activists are speaking out against Israeli policies, to have non-Jewish people brand that as antisemitism is downright bizarre, but also dangerous.

I see a very strong current of wielding antisemitism as a cudgel against, among others, Jewish people, in Representative [Elise] Stefanik's campaign against university presidents.

One of the presidents that she grilled — the president of MIT — is Jewish. And I also say that the entire premise of this campaign against universities is profoundly antisemitic, which is that universities receive a lot of Jewish money. So Jews, donors, should be mobilized to withdraw their money, which is just such a clear antisemitic trope, and so clearly weaponized by the right wing, which, again, is something that's very similar to what's happened here in Germany.

LF: The way criticism of Israeli policy became linked or equated with antisemitism. How did that happen?

MG: This has been one of the top priorities of the consecutive Netanyahu governments. Netanyahu has forged alliances, particularly with right-wing governments of European countries, such as Hungary and Poland, in order to prevent an anti occupation consensus in the European Union. It's been a very successful, very concerted yearslong campaign on the part of Israel. And one of the vehicles for this equation is the International Holocaust Remembrance Association definition of antisemitism, which effectively equates anti-Zionism or criticism of Israel with antisemitism. And this definition has been adopted by all European countries, and the U.S. State Department.

What the U.S. can learn from Germany about grappling with dark parts of its history

What the U.S. can learn from Germany about grappling with dark parts of its history

LF: This comparison isn't something that's really done. And you also make a comparison that caused backlash, saying Gaza right now is like a Nazi era Jewish ghetto and that right now the ghetto is being liquidated. But you must have known writing it would get this type of backlash. Why did you make that comparison?

MG: Well, the comparison is very much the centerpiece of the article. And I think that we have a moral and one could also argue, legal obligation to compare the Holocaust and the atrocities committed during the Second World War to the present. If we take the promise of never again, seriously, we once again have to constantly be asking ourselves, are we laying the foundations for the mass murder of millions of people? Are we employing or as part of the world employing the same kinds of tactics that were employed by the Nazis? I think there's every reason to say that that is exactly what's happening.

Human Rights Watch issued a report stating unequivocally that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war, which not only is a war crime, but it is a war crime that was committed by the Nazis. I think we're seeing the exact same thing happening in Gaza. Now with nine out of 10 Gazans internally displaced, with half of Gaza's hospitals destroyed, and the remaining hospitals providing only partial services, with the majority of the population of Gaza, suffering from starvation: we can say that it really resembles the situation not only of ghettos, but of the liquidation of ghettos in Nazi occupied Europe. And this is the moment for the world to say if we're going to make good on the promise of "Never Again," we have to step in now.

How to address antisemitic rhetoric when you encounter it

How to address antisemitic rhetoric when you encounter it

LF: Right now there is a very real rise in antisemitism in Europe, in the United States ... Are antisemites capitalizing on the criticisms you raise about the way Israel is conducting its war against Hamas in Gaza?

MG: You know, the honest answer is we don't know. And no one else knows because the way that antisemitism is currently defined in European bureaucracies conflates criticism of Israel with actual antisemitism. If you look, for example, at the statistics on the drastic rise of antisemitism in Germany since the October 7th attacks, you can't tell whether this rise is real or not. Maybe it's real. And that is very dangerous. Maybe it's not real. So this conflation is super dangerous. In fact, I would argue that the conflation of Jews with Israel is antisemitic per se.

LF: I know we're focused on this particular backlash and what happened with this Hannah Arendt Prize. But [what about] the general reception of your piece? I mean, what have you heard from readers ... who are directly impacted or indirectly impacted by what's going on in a way that others are not?

MG: We all live in our bubbles ... Probably the most meaningful thing to me is that I've heard from one survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and one child of a survivor of Dr. [Josef] Mengele's experiments on twins, both of whom wrote with deep engagement about the comparison of Gaza to the ghetto, which they both agree with. Now, that's not a huge sample. On the other hand, there aren't a lot of survivors in 2023. And in any case, these are very meaningful exchanges that certainly make me think that that the comparison is necessary.

And the thing is that if we are so morally willful that the worst can still be stopped in Gaza, and this comparison to the liquidation of the ghetto can be proven wrong, that would be the best possible outcome of comparing Gaza to a Jewish ghetto.

The broadcast interview was edited by Arezou Rezvani and produced by Taylor Haney.

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Guest Essay

What Nikki Haley Didn’t Say

An image of former ambassador Nikki Haley is projected on a television screen. In the image, the reflection of a light looks like a halo.

By Steve Inskeep

Mr. Inskeep, a co-host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “Up First,” is the author of “Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded in a Divided America.”

Nikki Haley drew criticism this week for what she didn’t say. As she campaigned in New Hampshire for the Republican presidential nomination, a person asked her to name the cause of the Civil War.

Ms. Haley, a former South Carolina governor, joked it was not an “easy question.” She then mentioned “how government was going to run,” “freedoms,” the need for “capitalism” and individual liberties. When the questioner observed that she hadn’t mentioned slavery, she asked, “What do you want me to say about slavery?”

She told a radio interviewer the next morning that “of course” the war was about slavery, that she was not evading the issue but trying to reframe it in modern terms. While we shouldn’t read too much into one video clip, it’s fair to ask: How is the Civil War’s cause not an easy question?

The facts of our history are currently contested — especially that history. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has acted to restrict what he sees as woke views of slavery and race in schools. Other Republican-led states have taken similar measures, and Donald Trump has offered his own hazy views of the past. It’s no wonder Ms. Haley spoke cautiously. The history of race has become as fraught a topic on the political right as it has been on the left.

All this points to a reality we would do well to confront: Some Americans do not believe slavery was the cause of the Civil War. I encountered some of them while discussing a recent book on Abraham Lincoln.

A few days ago, a caller on C-SPAN identified as “William in Lansford, Pa.,” asserted this to me: “The Civil War wasn’t about slavery. It was about the states fighting with one another about money.”

It was far from the first time I’ve heard such claims. It’s not hard to see why a candidate might avoid engaging too deeply with voters on this topic.

But the rest of us can arm ourselves with a few base-line facts. Far more than most historical events, the Civil War is debated among ordinary people as much as among historians. (Lincoln called it “a people’s war,” and it’s now a people’s history. I recently attended the annual Lincoln Forum in Gettysburg, Pa., where scholars shared the room with hundreds of superfans.) If we are to hold on to our history, we can prepare ourselves to respond calmly and with facts when someone makes a doubtful claim. Evidence shows what the war was about. It also shows why some people think it wasn’t about slavery — and why it matters a century and a half later.

The evidence is straightforward. Southern states rejected Lincoln’s 1860 election as a president from the antislavery Republican Party. South Carolina was the first of 11 states that tried to leave the Union, and Confederates fired the first shot of the Civil War there at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

Leaders of the would-be new republic named slavery as their cause. Alexander H. Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, gave a speech in 1861 in which he said “the assumption of the equality of races” was “an error” and “a sandy foundation” for the country he intended to leave.

More than 30 years of agitation over slavery preceded the war. Northern antislavery leaders denounced the South’s institution more and more loudly and finally organized through the new Republican Party to gain political power. Southern leaders, who once cast slavery as a tragic inheritance from colonial times, increasingly defended it as moral and good.

After the South’s defeat in 1865, these plain facts were obscured. Former Confederates cast their war heroes, like Robert E. Lee, as defenders of their home states rather than champions of slavery.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy campaigned for generations to downplay slavery’s role in the war. In a 1924 speech to the group’s annual convention, Hollins N. Randolph asserted that “Southern men” had “fought to the death” for “the liberty of the individual, for the home and for the great principle of local self-government.” Never mind that it was “the liberty of the individual” to own other human beings. The speech advocated raising money for a great Confederate monument that still exists at Stone Mountain, Ga.

Beyond the bombast, historians contested many facets of the long road to war. To give just one example from the immense scholarly record: T. Harry Williams, a 20th-century writer, put some blame for the war on Northern capitalists. He said they foresaw “fat rewards” in knocking proslavery aristocrats out of power and reshaping the economy to benefit their own factories and railroads. But really, such arguments amount to different interpretations of how the United States came to fight a war over slavery.

Today some people quote Lincoln — accurately — saying his main war aim was preserving the Union, not ending slavery. But these quotes cannot sustain any argument longer than a social media meme. Lincoln also said that slavery was “the cause of the war.” Preserving the Union ultimately required slavery’s destruction.

It seems that people question the historical record less because of doubt about the past than because of conflicts in the present. Some conservatives feel that progressives use slavery as a cudgel against their side in modern debates over race and equality.

The first Republican president saw slavery neither as a cudgel nor as something that he needed to obscure. In an 1864 letter, he described slavery as a “great wrong” and added that people of the North and South alike shared “complicity in that wrong.”

Complicity. Lincoln affirmed his country’s responsibility for failing to live up to its promise of equality. He still believed in the country and its promise.

Lincoln never claimed to be morally superior to his countrymen. He focused on an immoral system, which he worked to restrict and then to destroy. The end of slavery is now part of this country’s legacy. It’s also part of the legacy of Lincoln’s party, though Ms. Haley’s example shows it can be hard for Republican candidates to talk about it.

Steve Inskeep, a co-host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “Up First,” is the author of “Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded in a Divided America.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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Dr. John Klein will give a lecture and publish an essay in conjunction with the "Matisse and the Sea" exhibition at SLAM

In conjunction with the exhibition  Matisse and the Sea , opening on February 17, 2024, Dr. John Klein will be delivering a lecture and have an essay published. The lecture, entitled "An Art of Immersion: Matisse’s Oceanic Escapes," will be held on Tuesday, April 16 at 6 p.m. in the Farrell Auditorium at the Saint Louis Art Museum. The essay "Matisse and Water" will be featured in the  Matisse and the Sea  exhibition catalogue. 

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    The Challenges of Writing About (a.k.a., Making) History At first glance, writing about history can seem like an overwhelming task. History's subject matter is immense, encompassing all of human affairs in the recorded past — up until the moment, that is, that you started reading this guide.

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    Writing a history paper is your opportunity to do the real work of historians, to roll up your sleeves and dig deep into the past. What is a History paper? History papers are driven by arguments. In a history class, even if you are not writing a paper based on outside research, you are still writing a paper that requires some form of argument.

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    4. Make your essay flow. The fluency of your text is an important element in the writing a good history essay that can often be overlooked. Think carefully about how you transition from one paragraph to the next and try to link your points together, building your argument as you go.

  10. How to Write a History Essay

    Published on April 13, 2022 Learn more about our editorial process A history professor breaks down how to write a successful history essay, from choosing a topic to polishing your argument.

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    Relevance. 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 ...

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    Now, a history essay is a piece of written work that focuses on the user's historical perspective. The purpose of a history essay is to communicate the writer's knowledge about a specific event, person, or place in history. A history essay can be either an argumentative essay or a descriptive essay.

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    History is the study of the human past as it is described in written documents left behind by humans. The web page offers a collection of witty, pithy, and humorous definitions of history from various sources, such as authors, scientists, and characters. It also explores the themes and challenges of history as a science, art, and social science.

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    At its core, a history essay is a written exploration of past events and their significance. It serves as a means to analyze, interpret, and present historical information to convey a particular message or argument. So What is History essay? Every history essay thrives on context.

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    Meaning. In the broadest sense, the term "essay" can refer to just about any short piece of nonfiction -- an editorial, feature story, critical study, even an excerpt from a book. However, literary definitions of a genre are usually a bit fussier. One way to start is to draw a distinction between articles, which are read primarily for the ...

  21. The Importance of History: [Essay Example], 527 words

    History is important because we are the past: we are the sum of all the events good, bad, and indifferent that have happened to us. This sum product guides our actions in the present. This is true not only for the individual. The only way we can understand who we are and how we got to be that way is by studying the past.

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  24. ‎Outliers with Daniel Scrivner

    Learn from history's greatest innovators, founders, and investors with a mix of interviews and summaries of the best books, essays, and lectures. Each week, Daniel Scrivner decodes the ideas, strategies, and frameworks used by the best innovators, founders, and investors. Past guests include Scott B…

  25. Masha Gessen discusses controversial essay on Gaza and the Holocaust

    In your recent essay for The New Yorker, you discuss how "the politics of memory of the Holocaust and antisemitism obscure what we see in Israel and Gaza today." ... What is the central argument ...

  26. Nikki Haley Erases Civil War History

    As she campaigned in New Hampshire for the Republican presidential nomination, a person asked her to name the cause of the Civil War. Ms. Haley, a former South Carolina governor, joked it was not ...

  27. Dr. John Klein will give a lecture and publish an essay in conjunction

    In conjunction with the exhibition Matisse and the Sea, opening on February 17, 2024, Dr. John Klein will be delivering a lecture and have an essay published. The lecture, entitled "An Art of Immersion: Matisse's Oceanic Escapes," will be held on Tuesday, April 16 at 6 p.m. in the Farrell Auditorium at the Saint Louis Art Museum. The essay "Matisse and Water" will be featured in the Matisse ...