10 hints for composing history essays

What makes a good history essay?

History, as a field, has an unfair reputation for being dry and uninteresting. Many students enter the history classroom with low expectations, only to have those expectations shattered once they realize how dynamic, provocative, and important historical lessons can truly be. However, even after enjoying numerous history classes, the average history major is still daunted by the task of writing a historical essay. The same old fears of boredom and irrelevance rear their ugly heads, and demotivate students from writing.

If you are a student of history, you can learn to write fascinating, informative, and relevant historical essays. First, keep in mind what makes a high quality historical essay. A good paper is aware of a broad historical context, and is also aware of the far-reaching implications and effects of various historical events. A strong history paper also provides hints about the social and cultural landscape of the era being written about, and contains humanizing anecdotes. Finally, a good history essay is well researched and properly cited.

Want to write a top notch history paper? Follow these ten tips.

  1. Read primary sources to better identify with people from the time period.
  2. Read secondary and tertiary sources for commentary and analysis on the time period.
  3. Consume entertainment from the time period you are studying, such as novels or music.
  4. Learn about the cultural landscape. What kind of clothing was popular? What kinds of activities?
  5. Keep in mind the greater sociopolitical context of the era. What was going on internationally during the era?
  6. Make sure to specify what the long term implications of the historical events were. Go as far into the future as possible.
  7. Consider the preexisting conditions and events that led to the historical event you are describing. Look backward in time.
  8. Remember to see historical figures and ancient peoples as fully fledged, complex human beings with the same motivations as modern day people.
  9. Find a contemporary analogue for the historical event you are analyzing. Try to draw comparisons to the present whenever possible.
  10. Use the proper terminology. Read historical texts and academic articles, as well as primary sources, to determine the proper linguistic usage.

By following these ten tips, you can ensure that your history paper is thorough, thoughtful, and humanizing. It is important when writing a history paper to consider the topic both broadly and humanistically, and the above advice will help you strike such a balance.