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History Research Essay Topic Ideas

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  • January 08, 2019

Students at all levels of study will be enrolled in history courses – some required, some optional. And at least by the time high school rolls around, there will be research essays and papers to write, and as students progress through college, history research paper topics will become more sophisticated and the research more complex. Nevertheless, history can be fascinating, if students are able to find engaging topics within the curriculum of their coursework. And crafting those essays and papers can be far more enjoyable if a topic is intriguing.

So, let’s have a look at some of the most popular and exciting history topics for research paper writing, in a variety of courses, no matter what the level of study.

Popular Topics by Specific Subject

American History

This subject may be divided into periods of U.S. history – exploration and colonization, early republic, Civil War and Reconstruction, industrial revolution and modernization, U.S. as a world power following World War I, Post World War II America, America in the 21st century. Each of these periods presents potential history term paper topics that students should find engaging. Here are just a few:

1. A contemporary political commenter recently stated, “There is only one time in history that immigrants to America were actually dangerous and a violent threat. And every November, we celebrate it.” Potential thesis: Native Americans resisted westward expansion of the “White man” for very valid reasons, and the White man’s response is a blot on our history.

2. Throughout history, White Anglo-Saxons have resisted and discriminated against immigrants from non-Anglo countries. How is this playing out in the 21st century?

3. Many identify slavery as the single most important cause of the Civil War. Is this true? Potential Thesis: The issue of slavery was a symptom of a much larger issue that resulted in the Civil War – power of the Federal government vs. states’ rights.

4. Guerilla warfare was first experienced during the French and Indian War. It has since been a type of warfare in which the US. has been involved in both Asia and the Middle East. Is contemporary terrorism and terrorist acts simply a new type of guerilla warfare?

5. Every war in which the U.S. has been involved since world War II has ended without a clear winner or loser. What has changed to cause this?

6. Inequality and discrimination are still “alive and well” in the U.S. How has the current political climate contributed to a continuation of this?

7. Voter suppression is a hot topic today. How have recent Supreme Court decisions and congressional action (or lack thereof) contributed to this?

8. The demographic makeup of the United States is changing at a rapid rate and has caused a political division. In the words of the Star Trek Borgs, “Resistance if futile.” Is this true in this circumstance.

9. Is the current interpretation of the Second Amendment what the framers of the Constitution intended?

World History

This is a huge area of study that is difficult to break down into sub-topics. Historically, we can divide world history into time periods – ancient, medieval, modern, and post-modern – and each period provides a wealth of topics for research. As well, there are specific thematic topics – an art history research paper, for example, that compares art of Europe and Asia during the same time periods.

And as student progress into graduate history programs, the topics for history dissertation research move into theses on the philosophy of history, as opposed to specific eras, themes, etc. For example, a grad student might attack the thesis that all of history is the result of the swing from society’s need for security vs. freedom.

Here are some ideas for world history topics for research paper writing. Some of them are objective; others quite controversial:

1. Ancient Greece was made up of city-states with very different political systems – from the democracy of Athens to the military dictatorship of Sparta. The Roman Empire borrowed elements of all of these various systems.

2. What conditions in Germany allowed Hitler’s rise to power? What modern day countries exhibit these conditions, and are there modern-day Hitler’s on a smaller scale?

3. What role did the Balfour Declaration and the Holocaust play in the current state of continued war in the Middle East?

It has been said that war is the result of rich people sending poor people to fight in order to preserve and increase their wealth.

4. What examples in history serve to prove this point?

What role has religion played in politics and government? Obviously, this topic could be as narrow as the influence of religion in a country or two that are considered theocracies to a much broader topic, as grad students are looking for history dissertation ideas.

5. How has art been a reflection of the time periods in which the artists lived? Art history research paper topics might relate to the total religious nature of art of early Christianity, to the more secular focus once the Renaissance and new thought emerged, to the impressionists and modern art that reflects individuality, sometimes chaos, etc.

6. Arthur Miller wrote a play, “The Crucible,” in 1953 – about the Salem Witch Trials. The play is often considered to be a condemnation of McCarthyism, which was an attempt by Congress to “weed out” communists, especially within the entertainment industry in the U.S. Researching the actions of the Puritans and the “McCarthy-ites” in a comparative analysis would be a great way to combine politics and literature in a historical context. And these activities could also be compared to more contemporary “witch hunts” around the globe.

7. The growth of feminism around the globe, and its relationship to female education. There is a common thesis that, once education for females becomes standard fare in a country, male dominance is challenged and decreased. Prepare a research paper showing a couple of examples of this thesis. What are the implications for countries that still keep women in inferior positions?

8. Technology and its impact on the growth of what is now called a “Global Society.” Certainly, technology has created a much smaller and much more interdependent world. What are the benefits and drawbacks of globalism.

These topics may not appeal to you. So, here are some others that may:

1. Find an example of history repeating itself.

2. Desert Storm

3. The Arab-Israeli War of 1967

4. Controversy over who really built the Egyptian pyramids

5. How did Japan recover from World War II and become a major economic power in the world?

6. Is the thaw in relations between North and South Korea real?

7. How do the Crusades compare to contemporary Jihad?

8. How the Roman Empire fell from within?

9. Oil as a reason for war

10. Trace the history of child labor in the U.S. and Europe

11. Watergate and the comparison to current investigations of the Trump administration

12. The Industrial Revolution in England and its effects on the rest of Europe and its colonization activities

13. How the assassination of Martin Luther King moved the civil rights movement forward.

14. The voting rights movement in the U.S. in the late 60’s and early 70‘s and the violence it sparked.

15. The Reign of Terror following the French Revolution.

16. Comparison and contrast of the American and French Revolutions

17. The causes of the War of 1812

18. Reasons for failure of the Weimar Republic following World War I

19. The success of Vietnam after its destructive civil war

20. Post-World War II American prosperity

21. Reasons for the refusal of Congress to confirm Wilson’s dream for the League of Nations and the ensuing isolationism.

22. Complex and often messy U.S. foreign policy since the 9-11 attack

23. The significant results of the Battle of Hastings that shaped British history

24. How American folk music of the 1960’s reflected the social and cultural environment of the times

25. How the realism period of art reflected the philosophy of Humanism

26. Colonization in Africa and Asia and the competition among European nations for economic supremacy

27. The influence of the works of Karl Marx on uprisings and ultimate Communist takeover in Russia

28. The Romanov Dynasty in Russia and the violent end to it

29. The environment for African-American soldiers in the U.S. military during both World Wars

30. Why the Great Depression that began in the U.S. n 1929 spread throughout the world.

31. Conditions in Germany that led to the rise of Hitler

32. Psychological study of why Aryan Germans were so quick to condemn the Jews for all of their troubles

33. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising

34. Changes in fashion during the 20th century as a reflection of early feminism

35. End to British Rule in India

36. Comparison to British and French response to loss of their overseas empires

37. Sports in the Roman Empire

38. Architecture of the Renaissance

39. Music created for political causes

40. Early “cures” for typical ailments

41. Heroes of the French resistance during World War II

42. How the Hippie culture was a reflection of its time

43. The Kent State “uprising” against the Vietnam War

44. A historical look at the evolution from rhythm and blues to rock and roll

45. Film propaganda during the Cold War

46. Comparison of education in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

47. What were the justifications for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and how were they countered?

48. Are Trump’s claims about the crisis at the southern border justified/true?

49. Violations of human rights in some Muslim countries?

50. How have unions lost their power?

51. The Cuban Missile Crisis

52. The Space Race as a symptom of the Cold War

53. Famous breaches of data systems

54. What was the “British Invasion” of U.S. music and what impact did it have?

55. The U.S. elections in which a President has lost the popular vote but won the electoral college vote

56. Why the War on Drugs has been an epic failure

57. The Civil War in China from 1945-49

58. Major contributions of ancient civilizations

59. The influence of Sigmund Freud on modern psychology

60. The history of Microsoft

61. The history of Apple

62. How a free-wheeling economy of the 1920’s led to the stock market crash

63. Prohibition during the 1920’s in the U.S. and the rise of organized crime

64. Sherman’s March to the Sea

65. Invention of the cotton gin as the beginning of the end to slavery in the U.S.

66. Why the Articles of Confederation were a failure

67. A history of the Irish Republican Army

68. Why the Dark Ages were not really “dark.”

69. The Protestant Reformation

70. Modern-day piracy off the African coast

71. Discuss the players and the “deals” that came out of the Yalta Conference

72. What was “Operation Paperclip” and was it successful?

73. Division and reunification of Germany

74. Medical experimentation on those in prisons and mental institutions in the early 20th century

75. The Carnation Revolution of 1974 and its importance

76. Most famous political scandals

77. Evolution of democratic socialism

78. U.S. financial crisis of 2008 and measures to prevent recurrence (or not)

79. Paranoia during the Cold War as a cause of McCarthyism

80. Involvement of Wikileaks in the 2016 presidential election in the U.S.

81. How alternative educational delivery systems are disrupting traditional education

82. Policies and programs of The New Deal that are still in effect

83. How the Kennedy assassination spurred the Civil Rights and voting Rights Bills

84. The Paris Climate Accord – Who’s in and Who’s Out

85. Years in which the Olympics have become politicized

86. The EU – has is unified Europe

87. Brexit- implications for the EU

88. Persecutions of early philosophers and scientists who “bucked” common belief systems.

89. The impact of Darwin’s work and response of traditional religious institutions

90. Inventions that have changed the world, beginning with the printing press

91. The promises and horrors of nuclear power

92. How the Internet has contributed to globalization

93. How developing countries have bypassed traditional infrastructure and moved into the digital age

94. Emerging middle classes in developing countries

95. The decline of Spain as a world power as it lost its colonial empire

96. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its aftermath

97. The evolving role of the Shogun in Japanese history

98. What was the Silk Road and how did it operate?

99. How did the Code of Hammurabi impact later codification of laws?

100. How did the Interstate highway system in America change its culture?

History is a fascinating subject. It reveals the march of humanity from living in caves to a “landscape” of modern lifestyles. Throughout all of this, people have faced challenges, conflicts, optimism, pessimism, major breakthroughs, and horrible events. Researching any of these can be an engaging and enlightening experience. When that research must be translated into a scholarly piece of writing, there can be challenges. Fortunately, technology has provided some ways to alleviate the anxiety of research paper writing. Accessing a good history research paper example can provide a model for creating your own. But remember this: a sample history research paper is just that – a sample. Be academically honest, put your own creative and analytical thought into your paper, and craft one you can be proud of.

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