history essay introduction

How to write an introduction for a history essay

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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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How to Write an Introduction For a History Essay Step-by-Step

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An introduction of a historical essay acquaints the reader with the topic and how the writer will explain it. It is an important first impression. The introduction is a paragraph long and about five to seven sentences. The parts include the opening sentence, arguments and/or details that will be covered, and a thesis statement (argument of the essay). 

What Is A History Essay?

An essay is a short piece of writing that answers a question (“Who are the funniest presidents ”) discusses a subject (“What is Japanese feudalism ”), or addresses a topic (“ Causes and Effects of the Industrial Revolution ”).  A historical essay specifically addresses historical matters.

These essays are used to judge a student’s progress in understanding history. They also are used to teach and analyze a student’s ability to write and express their knowledge.  A person can know their stuff and still have problems expressing their knowledge.  

Skillful communication is an essential tool.  When you write your introduction to a historical essay remember that both the information and how you express it are both very important.  

Purpose of An Introduction

If a person is formally introduced to you, it is a means of getting acquainted.  

An introduction of a historical essay acquaints the reader with the topic and how the writer will explain it.  The introduction is a roadmap that lays out the direction you will take in the essay.

This is done by the opening paragraph, which is about five to seven sentences long.  

Grab the Reader’s Attention 

The introduction of a historical essay should grab the attention of your reader.   

It is the first time the reader has to react to your essay.  Make sure it is clear, confident, and precise .  The introduction should not be generic.  It should not be vague.  

Do not provide sources in the introduction.  You do not want the reader to check them out instead of finishing the introduction.  Leave sources to the body of the essay.  

When Should You Write The Introduction?

A movie is not filmed straight through.  Parts of a movie are filmed separately and later edited together.  This is also possible when writing an essay, especially with the ease of computers.

An introduction works off the rest of the essay.  If you have already written the whole essay, it can be easier to write an introduction.  I often write the blog summary on top last.  

Others will find it useful to write the introduction first, perhaps because it provides a helpful outline for the rest of the essay.  It is a matter of personal taste and comfort level.  

Step-By-Step Instructions 

Step one: opening sentence.

The first sentence of your introduction sets the stage and draws the reader in.  

The opening sentence should introduce the historical context of the subject matter of your historical essay.  Historical context is the political, social, cultural, and economic setting for a particular document, idea, or event.  For instance, consider this opening sentence:

The Emancipation Proclamation was an official presidential declaration handed down in the middle of the Civil War declaring slavery was now abolished in areas under Confederate control.  

A possible topic of the historical essay is “ The Strengths & Weaknesses of the Emancipation Proclamation .”  This opening sentence sets the stage.  We are no longer in the current day reading about something in the living room.  We are in the middle of the Civil War.  

There are various ways to start things off.  For instance, you can use a quotation such as President Wilson’s or Winston Churchill’s famous sayings about democracy .  

The important thing is to grab the reader’s attention and start the ball rolling.  Know your audience.  An academic audience expects a more studious approach.  And, don’t just start with a catchy sentence that has no value to the rest of the historical essay.  

Step Two: Facts/Statistics/Evidence

The next step in writing an introduction is to write a few sentences (three to five) summarizing the argument you will be making. These sentences would provide the facts and arguments that will be expanded upon in the body of the paper.  The sentences are basically an outline.  

If we continue with the previous subject, the summary section can be like this:

It was a major moral accomplishment to use the abolishment of slavery as a war measure. Meanwhile, it had pragmatic benefits, including as a matter of foreign policy, and harmed the South’s chances to win the war. Nonetheless, the measure was of questionable legality and had the possibility of causing major divisions. 

The introduction should be clear and crisp.  Try to remove unnecessary content.  This is not just about filling a word quota.  The introduction should have actual content, not empty calories.  

Step Three: Thesis Statement  

The finale of the introduction is the thesis statement , the argument being made in the essay.  This should be one sentence long.  An example would be:

The Emancipation Proclamation was as a whole very successful while having various disadvantages that still made it a risky proposition.  

The thesis sentence is very important.  It summarizes the core of the essay.  The reader is now informed about what you are about to argue.  The body of the essay should fill in the details.  

In Conclusion About Introductions … 

An introduction at a party, date, or in a historical essay is about making a good first impression.  The basics are the same.  Catch the other person’s attention, provide a snapshot of what you are trying to say, and make the person hungry for more.  

The other person often has the obligation to “hear” what you have to say.  Take it as an opportunity.  And, remember, if you mess up, it will be a lot harder to impress later on.

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UCLA History Department

Introductions & Conclusions

The introduction and conclusion serve important roles in a history paper.  They are not simply perfunctory additions in academic writing, but are critical to your task of making a persuasive argument.

A successful introduction will:

  • draw your readers in
  • culminate in a thesis statement that clearly states your argument
  • orient your readers to the key facts they need to know in order to understand your thesis
  • lay out a roadmap for the rest of your paper

A successful conclusion will:

  • draw your paper together
  • reiterate your argument clearly and forcefully
  • leave your readers with a lasting impression of why your argument matters or what it brings to light

How to write an effective introduction:

Often students get slowed down in paper-writing because they are not sure how to write the introduction.  Do not feel like you have to write your introduction first simply because it is the first section of your paper.  You can always come back to it after you write the body of your essay.  Whenever you approach your introduction, think of it as having three key parts:

  • The opening line
  • The middle “stage-setting” section
  • The thesis statement

“In a 4-5 page paper, describe the process of nation-building in one Middle Eastern state.  What were the particular goals of nation-building?  What kinds of strategies did the state employ?  What were the results?  Be specific in your analysis, and draw on at least one of the scholars of nationalism that we discussed in class.”

Here is an example of a WEAK introduction for this prompt:

“One of the most important tasks the leader of any country faces is how to build a united and strong nation.  This has been especially true in the Middle East, where the country of Jordan offers one example of how states in the region approached nation-building.  Founded after World War I by the British, Jordan has since been ruled by members of the Hashemite family.  To help them face the difficult challenges of founding a new state, they employed various strategies of nation-building.”

Now, here is a REVISED version of that same introduction:

“Since 1921, when the British first created the mandate of Transjordan and installed Abdullah I as its emir, the Hashemite rulers have faced a dual task in nation-building.  First, as foreigners to the region, the Hashemites had to establish their legitimacy as Jordan’s rightful leaders.  Second, given the arbitrary boundaries of the new nation, the Hashemites had to establish the legitimacy of Jordan itself, binding together the people now called ‘Jordanians.’  To help them address both challenges, the Hashemite leaders crafted a particular narrative of history, what Anthony Smith calls a ‘nationalist mythology.’  By presenting themselves as descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, as leaders of the Arab Revolt, and as the fathers of Jordan’s different tribal groups, they established the authority of their own regime and the authority of the new nation, creating one of the most stable states in the modern Middle East.”

The first draft of the introduction, while a good initial step, is not strong enough to set up a solid, argument-based paper.  Here are the key issues:

  • This first sentence is too general.  From the beginning of your paper, you want to invite your reader into your specific topic, rather than make generalizations that could apply to any nation in any time or place.  Students often run into the problem of writing general or vague opening lines, such as, “War has always been one of the greatest tragedies to befall society.”  Or, “The Great Depression was one of the most important events in American history.”  Avoid statements that are too sweeping or imprecise.  Ask yourself if the sentence you have written can apply in any time or place or could apply to any event or person.  If the answer is yes, then you need to make your opening line more specific.
  • Here is the revised opening line: “Since 1921, when the British first created the mandate of Transjordan and installed Abdullah I as its emir, the Hashemite rulers have faced a dual task in nation-building.”
  • This is a stronger opening line because it speaks precisely to the topic at hand.  The paper prompt is not asking you to talk about nation-building in general, but nation-building in one specific place.
  • This stage-setting section is also too general.  Certainly, such background information is critical for the reader to know, but notice that it simply restates much of the information already in the prompt.  The question already asks you to pick one example, so your job is not simply to reiterate that information, but to explain what kind of example Jordan presents.  You also need to tell your reader why the context you are providing matters.
  • Revised stage-setting: “First, as foreigners to the region, the Hashemites had to establish their legitimacy as Jordan’s rightful leaders.  Second, given the arbitrary boundaries of the new nation, the Hashemites had to establish the legitimacy of Jordan itself, binding together the people now called ‘Jordanians.’  To help them address both challenges, the Hashemite rulers crafted a particular narrative of history, what Anthony Smith calls a ‘nationalist mythology.’”
  • This stage-setting is stronger because it introduces the reader to the problem at hand.  Instead of simply saying when and why Jordan was created, the author explains why the manner of Jordan’s creation posed particular challenges to nation-building.  It also sets the writer up to address the questions in the prompt, getting at both the purposes of nation-building in Jordan and referencing the scholar of nationalism s/he will be drawing on from class: Anthony Smith.
  • This thesis statement restates the prompt rather than answers the question.  You need to be specific about what strategies of nation-building Jordan’s leaders used.  You also need to assess those strategies, so that you can answer the part of the prompt that asks about the results of nation-building.
  • Revised thesis statement: “By presenting themselves as descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, as leaders of the Arab Revolt, and as the fathers of Jordan’s different tribal groups, they established the authority of their regime and the authority of the new nation, creating one of the most stable states in the modern Middle East.”
  • It directly answers the question in the prompt.  Even though you will be persuading readers of your argument through the evidence you present in the body of your paper, you want to tell them at the outset exactly what you are arguing.
  • It discusses the significance of the argument, saying that Jordan created an especially stable state.  This helps you answer the question about the results of Jordan’s nation-building project.
  • It offers a roadmap for the rest of the paper.  The writer knows how to proceed and the reader knows what to expect.  The body of the paper will discuss the Hashemite claims “as descendants from the Prophet Muhammad, as leaders of the Arab Revolt, and as the fathers of Jordan’s different tribal groups.”

If you write your introduction first, be sure to revisit it after you have written your entire essay.  Because your paper will evolve as you write, you need to go back and make sure that the introduction still sets up your argument and still fits your organizational structure.

How to write an effective conclusion:

Your conclusion serves two main purposes.  First, it reiterates your argument in different language than you used in the thesis and body of your paper.  Second, it tells your reader why your argument matters.  In your conclusion, you want to take a step back and consider briefly the historical implications or significance of your topic.  You will not be introducing new information that requires lengthy analysis, but you will be telling your readers what your paper helps bring to light.  Perhaps you can connect your paper to a larger theme you have discussed in class, or perhaps you want to pose a new sort of question that your paper elicits.  There is no right or wrong “answer” to this part of the conclusion: you are now the “expert” on your topic, and this is your chance to leave your reader with a lasting impression based on what you have learned.

Here is an example of an effective conclusion for the same essay prompt:

“To speak of the nationalist mythology the Hashemites created, however, is not to say that it has gone uncontested.  In the 1950s, the Jordanian National Movement unleashed fierce internal opposition to Hashemite rule, crafting an alternative narrative of history in which the Hashemites were mere puppets to Western powers.  Various tribes have also reasserted their role in the region’s past, refusing to play the part of “sons” to Hashemite “fathers.”  For the Hashemites, maintaining their mythology depends on the same dialectical process that John R. Gillis identified in his investigation of commemorations: a process of both remembering and forgetting.  Their myth remembers their descent from the Prophet, their leadership of the Arab Revolt, and the tribes’ shared Arab and Islamic heritage.  It forgets, however, the many different histories that Jordanians champion, histories that the Hashemite mythology has never been able to fully reconcile.”

This is an effective conclusion because it moves from the specific argument addressed in the body of the paper to the question of why that argument matters.  The writer rephrases the argument by saying, “Their myth remembers their descent from the Prophet, their leadership of the Arab Revolt, and the tribes’ shared Arab and Islamic heritage.”  Then, the writer reflects briefly on the larger implications of the argument, showing how Jordan’s nationalist mythology depended on the suppression of other narratives.

Introduction and Conclusion checklist

When revising your introduction and conclusion, check them against the following guidelines:

Does my introduction:

  • draw my readers in?
  • culminate in a thesis statement that clearly states my argument?
  • orient my readers to the key facts they need to know in order to understand my thesis?
  • lay out a roadmap for the rest of my paper?

Does my conclusion:

  • draw my paper together?
  • reiterate my argument clearly and forcefully?
  • leave my readers with a lasting impression of why my argument matters or what it brings to light?

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19 Standards of Historical Writing

In this chapter, you will learn the basic expectations for writing an undergrad history research paper. At this point in your college career, you’ve likely had a great deal of instruction about writing and you may be wondering why this chapter is here. There are at least three reasons:

  • For some of you, those lessons about writing came before you were ready to appreciate or implement them. If you know your writing skills are weak, you should not only pay close attention to this chapter, but also submit early drafts of your work to the History Tutoring Center (at UTA) or another writing coach. Only practice and multiple drafts will improve those skills.
  • Those of you who were paying attention in composition courses know the basics, but may lack a good understanding of the format and approach of scholarly writing in history. Other disciplines permit more generalities and relaxed associations than history, which is oriented toward specific contexts and (often, but not always) linear narratives. Moreover, because historians work in a subject often read by non-academics, they place a greater emphasis on clearing up jargon and avoiding convoluted sentence structure. In other words, the standards of historical writing are high and the guidelines that follow will help you reach them.
  • Every writer, no matter how confident or experienced, faces writing blocks. Going back to the fundamental structures and explanations may help you get past the blank screen by supplying prompts to help you get started.

As you read the following guide, keep in mind that it represents only our perspective on the basic standards. In all writing, even history research papers, there is room for stylistic variation and elements of a personal style. But one of the standards of historical writing is that only those who fully understand the rules can break them successfully. If you regularly violate the rule against passive voice verb construction or the need for full subject-predicate sentences, you cannot claim the use of sentence fragments or passive voice verbs is “just your style.” Those who normally observe those grammatical rules, in contrast, might on occasion violate them for effect. The best approach is first to demonstrate to your instructor that you can follow rules of grammar and essay structure before you experiment or stray too far from the advice below.

Introductions

Introductions are nearly impossible to get right the first time. Thus, one of the best strategies for writing an introduction to your history essay is to keep it “bare bones” in the first draft, initially working only toward a version that covers the basic requirements. After you’ve written the full paper (and realized what you’re really trying to say, which usually differs from your initial outline), you can come back to the intro and re-draft it accordingly. However, don’t use the likelihood of re-writing your first draft to avoid writing one. Introductions provide templates not only for your readers, but also for you, the writer. A decent “bare bones” introduction can minimize writer’s block as a well-written thesis statement provides a road map for each section of the paper.

So what are the basic requirements? In an introduction, you must:

  • Pose a worthwhile question or problem that engages your reader
  • Establish that your sources are appropriate for answering the question, and thus that you are a trustworthy guide without unfair biases
  • Convince your reader that they will be able to follow your explanation by laying out a clear thesis statement.

Engaging readers in an introduction

When you initiated your research, you asked questions as a part of the process of narrowing your topic (see the “Choosing and Narrowing a Topic” chapter for more info). If all went according to plan, the information you found as you evaluated your primary sources allowed you to narrow your question further, as well as arrive at a plausible answer, or explanation for the problem you posed. (If it didn’t, you’ll need to repeat the process, and either vary your questions or expand your sources. Consult your instructor, who can help identify what contribution your research into a set of primary sources can achieve.) The key task for your introduction is to frame your narrowed research question—or, in the words of some composition instructors, the previously assumed truth that your inquiries have destabilized—in a way that captures the attention of your readers. Common approaches to engaging readers include:

  • Telling a short story (or vignette) from your research that illustrates the tension between what readers might have assumed before reading your paper and what you have found to be plausible instead.
  • Stating directly what others believe to be true about your topic—perhaps using a quote from a scholar of the subject—and then pointing immediately to an aspect of your research that puts that earlier explanation into doubt.
  • Revealing your most unexpected finding, before moving to explain the source that leads you to make the claim, then turning to the ways in which this finding expands our understanding of your topic.

What you do NOT want to do is begin with a far-reaching transhistorical claim about human nature or an open-ended rhetorical question about the nature of history. Grand and thus unprovable claims about “what history tells us” do not inspire confidence in readers. Moreover, such broadly focused beginnings require too much “drilling down” to get to your specific area of inquiry, words that risk losing readers’ interest. Last, beginning with generic ideas is not common to the discipline. Typical essay structures in history do not start broadly and steadily narrow over the course of the essay, like a giant inverted triangle. If thinking in terms of a geometric shape helps you to conceptualize what a good introduction does, think of your introduction as the top tip of a diamond instead. In analytical essays based on research, many history scholars begin with the specific circumstances that need explaining, then broaden out into the larger implications of their findings, before returning to the specifics in their conclusions—following the shape of a diamond.

Clear Thesis Statements

Under the standards of good scholarly writing in the United States—and thus those that should guide your paper—your introduction contains the main argument you will make in your essay. Elsewhere—most commonly in European texts—scholars sometimes build to their argument and reveal it fully only in the conclusion. Do not follow this custom in your essay. Include a well-written thesis statement somewhere in your introduction; it can be the first sentence of your essay, toward the end of the first paragraph, or even a page or so in, should you begin by setting the stage with a vignette. Wherever you place it, make sure your thesis statement meets the following standards:

A good thesis statement :

  • Could be debated by informed scholars : Your claim should not be so obvious as to be logically impossible to argue against. Avoid the history equivalent of “the sky was blue.”
  • Can be proven with the evidence at hand : In the allotted number of pages, you will need to introduce and explain at least three ways in which you can support your claim, each built on its own pieces of evidence. Making an argument about the role of weather on the outcome of the Civil War might be intriguing, given that such a claim questions conventional explanations for the Union’s victory. But a great deal of weather occurred in four years and Civil War scholars have established many other arguments you would need to counter, making such an argument impossible to establish in the length of even a long research paper. But narrowing the claim—to a specific battle or from a single viewpoint—could make such an argument tenable. Often in student history papers, the thesis incorporates the main primary source into the argument. For example, “As his journal and published correspondence between 1861 and 1864 reveal, Colonel Mustard believed that a few timely shifts in Tennessee’s weather could have altered the outcome of the war.”
  • Is specific without being insignificant : Along with avoiding the obvious, stay away from the arcane. “Between 1861 and 1864, January proved to be the worst month for weather in Central Tennessee.” Though this statement about the past is debatable and possible to support with evidence about horrible weather in January and milder-by-comparison weather in other months, it lacks import because it’s not connected to knowledge that concerns historians. Thesis statements should either explicitly or implicitly speak to current historical knowledge—which they can do by refining, reinforcing, nuancing, or expanding what (an)other scholar(s) wrote about a critical event or person.
  • P rovide s a “roadmap” to readers : Rather than just state your main argument, considering outlining the key aspects of it, each of which will form a main section of the body of the paper. When you echo these points in transitions between sections, readers will realize they’ve completed one aspect of your argument and are beginning a new part of it. To demonstrate this practice by continuing the fictional Colonel Mustard example above: “As his journal and published correspondence between 1861 and 1864 reveals, Colonel Mustard believed that Tennessee’s weather was critical to the outcome of the Civil War. He linked both winter storms and spring floods in Tennessee to the outcome of key battles and highlighted the weather’s role in tardy supply transport in the critical year of 1863.” Such a thesis cues the reader that evidence and explanations about 1) winter storms; 2) spring floods; and 3) weather-slowed supply transport that will form the main elements of the essay.

Thesis Statement Practice

More Thesis Statement Practice

The Body of the Paper

What makes a good paragraph.

While an engaging introduction and solid conclusion are important, the key to drafting a good essay is to write good paragraphs. That probably seems obvious, but too many students treat paragraphs as just a collection of a few sentences without considering the logic and rules that make a good paragraph. In essence, in a research paper such as the type required in a history course, for each paragraph you should follow the same rules as the paper itself. That is, a good paragraph has a topic sentence, evidence that builds to make a point, and a conclusion that ties the point to the larger argument of the paper. On one hand, given that it has so much work to do, paragraphs are three sentences , at a minimum . On the other hand, because paragraphs should be focused to making a single point, they are seldom more than six to seven sentences . Though rules about number of sentences are not hard and fast, keeping the guidelines in mind can help you construct tightly focused paragraphs in which your evidence is fully explained.

Topic sentences

The first sentence of every paragraph in a research paper (or very occasionally the second) should state a claim that you will defend in the paragraph . Every sentence in the paragraph should contribute to that topic. If you read back over your paragraph and find that you have included several different ideas, the paragraph lacks focus. Go back, figure out the job that this paragraph needs to do—showing why an individual is important, establishing that many accept an argument that you plan on countering, explaining why a particular primary source can help answer your research question, etc. Then rework your topic sentence until it correctly frames the point you need to make. Next, cut out (and likely move) the sentences that don’t contribute to that outcome. The sentences you removed may well help you construct the next paragraph, as they could be important ideas, just not ones that fit with the topic of the current paragraph. Every sentence needs to be located in a paragraph with a topic sentence that alerts the reader about what’s to come.

Transitions/Bridges/Conclusion sentences in paragraphs

All good writers help their readers by including transition sentences or phrases in their paragraphs, often either at the paragraph’s end or as an initial phrase in the topic sentence. A transition sentence can either connect two sections of the paper or provide a bridge from one paragraph to the next. These sentences clarify how the evidence discussed in the paragraph ties into the thesis of the paper and help readers follow the argument. Such a sentence is characterized by a clause that summarizes the info above, and points toward the agenda of the next paragraph. For example, if the current section of your paper focused on the negative aspects of your subject’s early career, but your thesis maintains he was a late-developing military genius, a transition between part one (on the negative early career) and part two (discussing your first piece of evidence revealing genius) might note that “These initial disastrous strategies were not a good predictor of General Smith’s mature years, however, as his 1841 experience reveals.” Such a sentence underscores for the reader what has just been argued (General Smith had a rough start) and sets up what’s to come (1841 was a critical turning point).

Explaining Evidence

Just as transitional sentences re-state points already made for clarity’s sake, “stitching” phrases or sentences that set-up and/or follow quotations from sources provide a certain amount of repetition. Re-stating significant points of analysis using different terms is one way you explain your evidence. Another way is by never allowing a quote from a source to stand on its own, as though its meaning was self-evident. It isn’t and indeed, what you, the writer, believes to be obvious seldom is. When in doubt, explain more.

For more about when to use a quotation and how to set it up see “How to quote” in the next section on Notes and Quotation.”

Conclusio ns

There exists one basic rule for conclusions: Summarize the paper you have written . Do not introduce new ideas, launch briefly into a second essay based on a different thesis, or claim a larger implication based on research not yet completed. This final paragraph is NOT a chance to comment on “what history tells us” or other lessons for humankind. Your conclusion should rest, more or less, on your thesis, albeit using different language from the introduction and evolved, or enriched, by examples discussed throughout the paper. Keep your conclusion relevant and short, and you’ll be fine.

For a checklist of things you need before you write or a rubric to evaluate your writing click here

How History is Made: A Student’s Guide to Reading, Writing, and Thinking in the Discipline Copyright © 2022 by Stephanie Cole; Kimberly Breuer; Scott W. Palmer; and Brandon Blakeslee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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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 242,899 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

history essay introduction

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Write an Essay

  • ↑ 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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How to Write a History Essay with Outline, Tips, Examples and More

History Essay

Before we get into how to write a history essay, let's first understand what makes one good. Different people might have different ideas, but there are some basic rules that can help you do well in your studies. In this guide, we won't get into any fancy theories. Instead, we'll give you straightforward tips to help you with historical writing. So, if you're ready to sharpen your writing skills, let our history essay writing service explore how to craft an exceptional paper.

What is a History Essay?

A history essay is an academic assignment where we explore and analyze historical events from the past. We dig into historical stories, figures, and ideas to understand their importance and how they've shaped our world today. History essay writing involves researching, thinking critically, and presenting arguments based on evidence.

Moreover, history papers foster the development of writing proficiency and the ability to communicate complex ideas effectively. They also encourage students to engage with primary and secondary sources, enhancing their research skills and deepening their understanding of historical methodology.

History Essay Outline

History Essay Outline

The outline is there to guide you in organizing your thoughts and arguments in your essay about history. With a clear outline, you can explore and explain historical events better. Here's how to make one:

Introduction

  • Hook: Start with an attention-grabbing opening sentence or anecdote related to your topic.
  • Background Information: Provide context on the historical period, event, or theme you'll be discussing.
  • Thesis Statement: Present your main argument or viewpoint, outlining the scope and purpose of your history essay.

Body paragraph 1: Introduction to the Historical Context

  • Provide background information on the historical context of your topic.
  • Highlight key events, figures, or developments leading up to the main focus of your history essay.

Body paragraphs 2-4 (or more): Main Arguments and Supporting Evidence

  • Each paragraph should focus on a specific argument or aspect of your thesis.
  • Present evidence from primary and secondary sources to support each argument.
  • Analyze the significance of the evidence and its relevance to your history paper thesis.

Counterarguments (optional)

  • Address potential counterarguments or alternative perspectives on your topic.
  • Refute opposing viewpoints with evidence and logical reasoning.
  • Summary of Main Points: Recap the main arguments presented in the body paragraphs.
  • Restate Thesis: Reinforce your thesis statement, emphasizing its significance in light of the evidence presented.
  • Reflection: Reflect on the broader implications of your arguments for understanding history.
  • Closing Thought: End your history paper with a thought-provoking statement that leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

References/bibliography

  • List all sources used in your research, formatted according to the citation style required by your instructor (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago).
  • Include both primary and secondary sources, arranged alphabetically by the author's last name.

Notes (if applicable)

  • Include footnotes or endnotes to provide additional explanations, citations, or commentary on specific points within your history essay.

History Essay Format

Adhering to a specific format is crucial for clarity, coherence, and academic integrity. Here are the key components of a typical history essay format:

Font and Size

  • Use a legible font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.
  • The recommended font size is usually 12 points. However, check your instructor's guidelines, as they may specify a different size.
  • Set 1-inch margins on all sides of the page.
  • Double-space the entire essay, including the title, headings, body paragraphs, and references.
  • Avoid extra spacing between paragraphs unless specified otherwise.
  • Align text to the left margin; avoid justifying the text or using a centered alignment.

Title Page (if required):

  • If your instructor requires a title page, include the essay title, your name, the course title, the instructor's name, and the date.
  • Center-align this information vertically and horizontally on the page.
  • Include a header on each page (excluding the title page if applicable) with your last name and the page number, flush right.
  • Some instructors may require a shortened title in the header, usually in all capital letters.
  • Center-align the essay title at the top of the first page (if a title page is not required).
  • Use standard capitalization (capitalize the first letter of each major word).
  • Avoid underlining, italicizing, or bolding the title unless necessary for emphasis.

Paragraph Indentation:

  • Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches or use the tab key.
  • Do not insert extra spaces between paragraphs unless instructed otherwise.

Citations and References:

  • Follow the citation style specified by your instructor (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago).
  • Include in-text citations whenever you use information or ideas from external sources.
  • Provide a bibliography or list of references at the end of your history essay, formatted according to the citation style guidelines.
  • Typically, history essays range from 1000 to 2500 words, but this can vary depending on the assignment.

history essay introduction

How to Write a History Essay?

Historical writing can be an exciting journey through time, but it requires careful planning and organization. In this section, we'll break down the process into simple steps to help you craft a compelling and well-structured history paper.

Analyze the Question

Before diving headfirst into writing, take a moment to dissect the essay question. Read it carefully, and then read it again. You want to get to the core of what it's asking. Look out for keywords that indicate what aspects of the topic you need to focus on. If you're unsure about anything, don't hesitate to ask your instructor for clarification. Remember, understanding how to start a history essay is half the battle won!

Now, let's break this step down:

  • Read the question carefully and identify keywords or phrases.
  • Consider what the question is asking you to do – are you being asked to analyze, compare, contrast, or evaluate?
  • Pay attention to any specific instructions or requirements provided in the question.
  • Take note of the time period or historical events mentioned in the question – this will give you a clue about the scope of your history essay.

Develop a Strategy

With a clear understanding of the essay question, it's time to map out your approach. Here's how to develop your historical writing strategy:

  • Brainstorm ideas : Take a moment to jot down any initial thoughts or ideas that come to mind in response to the history paper question. This can help you generate a list of potential arguments, themes, or points you want to explore in your history essay.
  • Create an outline : Once you have a list of ideas, organize them into a logical structure. Start with a clear introduction that introduces your topic and presents your thesis statement – the main argument or point you'll be making in your history essay. Then, outline the key points or arguments you'll be discussing in each paragraph of the body, making sure they relate back to your thesis. Finally, plan a conclusion that summarizes your main points and reinforces your history paper thesis.
  • Research : Before diving into writing, gather evidence to support your arguments. Use reputable sources such as books, academic journals, and primary documents to gather historical evidence and examples. Take notes as you research, making sure to record the source of each piece of information for proper citation later on.
  • Consider counterarguments : Anticipate potential counterarguments to your history paper thesis and think about how you'll address them in your essay. Acknowledging opposing viewpoints and refuting them strengthens your argument and demonstrates critical thinking.
  • Set realistic goals : Be realistic about the scope of your history essay and the time you have available to complete it. Break down your writing process into manageable tasks, such as researching, drafting, and revising, and set deadlines for each stage to stay on track.

How to Write a History Essay

Start Your Research

Now that you've grasped the history essay topic and outlined your approach, it's time to dive into research. Here's how to start:

  • Ask questions : What do you need to know? What are the key points to explore further? Write down your inquiries to guide your research.
  • Explore diverse sources : Look beyond textbooks. Check academic journals, reliable websites, and primary sources like documents or artifacts.
  • Consider perspectives : Think about different viewpoints on your topic. How have historians analyzed it? Are there controversies or differing interpretations?
  • Take organized notes : Summarize key points, jot down quotes, and record your thoughts and questions. Stay organized using spreadsheets or note-taking apps.
  • Evaluate sources : Consider the credibility and bias of each source. Are they peer-reviewed? Do they represent a particular viewpoint?

Establish a Viewpoint

By establishing a clear viewpoint and supporting arguments, you'll lay the foundation for your compelling historical writing:

  • Review your research : Reflect on the information gathered. What patterns or themes emerge? Which perspectives resonate with you?
  • Formulate a thesis statement : Based on your research, develop a clear and concise thesis that states your argument or interpretation of the topic.
  • Consider counterarguments : Anticipate objections to your history paper thesis. Are there alternative viewpoints or evidence that you need to address?
  • Craft supporting arguments : Outline the main points that support your thesis. Use evidence from your research to strengthen your arguments.
  • Stay flexible : Be open to adjusting your viewpoint as you continue writing and researching. New information may challenge or refine your initial ideas.

Structure Your Essay

Now that you've delved into the depths of researching historical events and established your viewpoint, it's time to craft the skeleton of your essay: its structure. Think of your history essay outline as constructing a sturdy bridge between your ideas and your reader's understanding. How will you lead them from point A to point Z? Will you follow a chronological path through history or perhaps dissect themes that span across time periods?

And don't forget about the importance of your introduction and conclusion—are they framing your narrative effectively, enticing your audience to read your paper, and leaving them with lingering thoughts long after they've turned the final page? So, as you lay the bricks of your history essay's architecture, ask yourself: How can I best lead my audience through the maze of time and thought, leaving them enlightened and enriched on the other side?

Create an Engaging Introduction

Creating an engaging introduction is crucial for capturing your reader's interest right from the start. But how do you do it? Think about what makes your topic fascinating. Is there a surprising fact or a compelling story you can share? Maybe you could ask a thought-provoking question that gets people thinking. Consider why your topic matters—what lessons can we learn from history?

Also, remember to explain what your history essay will be about and why it's worth reading. What will grab your reader's attention and make them want to learn more? How can you make your essay relevant and intriguing right from the beginning?

Develop Coherent Paragraphs

Once you've established your introduction, the next step is to develop coherent paragraphs that effectively communicate your ideas. Each paragraph should focus on one main point or argument, supported by evidence or examples from your research. Start by introducing the main idea in a topic sentence, then provide supporting details or evidence to reinforce your point.

Make sure to use transition words and phrases to guide your reader smoothly from one idea to the next, creating a logical flow throughout your history essay. Additionally, consider the organization of your paragraphs—is there a clear progression of ideas that builds upon each other? Are your paragraphs unified around a central theme or argument?

Conclude Effectively

Concluding your history essay effectively is just as important as starting it off strong. In your conclusion, you want to wrap up your main points while leaving a lasting impression on your reader. Begin by summarizing the key points you've made throughout your history essay, reminding your reader of the main arguments and insights you've presented.

Then, consider the broader significance of your topic—what implications does it have for our understanding of history or for the world today? You might also want to reflect on any unanswered questions or areas for further exploration. Finally, end with a thought-provoking statement or a call to action that encourages your reader to continue thinking about the topic long after they've finished reading.

Reference Your Sources

Referencing your sources is essential for maintaining the integrity of your history essay and giving credit to the scholars and researchers who have contributed to your understanding of the topic. Depending on the citation style required (such as MLA, APA, or Chicago), you'll need to format your references accordingly. Start by compiling a list of all the sources you've consulted, including books, articles, websites, and any other materials used in your research.

Then, as you write your history essay, make sure to properly cite each source whenever you use information or ideas that are not your own. This includes direct quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. Remember to include all necessary information for each source, such as author names, publication dates, and page numbers, as required by your chosen citation style.

Review and Ask for Advice

As you near the completion of your history essay writing, it's crucial to take a step back and review your work with a critical eye. Reflect on the clarity and coherence of your arguments—are they logically organized and effectively supported by evidence? Consider the strength of your introduction and conclusion—do they effectively capture the reader's attention and leave a lasting impression? Take the time to carefully proofread your history essay for any grammatical errors or typos that may detract from your overall message.

Furthermore, seeking advice from peers, mentors, or instructors can provide valuable insights and help identify areas for improvement. Consider sharing your essay with someone whose feedback you trust and respect, and be open to constructive criticism. Ask specific questions about areas you're unsure about or where you feel your history essay may be lacking.

History Essay Example

In this section, we offer an example of a history essay examining the impact of the Industrial Revolution on society. This essay demonstrates how historical analysis and critical thinking are applied in academic writing. By exploring this specific event, you can observe how historical evidence is used to build a cohesive argument and draw meaningful conclusions.

history essay introduction

FAQs about History Essay Writing

How to write a history essay introduction, how to write a conclusion for a history essay, how to write a good history essay.

history essay introduction

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How to Write an Introduction to a History Essay

Liza hollis.

A strong history essay begins with an introduction that sets the tone.

The introduction in any essay should grab the attention of your reader while introducing them to the topic of discussion. Introduction paragraphs are generally no more than five to seven sentences in length. In a history essay, your introduction paragraph should serve to give your reader some historical context to your argument, while easily transitioning them to the body of your essay.

Consider your audience. Your history essay should be written with a particular audience in mind, whether it is an instructor, classmates, a journal or any other publication. With that in mind, focus your introduction on piquing the interest of this primary audience.

Write an attention-grabbing lead to draw your readers in. This first sentence should set the tone for your paper and introduce the topic of discussion. You could include a fact or statistic as the first sentence. Or you could introduce a historical quote that relates to your essay. An example of a lead sentence could be, “During World War II, women were called on to step up and fill the roles of men in the workplace.”

Include three to five more sentences that expand on the sentence you posed at the beginning of your introduction. These could include more facts or statistics if your paper is expository, or evidence that support your side of a debate if your paper is argumentative. These sentences should fluidly lead your reader to the thesis, or the main idea of your history essay.

Develop a thesis for your history essay. Your essay will be doomed from the start if it does not express a concise and specific idea that functions as an outline for your paper to follow. This thesis should be conveyed in the final sentence of your introduction, while preparing your reader for the body of the essay. For example, “This paper will address the incidents leading up the Civil War and how the use of the railroad contributed to Union victory.”

About the Author

Liza Hollis has been writing for print and online publications since 2003. Her work has appeared on various digital properties, including USAToday.com. Hollis earned a degree in English Literature from the University of Florida.

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The Structure of an Essay

Whether they are two pages in length or fifteen, most essays follow a similar structure.

Introduction

  • Essays always begin with a clear introduction. The introduction sets up the historical question, presents a clear thesis to the reader, and establishes the scope of the essay--the time period, places, and subjects discussed in the essay.
  • In a short paper, the introduction is one paragraph in length. In a longer paper (over ten pages), it could be two or three paragraphs in length. Introductions will be covered in more detail later in this module.

Body Paragraphs

  • Following the introduction, the essay contains body paragraphs. These paragraphs systematically, and in a logical order, develop and prove each argument. In the body paragraphs, you present and explain the evidence that supports your thesis.
  • There is no set number of body paragraphs for an essay (you are NO LONGER writing only five-paragraph essays). Use as many paragraphs as you need to develop the arguments within your thesis.
  • The essay ends with a clear conclusion. The conclusion brings together the points made in the essay and draws out their larger significance.
  • In a short paper, the conclusion is one paragraph in length. In a longer paper (over ten pages), it could be two or three paragraphs in length. Conclusions will be covered in more detail later in this module.

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Tips from my first year - essay writing

This is the third of a three part series giving advice on the essay writing process, focusing in this case on essay writing.

Daniel is a first year BA History and Politics student at Magdalen College . He is a disabled student and the first in his immediate family to go to university. Daniel is also a Trustee of Potential Plus UK , a Founding Ambassador and Expert Panel Member for Zero Gravity , and a History Faculty Ambassador. Before coming to university, Daniel studied at a non-selective state school, and was a participant on the UNIQ , Sutton Trust , and Social Mobility Foundation APP Reach programmes, as well as being part of the inaugural Opportunity Oxford cohort. Daniel is passionate about outreach and social mobility and ensuring all students have the best opportunity to succeed.

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History and its related disciplines mainly rely on essay writing with most term-time work centring on this, so it’s a good idea to be prepared. The blessing of the Oxford system though is you get plenty of opportunity to practice, and your tutors usually provide lots of feedback (both through comments on essays and in tutorials) to help you improve. Here are my tips from my first year as an Oxford Undergraduate:

  • Plan for success – a good plan really sets your essay in a positive direction, so try to collect your thoughts if you can. I find a great way to start my planning process is to go outside for a walk as it helps to clear my head of the detail, it allows me to focus on the key themes, and it allows me to explore ideas without having to commit anything to paper. Do keep in mind your question throughout the reading and notetaking process, though equally look to the wider themes covered so that when you get to planning you are in the right frame of mind.
  • Use what works for you – if you try to use a method you aren’t happy with, it won’t work. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment; to the contrary I highly encourage it as it can be good to change up methods and see what really helps you deliver a strong essay. However, don’t feel pressured into using one set method, as long as it is time-efficient and it gets you ready for the next stage of the essay process it is fine!
  • Focus on the general ideas – summarise in a sentence what each author argues, see what links there are between authors and subject areas, and possibly group your ideas into core themes or paragraph headers. Choose the single piece of evidence you believe supports each point best.
  • Make something revision-ready – try to make something which you can come back to in a few months’ time which makes sense and will really get your head back to when you were preparing for your essay.
  • Consider what is most important – no doubt if you spoke about everything covered on the reading list you would have far more words than the average essay word count (which is usually advised around 1,500-2,000 words - it does depend on your tutor.) You have a limited amount of time, focus, and words, so choose what stands out to you as the most important issues for discussion. Focus on the important issues well rather than covering several points in a less-focused manner.
  • Make it your voice – your tutors want to hear from you about what you think and what your argument is, not lots of quotes of what others have said. Therefore, when planning and writing consider what your opinion is and make sure to state it. Use authors to support your viewpoint, or to challenge it, but make sure you are doing the talking and driving the analysis. At the same time, avoid slang, and ensure the language you use is easy to digest.
  • Make sure you can understand it - don’t feel you have to use big fancy words you don’t understand unless they happen to be relevant subject-specific terminology, and don’t swallow the Thesaurus. If you use a technical term, make sure to provide a definition. You most probably won’t have time to go into it fully, but if it is an important concept hint at the wider historical debate. State where you stand and why briefly you believe what you are stating before focusing on your main points. You need to treat the reader as both an alien from another planet, and a very intelligent person at the same time – make sure your sentences make sense, but equally make sure to pitch it right. As you can possibly tell, it is a fine balancing act so my advice is to read through your essay and ask yourself ‘why’ about every statement or argument you make. If you haven’t answered why, you likely require a little more explanation. Simple writing doesn’t mean a boring or basic argument, it just means every point you make lands and has impact on the reader, supporting them every step of the way.
  • Keep introductions and conclusions short – there is no need for massive amounts of setting the scene in the introduction, or an exact repeat of every single thing you have said in the essay appearing in the conclusion. Instead, in the first sentence of your introduction provide a direct answer to the question. If the question is suitable, it is perfectly fine to say yes, no, or it is a little more complicated. Whatever the answer is, it should be simple enough to fit in one reasonable length sentence. The next three sentences should state what each of your three main body paragraphs are going to argue, and then dive straight into it. With your conclusion, pick up what you said about the key points. Suggest how they possibly link, maybe do some comparison between factors and see if you can leave us with a lasting thought which links to the question in your final sentence.
  • Say what you are going to say, say it, say it again – this is a general essay structure; an introduction which clearly states your argument; a main body which explains why you believe that argument; and a conclusion which summarises the key points to be drawn from your essay. Keep your messaging clear as it is so important the reader can grasp everything you are trying to say to have maximum impact. This applies in paragraphs as well – each paragraph should in one sentence outline what is to be said, it should then be said, and in the final sentence summarise what you have just argued. Somebody should be able to quickly glance over your essay using the first and last sentences and be able to put together the core points.
  • Make sure your main body paragraphs are focused – if you have come across PEE (Point, Evidence, Explain – in my case the acronym I could not avoid at secondary school!) before, then nothing has changed. Make your point in around a sentence, clearly stating your argument. Then use the best single piece of evidence available to support your point, trying to keep that to a sentence or two if you can. The vast majority of your words should be explaining why this is important, and how it supports your argument, or how it links to something else. You don’t need to ‘stack’ examples where you provide multiple instances of the same thing – if you have used one piece of evidence that is enough, you can move on and make a new point. Try to keep everything as short as possible while communicating your core messages, directly responding to the question. You also don’t need to cover every article or book you read, rather pick out the most convincing examples.
  • It works, it doesn’t work, it is a little more complicated – this is a structure I developed for writing main body paragraphs, though it is worth noting it may not work for every question. It works; start your paragraph with a piece of evidence that supports your argument fully. It doesn’t work; see if there is an example which seems to contradict your argument, but suggest why you still believe your argument is correct. Then, and only if you can, see if there is an example which possibly doesn’t quite work fully with your argument, and suggest why possibly your argument cannot wholly explain this point or why your argument is incomplete but still has the most explanatory power. See each paragraph as a mini-debate, and ensure different viewpoints have an opportunity to be heard.
  • Take your opponents at their best – essays are a form of rational dialogue, interacting with writing on this topic from the past, so if you are going to ‘win’ (or more likely just make a convincing argument as you don’t need to demolish all opposition in sight) then you need to treat your opponents fairly by choosing challenging examples, and by fairly characterising their arguments. It should not be a slinging match of personal insults or using incredibly weak examples, as this will undermine your argument. While I have never attacked historians personally (though you may find in a few readings they do attack each other!), I have sometimes chosen the easier arguments to try to tackle, and it is definitely better to try to include some arguments which are themselves convincing and contradictory to your view.
  • Don’t stress about referencing – yes referencing is important, but it shouldn’t take too long. Unless your tutor specifies a method, choose a method which you find simple to use as well as being an efficient method. For example, when referencing books I usually only include the author, book title, and year of publication – the test I always use for referencing is to ask myself if I have enough information to buy the book from a retailer. While this wouldn’t suffice if you were writing for a journal, you aren’t writing for a journal so focus on your argument instead and ensure you are really developing your writing skills.
  • Don’t be afraid of the first person – in my Sixth Form I was told not to use ‘I’ as it weakened my argument, however that isn’t the advice I have received at Oxford; in fact I have been encouraged to use it as it forces me to take a side. So if you struggle with making your argument clear, use phrases like ‘I believe’ and ‘I argue’.

I hope this will help as a toolkit to get you started, but my last piece of advice is don’t worry! As you get so much practice at Oxford you get plenty of opportunity to perfect your essay writing skills, so don’t think you need to be amazing at everything straight away. Take your first term to try new methods out and see what works for you – don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Good luck!

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How to Write an Introduction for History Essay

Table of Contents

An essay is a sustained piece of writing that responds to a question, topic, or issue.

For example, the skills tested in history essays include historical comprehension, interpretation and analysis, planning, research, and writing.

Students must study the topic, understand its focus and requirements, investigate relevant information, and write a clear, well-organized essay.

Writing a quality history essay could be challenging, even for the most capable students. Essay writing develops and improves with practice and experience, as with other skills.

This article provides straightforward steps and writing aids that will propel you into writing brilliant introductions for your history essays. Read on!

book lot on black wooden shelf

What Is History Essay?

A history essay is an academic essay that responds to a particular historical event. If a paper is about the Battle for Berlin, it would be a history essay. The article would react to the battle’s events, drawing from and analyzing relevant history and drawing conclusions from the fight’s result.

History essays are used to analyze and evaluate student appreciation for history. History essays are generally easier to write than history papers because they provide a format the student already knows.

Step-by-Step Guide: Introduction for History Essay

Here are some basic tips on how to write a successful introduction for history essay .

1. Analyze the Topic

This is an obvious piece of advice that some pupils tragically disregard. Regardless of the subject or topic, the first step to writing a successful essay is to devote considerable attention to the question.

Analyzing the topic may need you to explain the reasons and/or implications of a particular event or circumstance. It may also need to:

  • Inquire whether you agree or disagree with a certain assertion.
  • Assess the relative importance of a person, organization, or event.
  • Describe and/or analyze the reasons and/or implications of a certain action or event.

The first step is to read the essay question numerous times. Underline, highlight, or annotate terms or keywords in the question content.

Consider what it will need of you. Who or what is the target of your attention? Does it specify or imply a specific timeframe? What problem or concern is it requesting you to address?

2. Start With a Plan

Every essay must begin with a detailed outline. You should start formulating a plan as soon as you have received your essay question and given it some attention.

Prepare for research by generating and recording thoughts and ideas. What are your immediate thoughts or reactions to the question? What subjects, events, individuals, or concerns are associated with the question?

Are there any further questions or concerns that arise from the question? What issues or events do you require additional information about? Which historians or resources could be helpful?

If you face a mental “brick wall” or are unsure how to approach the subject, don’t be afraid to share it with another person. Consult your instructor, a qualified classmate, or a reliable individual. Remember that your plan may change after you begin your study as you discover new information.

3. Start Investigating

After analyzing the question and formulating a preliminary plan, you should begin collecting information and proof.

The majority will begin by reading an overview of the topic or issue, typically found in reputable secondary sources. This will refresh or expand your existing knowledge of the problem and offer a foundation for additional questions or research.

From this point on, your research should take shape, directed by the essay question and your planning. Identify unfamiliar terms or concepts and learn their meanings. As you gather information, consider whether it is pertinent or beneficial for answering the question. Be resourceful with your research by looking in several locations.

If you are having trouble accessing information, consult your instructor or a reliable individual for assistance.

4. Develop an Argument

Every good history essay has a clear and convincing thesis statement. A thesis is the central concept or argument of an essay. It acts as both the query response and your paper’s primary focus.

Idealistically, you should be able to articulate your argument in a single sentence.

An essay employing this argument would then clarify and defend these claims in greater depth. Additionally, it will support the claim with argument and facts.

You should begin considering your essay’s thesis at some point during your research. You should be able to summarize it or answer the essay question in a single sentence.

Try to present your argument in a robust, authoritative, and convincing manner. It should sound like the confident response of someone knowledgeable about the topic.

5. Plan an Essay Format

This refers to the history essay structure. Once the majority of your research is complete and you have a solid argument, begin to draft a potential essay structure. This does not need to be elaborate; a few lines or dot points are sufficient.

Every essay must include an introduction, numerous body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Your paragraphs should be well-organized and arranged in a logical order.

Paragraphs can be organized chronologically or thematically (covering events or topics according to their significance or relevance). Each section should have a leading sentence that serves as a clear indicator.

Once you have finalized your essay’s outline, you should begin drafting.

6. Create an Engaging Introduction

Many regard the essay’s start to be its most essential component. It is crucial for multiple reasons.

  • It is the initial impression the reader has of your writing.
  • Introducing your argument and address the question.
  • Outlining the direction of your essay.

Aim for an introduction that is concise, assured, and engaging. Do not squander time with a lengthy story-telling in the beginning; go right to the topic.

Start by providing some context, then address the question, state your argument, and establish the overall direction of your essay.

7. Create Complete Paragraphs

Many students in the field of history fall into the trap of writing brief paragraphs, often consisting of only one or two sentences. A good history essay has paragraphs that are typically 100-200 words in length and function as “mini-essays.”

The focus of a paragraph should be limited to a single topic or issue, which must be thoroughly explored.

A good paragraph will begin with a compelling topic or signposting sentence, also known as an effective introductory sentence.

This phrase introduces the paragraph’s topic and explains its relevance to the issue and your argument. Good paragraphs include comprehensive explanations, some analysis and proof, and a quotation.

8. Conclude With a Powerful Ending

Your essay’s final paragraph is the conclusion. A strong ending should accomplish two goals. First, it should restate or reinforce the thesis statement. Second, you should conclude your essay with a polished conclusion that is neither abrupt nor clunky.

This can be accomplished with a concise summary of “what happened next.” Your conclusion need not be as lengthy or elaborate as your body paragraphs. Avoid providing new evidence or information in conclusion.

9. Cite and Reference Your Sources

A history essay is only likely to be successful if it contains proper citations. Citations or references to credible sources should support your essay’s material, ideas, and arguments.

In addition to acknowledging the work of others, referencing brings legitimacy to your writing. It also provides the instructor or grader with insight into your study.

10. Proofread, Edit, and Solicit Comments

Before being submitted for evaluation, each essay must be checked, amended, and, if required, rewritten. Ideally, essays should be prepared a few days before their due date, then set away for a day or two before being proofread.

While proofreading, check for spelling and grammatical problems, typographical errors, wrong dates, and other factual issues.

Consider how you may improve the essay’s clarity, tone, and organization. Does your writing have a logical structure and flow? Is the navigation in your essay functional and clear? Some sentences may be too long or “rambling.” Repeat yourself often? Do paragraphs require expansion, refinement, or reinforcement with further evidence?

Read your essay out loud, either to yourself or to someone else. Seek assistance and critique from a skilled writer or someone you respect (they need not have expertise in history, only in effective writing).

Writing Tips for Historical Essays

When writing a history essay, the writer must plan out the layout, sequence, and analyze the source material. Here are other tips to follow:

1. Always Use the Third Person When Writing

Never use self-referential language such as “I believe” or “that is my contention.” Good historical writings should adopt the viewpoint of a knowledgeable and impartial third party. They should not sound like an individual giving a perspective, but rather, they should sound rational and factual.

Always use past tense while writing. Using the past tense is an obvious suggestion for a history essay. Always be mindful of your tense usage. When proofreading your writing, watch out for mismatched tenses. One exception to the rule regarding past tense is when discussing the work of contemporary historians.

For example:

“Christian writes…” sounds better than “Christian wrote…” or “Christian has written…”

2. Avoid Generalizations

This is an issue with all writings, but especially with history essays. Generalization is the process of drawing broad conclusions from one or more specific instances.

In history, it occurs most frequently when students examine a particular group and then generalize their experiences to a much wider group. Keep an eye out for them when proofreading.

3. Avoid Rambling

As a general guideline, most of your phrases should be concise and succinct. The longer a sentence develops, the greater the possibility that it may become cumbersome or unclear.

Lengthy sentences easily become disconnected, vague, or ramble. Avoid excessively long sentences and pay particular attention to sentence length when proofreading.

4. Use an Active Voice When Writing

In writing about history, the active voice is preferred above the passive voice. In the active voice, the subject carries out the action. The active voice prevents sentences from being too long, wordy, and unclear.

As with any type of writing, researching, planning, and producing good quality content takes time and effort. With persistence and practice, your historical essay will be as good as it can get.

How to Write an Introduction for History Essay

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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Sachiko Kusukawa

There are many ways of writing history and no fixed formula for a 'good' essay or dissertation. Before you start, you may find it helpful to have a look at some sample dissertations and essays from the past: ask at the Whipple Library.

Some people have a clear idea already of what they are going to write about; others find it more difficult to choose or focus on a topic. It may be obvious, but it is worth pointing out that you should choose a topic you find interesting and engaging. Ask a potential supervisor for a list of appropriate readings, chase up any further sources that look interesting or promising from the footnotes, or seek further help. Try to define your topic as specifically as possible as soon as possible. Sometimes, it helps to formulate a question (in the spirit of a Tripos question), which could then be developed, refined, or re-formulated. A good topic should allow you to engage closely with a primary source (text, image, object, etc.) and develop a historiographical point – e.g. adding to, or qualifying historians' current debates or received opinion on the topic. Specific controversies (either historically or historiographically) are often a great place to start looking. Many dissertations and essays turn out to be overambitious in scope, but underambition is a rare defect!

Both essays and dissertations have an introduction and a conclusion . Between the introduction and the conclusion there is an argument or narrative (or mixture of argument and narrative).

An introduction introduces your topic, giving reasons why it is interesting and anticipating (in order) the steps of your argument. Hence many find that it is a good idea to write the introduction last. A conclusion summarises your arguments and claims. This is also the place to draw out the implications of your claims; and remember that it is often appropriate to indicate in your conclusion further profitable lines of research, inquiry, speculation, etc.

An argument or narrative should be coherent and presented in order. Divide your text into paragraphs which make clear points. Paragraphs should be ordered so that they are easy to follow. Always give reasons for your assertions and assessments: simply stating that something or somebody is right or wrong does not constitute an argument. When you describe or narrate an event, spell out why it is important for your overall argument. Put in chapter or section headings whenever you make a major new step in your argument of narrative.

It is a very good idea to include relevant pictures and diagrams . These should be captioned, and their relevance should be fully explained. If images are taken from a source, this should be included in the captions or list of illustrations.

The extent to which it is appropriate to use direct quotations varies according to topic and approach. Always make it clear why each quotation is pertinent to your argument. If you quote from non-English sources say if the translation is your own; if it isn't give the source. At least in the case of primary sources include the original in a note if it is your own translation, or if the precise details of wording are important. Check your quotations for accuracy. If there is archaic spelling make sure it isn't eliminated by a spell-check. Don't use words without knowing what they mean.

An essay or a dissertation has three components: the main text , the notes , and the bibliography .

The main text is where you put in the substance of your argument, and is meant to be longer than the notes. For quotes from elsewhere, up to about thirty words, use quotation marks ("...", or '...'). If you quote anything longer, it is better to indent the whole quotation without quotation marks.

Notes may either be at the bottom of the page (footnotes) or at the end of the main text, but before the bibliography (endnotes). Use notes for references and other supplementary material which does not constitute the substance of your argument. Whenever you quote directly from other works, you must give the exact reference in your notes. A reference means the exact location in a book or article which you have read , so that others can find it also – it should include author, title of the book, place and date of publication, page number. (There are many different ways to refer to scholarly works: see below.) . If you cite a primary source from a secondary source and you yourself have not read or checked the primary source, you must acknowledge the secondary source from which the citation was taken. Whenever you paraphrase material from somebody else's work, you must acknowledge that fact. There is no excuse for plagiarism. It is important to note that generous and full acknowledgement of the work of others does not undermine your originality.

Your bibliography must contain all the books and articles you have referred to (do not include works that you did not use). It lists works alphabetically by the last name of the author. There are different conventions to set out a bibliography, but at the very least a bibliographic entry should include for a book the last name and initials/first name of the author, the title of the book in italics or underlined, and the place, (publisher optional) and date of publication; or, for an article, the last name and initials/first name of the author, the title in inverted commas, and the name of the journal in italics or underlined, followed by volume number, date of publication, and page numbers. Names of editors of volumes of collected articles and names of translators should also be included, whenever applicable.

  • M. MacDonald, Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety, and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
  • William Clark, 'Narratology and the History of Science', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 26 (1995), 1–72.
  • M. F. Burnyeat, 'The Sceptic in His Place and Time', in R. Rorty, J. B. Schneewind and Q. Skinner (eds), Philosophy in History , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984, pp. 225–54.

Alternatively, if you have many works to refer to, it may be easier to use an author-date system in notes, e.g.:

  • MacDonald [1981], p. 89; Clark [1995a], p. 65; Clark [1995b], pp. 19–99.

In this case your bibliography should also start with the author-date, e.g.:

  • MacDonald, Michael [1981], Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety, and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Clark, William [1995a], 'Narratology and the History of Science', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 26, 1–72.

This system has the advantage of making your foot- or endnotes shorter, and many choose it to save words (the bibliography is not included in the word limit). It is the system commonly used in scientific publications. Many feel however that something is historically amiss when you find in a footnote something like 'Plato [1996b]' or 'Locke [1975]'. In some fields of research there are standard systems of reference: you will find that this is the case if, for example, you write an essay/dissertation on classical history or philosophy of science. In such cases it is a good idea to take a standard secondary source as your model (e.g. in the case of classics, see G.E.R. Lloyd's The Revolutions of Wisdom: Studies in the Claims and Practices of Ancient Greek Science , Berkeley 1987).

Whatever system you decide to follow for your footnotes, what matters most is that the end-product is consistent.

Keep accurate records of all the relevant bibliographic information as you do your reading for your essay/dissertation. (If you don't you may waste days trying to trace references when you are close to submission deadlines.)

Consistency of style throughout the essay/dissertation is encouraged. There are many professional guides to thesis writing which give you more information on the style and format of theses – for example the MLS handbook (British) and the Chicago Manual of Style (American), both in the Whipple, and a booklet, H. Teitelbaum, How to Write a Thesis: A Guide to the Research Paper , 3rd ed., 126 pp., New York: Macmillan (& Arco), 1994 (in the UL: 1996.8.2620). But don't try to follow everything they say!

Every now and then you should read through a printout of your whole essay/dissertation, to ensure that your argument flows throughout the piece: otherwise there is a danger that your arguments become compartmentalised to the size of the screen. When reading drafts, ask yourself if it would be comprehensible to an intelligent reader who was not an expert on the specific topic.

It is imperative that you save your work on disk regularly – never be caught out without a back-up.

Before you submit:

  • remember to run a spell-check (and remember that a spell check will not notice if you have written, for example, 'pheasant' instead of 'peasant', or, even trickier, 'for' instead of 'from', 'it' instead of 'is', etc.);
  • prepare a table of contents, with titles for each chapter of your essay/dissertation, page numbers and all;
  • prepare a cover page with the title, your name and college;
  • prepare a page with the required statement about length, originality etc.

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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: Jan 31, 2024

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. 

Looking for an online essay writing service that specializes in history essays? Look no further!

Our history essay writing service is your go-to source for well-researched and expertly crafted papers.

And for an extra edge in your academic journey, explore our AI essay writing tool . Make history with your grades by choosing our online essay writing service and harnessing the potential of our AI essay writing tool.

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For more than five years now, Cathy has been one of our most hardworking authors on the platform. With a Masters degree in mass communication, she knows the ins and outs of professional writing. Clients often leave her glowing reviews for being an amazing writer who takes her work very seriously.

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history essay introduction

IMAGES

  1. History Essay Writing

    history essay introduction

  2. How To Write A History Essay Example

    history essay introduction

  3. How to Write a Good Historical Essay

    history essay introduction

  4. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Brilliant History Essay

    history essay introduction

  5. 🐈 History essay format. How to Write History Essay – A Full Guide

    history essay introduction

  6. ⛔ How to do a history research paper. How To Write A History Research

    history essay introduction

VIDEO

  1. +2 history, important essay questions and points, 2024

  2. History Essay Writing Workshop

  3. HOW TO SCORE FOR HISTORY ESSAY OL

  4. IB History Essay Writing

  5. Higher History essay

  6. History essay competition video

COMMENTS

  1. How to write an introduction for a history essay

    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 ...

  2. PDF A Brief Guide to Writing the History Paper

    the History Paper 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.

  3. How to Write an Introduction For a History Essay Step-by-Step

    Step One: Opening Sentence. The first sentence of your introduction sets the stage and draws the reader in. The opening sentence should introduce the historical context of the subject matter of your historical essay. Historical context is the political, social, cultural, and economic setting for a particular document, idea, or event.

  4. Writing a history essay

    To write an effective essay, students should examine the question, understand its focus and requirements, acquire information and evidence through research, then construct a clear and well-organised response. Writing a good history essay should be rigorous and challenging, even for stronger students. As with other skills, essay writing develops ...

  5. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille. Essay introduction example. The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society ...

  6. Introductions & Conclusions

    Introductions & Conclusions. The introduction and conclusion serve important roles in a history paper. They are not simply perfunctory additions in academic writing, but are critical to your task of making a persuasive argument. A successful introduction will: draw your readers in. culminate in a thesis statement that clearly states your argument.

  7. History Essay: Topics, Tips and the Outline

    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.

  8. How to write a strong introduction to a history essay?

    The introduction is key to making your essay stand out. Mastering a technique for writing introductions will help your confidence in essay writing generally, as you set out a clear structure and argument from the start. Begin by directly addressing the question, either by agreeing, disagreeing, or challenging it.

  9. How to Write a History Essay

    Step 1: Understand the History Paper Format. You may be assigned one of several types of history papers. The most common are persuasive essays and research papers. History professors might also ask you to write an analytical paper focused on a particular source or an essay that reviews secondary sources.

  10. Standards of Historical Writing

    Introductions. Introductions are nearly impossible to get right the first time. Thus, one of the best strategies for writing an introduction to your history essay is to keep it "bare bones" in the first draft, initially working only toward a version that covers the basic requirements.

  11. How to Write a History Essay (with Pictures)

    Download Article. 1. Have a clear structure. When you come to write the body of the essay it is important that you have a clear structure to your argument and to your prose. If your essay drifts, loses focus, or becomes a narrative of events then you will find your grade dropping.

  12. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Brilliant History Essay

    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;

  13. How to Write a History Essay: Examples, Tips & Tricks

    Body paragraph 1: Introduction to the Historical Context. Provide background information on the historical context of your topic. Highlight key events, figures, or developments leading up to the main focus of your history essay. Body paragraphs 2-4 (or more): Main Arguments and Supporting Evidence.

  14. Introduction and Conclusion

    Introduction and Conclusion. The introduction of a paper must introduce its thesis and not just its topic. Readers will lose some—if not much—of what the paper says if the introduction does not prepare them for what is coming (and tell them what to look for and how to evaluate it). For example, an introduction that says, "The British army ...

  15. History Essay: A Complete Writing Guide for Students

    Writing a history essay requires a lot of work and experience. A student needs to show a high level of knowledge and understanding of historical events, as well analytical and research skills. No wonder many students find it challenging to compose a well-written essay! To achieve success, use the following tips to level-up your writing abilities

  16. How to Write an Introduction to a History Essay

    The introduction in any essay should grab the attention of your reader while introducing them to the topic of discussion. Introduction paragraphs are generally no more than five to seven sentences in length. In a history essay, your introduction paragraph should serve to give your reader some historical context to ...

  17. How to Start a History Essay Without Boring Your Reader to Death

    You still need to craft the perfect thesis statement. A thesis statement for a history paper is like a thesis statement for most essays. It needs to provide a clear direction for your paper. In other words, avoid those quick thesis statements that you write simply to say you have a thesis statement. You know the type.

  18. The Structure of an Essay

    Introduction. Essays always begin with a clear introduction. The introduction sets up the historical question, presents a clear thesis to the reader, and establishes the scope of the essay--the time period, places, and subjects discussed in the essay. In a short paper, the introduction is one paragraph in length.

  19. Tips from my first year

    Keep introductions and conclusions short - there is no need for massive amounts of setting the scene in the introduction, or an exact repeat of every single thing you have said in the essay appearing in the conclusion. Instead, in the first sentence of your introduction provide a direct answer to the question.

  20. How to Write an Introduction for History Essay

    Step-by-Step Guide: Introduction for History Essay. Here are some basic tips on how to write a successful introduction for history essay. 1. Analyze the Topic. This is an obvious piece of advice that some pupils tragically disregard. Regardless of the subject or topic, the first step to writing a successful essay is to devote considerable ...

  21. How to organise a history essay or dissertation

    An introduction introduces your topic, giving reasons why it is interesting and anticipating (in order) the steps of your argument. Hence many find that it is a good idea to write the introduction last. ... for example, you write an essay/dissertation on classical history or philosophy of science. In such cases it is a good idea to take a ...

  22. 30+ History Essay Examples to Help You Get Started

    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: