History Dissertation Topics
Writing a dissertation serves as the primary project of the academic element of your university experience. It is an opportunity to delve deeper into an academic topic of particular interest to you and your primary opportunity to demonstrate your capacity for independent research work within an academic environment. Your dissertation can either help develop a more nuanced understanding of existing scholarship, analyze existing scholarship through a new analytical prism or if you are particularly fortunate perhaps even shed new light on a subject. However, your dissertation evolves in its objective and scope, it is paramount that you choose a topic that can sustain your interest and help you maintain the motivation needed in producing a quality piece of academic research. The scope of historical periods studied in your degree programme means narrowing your focus on one particular topic can prove to be a daunting task. To aid you in choosing a topic for your dissertation, this article offers numerous topic suggestions across a broad span of historical periods. The suggestions offered cover the following periods in history: the Crimean War, Napoleon, Italian Unification, German Unification, the First World War, the Great Depression, Mussolini, Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia and the Second World War.
The Crimean War Dissertation Topics
The Crimean War is considered to be the first ‘modern’ conflict, having influenced the course of all future wars. If you are looking to write your history dissertation on the Crimean War, the topics suggested below will give you an idea of where to start.
• What was the main cause of the Crimean war?
• Why could the Crimean War be considered to be a ‘modern’ war?
• What was the most important event in the Crimean War?
• Examine and explain French policy during the Crimean War.
• What were the consequences of the Crimean War?
• What role did religion play in in the Crimean War?
• What was the most significant event that served to settle the Crimean War?
• Why did so many attempts at peace fail with regards to the Crimean War?
• Why did the Crimean War end when it did?
• Why is the involvement of women in the Crimean War considered to be so significant?
• What were the objectives of the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War?
• What factors motivated the French and British empires to oppose Russia and side with The Ottomans in the Crimean War?
• Was the Crimean War inevitable given the strategic objectives of the primary actors?
Napoleon III Dissertation Topics
Napoleon III was the first President of the French Republic and the only Emperor of the Second French Empire. He rebuilt Paris to mirror what he had seen in London and sought to improve living standards, but his military policy has been called into question. Possible ideas for your history dissertation topics on Napoleon III could include:
• How and why did Napoleon III come to power?
• What was Napoleon III’s attitude towards the Vienna system and how did he put this policy into practice?
• What were the key facets of Napoleon III’s economic and social policies and how did they allow him to retain power?
• Was Napoleon III driven by a desire to liberalise or to rule?
• What were the main problems faced by Napoleon III when he came to power and were they successfully overcome?
• What was the significance of the role Napoleon III played in the Crimean War?
• How did Napoleon III’s ‘authoritarian’ system of government differ from those of previous French Emperors?
• What were the key principles behind Napoleon III’s foreign policy?
• What was the key reason for Napoleon III’s demise? Why was it so significant?
• How would you consider Napoleon III’s legacy to have influenced relations in Europe since his demise?
• Is it fair to consider Napoleon III a patron of the Arts?
• What factors underpinned Napoleon III’s decision to support Italian unification?
• Considering his numerous social and political achievements, why do you think Napoleon III’s legacy is considered to be negative by many historians?
Italian Unification Dissertation Topics
This was the political and social movement that served to unify the different states of the Italian peninsula in the 19th century. It began with the end of Napoleonic rule and the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and ended with the Franco-Prussian War, as Italy took shape as one nation for the first time. If you are looking to take a step back from British history, perhaps you could choose a dissertation topic that focuses on Italian Unification from the list of topics below.
• What were the main causes of Italian unification?
• What were the biggest issues facing the newly formed Italian government and how were they resolved?
• Evaluate Cavour’s contribution to Italian unification – was he the key reason why Italy was successfully unified?
• Which was more important with regards to unification – economics or foreign policy?
• What impact did the unification of Italy have on the functioning of the Vienna system?
• How did Italy’s approach to foreign policy reflect that of other nations at this time?
• Why had Italy existed for so long in a state of ‘disunity’?
• Evaluate whether Italian unification served to improve people’s standard of living?
• How successful was Italian unification? What, if anything, did unification achieve?
• Evaluate the significance of the contributions of Garibaldi to Italian Unification
• How did the unification of Italy impact the Balance of Power in Europe?
• Assess the position that Guiseppe Mazzini was the key driving force behind Italian Unification?
• Evaluate the various social factors that played into Italian Unification. Can one be considered to be most important?
German Unification Dissertation Topics
Germany was effectively unified in 1871 when Otto von Bismarck managed to unify all the independent states into one state. Much debate surrounds whether or not there was a master plan to unify Germany or whether the aim was just to expand the Prussian State. Please see below a choice of free history dissertation topics concerning the subject of German Unification:
• Was German unification inevitable? Consider the events that led to unification to effectively determine whether Germany was always heading towards it.
• In what ways did German unification represent a victory for German liberals during this period?
• Explain the significance of the Schleswig Holstein crisis to German unification – was it the key reason for why unification was achieved?
• How important was Bismarck to the unification of Germany?
• Was German unification a success?
• What was Germany’s biggest achievement upon its unification?
• What issues did German unification fail to address?
• Did German unification serve to remove the divisions within society and government?
• Why was German unification so important for European society at this time?
• Consider the reasons why German unification was such a significant event.
• Evaluate the argument that German Unification was primarily an exercise in Prussian Nationalism.
• What was the role of Wilhelm I in the unification of Germany?
• What were the foreign policy implications for the existing major European powers of German Unification?
The First World War Dissertation Topics
Although the war was ostensibly a global one, it predominantly took place in Europe after a chain reaction of war declarations leading to war on several fronts. It broadly encircled the European continent with an astronomical loss of life that was only ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The First World War is a major part of history that we have all heard about and which has many elements worthy of deeper analysis. For your history dissertation topics you could research further into one of these areas:
• Of the following events – (a) The Morocco Crisis (1905-1906); (b) The British agreement with Russia (1907); (c) The Bosnia Crisis (1908); (d) The Agadir Crisis (1911); (e) The Balkan Wars (1912 and 1913); and (f) The assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand – evaluate which was most significant in causing the First World War?
• Was any one party to blame for the First World War, if so, who and why?
• Why was there so much unrest and rivalry amongst the European nations in the early part of the twentieth century and how could this be said to have led to the outbreak of war?
• Why did Gavrilo Princip assassinate the Archduke Franz Ferdinand? Was the reasoning for this decision misguided?
• Why were the great powers of Europe able to contain the Balkan crises of 1912 and 1913, but unable to prevent this developing into a European-wide war in 1914?
• Why did German attitudes change towards Austria during this period? How could this change in attitude be said to have led to the outbreak of war?
• How did events going on in the rest of the world at this time lead to the outbreak of war in Europe?
• “Now we know where our enemy stands. Like a flash of lightning in the night, these events have shown the German people where its enemy is. When the hour of decision comes we are prepared for sacrifices, both of blood and of treasure” (From a speech made in the German Reichstag in November 1911 in Balfour. M The Kaiser Cresset (1964)) – How could it be argued Germany’s entry into the war was based on paranoia within government that influenced the general public in their push towards war?
• “The British Government cannot undertake to declare war, for any purpose, unless it is a purpose of which the people of this country” (Note to the Cabinet from the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, in May 1901) – What were the reasons why Britain entered the war and were they the right ones?
• Did the First World War achieve anything? Was it successfully resolved?
• Was World War I inevitable? If so, why?
• Focussing on a particular country, evaluate the role of intelligence agencies in the outcome of the war.
• Assess the strategic impact of the Battle of the Marne (1914). Can it justifiably be called the key battle of the war? If so, why?
Britain 1918-1939 & The Great Depression Dissertation Topics
Between the two World Wars, Britain was faced with numerable problems that various governments sought to resolve for the good of society. However, whilst successive governments were criticised, some significant advancements were made. The Great Depression was a period of British history that is perhaps overlooked more than it should be. Research in this area would make for very interesting reading, if you choose one of the following history dissertation topics:
• What were the main problems facing Lloyd George’s government in the immediate aftermath of the First World War and how successfully were these resolved?
• Why did the Labour government fall in Britain in 1924?
• Why were the effects of ‘The Great Depression’ so severe in the old industrial and mining districts of Britain?
• How did the return to the Gold Standard in 1921 only serve to exacerbate the oncoming effects of ‘The Great Depression’?
• What polices did the government introduce in an effort to resolve the ‘The Great Depression’ and did they achieve anything to limit its effects?
• What were the main problems faced by the British government in the Interwar period and were they ever effectively resolved?
• What factors outside of Europe caused ‘The Great Depression? Was it the economic breakdown in the US alone?
• Why did the world economy ‘boom’ and ‘bust’ so quickly?
• When the Second World War started to what extent was Britain ready for war?
• What was Britain’s greatest achievement in this period and what was its biggest failing?
• To what extent did the First World War directly contribute to the inability of government to respond to the Great Depression?
• Was Neville Chamberlain ‘the voice of the British people’ during the Munich crisis?
• An analysis of the policies and support for the fascist movement in Britain during the 1930’s?
• Was appeasement really a means to prepare Britain for the inevitable conflict with Hitler?
• Why did the Munich crisis fail to deliver ‘Peace in Our Time?’
Mussolini’s Italy Dissertation Topics
Mussolini effectively became a dictator in Italy in 1922 and governed the country through the advancement of his fascist ideology. But although he initially won a great deal of popularity, he made the mistake of siding with the Nazis in the Second World War, to his cost. Perhaps you could choose this or other areas involving Mussolini for your history dissertation topics.
• What failings of previous governments made Italy so susceptible to fascist rule?
• Why did fascism seem such an interesting alternative for the Italian people – what was its appeal within sections of Italian society?
• What is the concept of ‘totalitarianism’ and how ‘totalitarian’ was Mussolini’s regime in Italy?
• Critically evaluate Mussolini’s period of government – could it be considered successful based on the benefits that accrued to the people?
• What happened in 1922 to ‘free’ the Italian Republic to Mussolini’s government and why was this event so significant?
• How and why, once Mussolini had attained power, did public opinion change?
• Choose one event and consider why this could be considered to be the defining moment that led to Mussolini’s downfall – why is this so important?
• Consider whether Mussolini had the same level of control in Italy that Hitler had attained in Germany and explain your answer through the exploration of social, political and economic factors.
• Was Mussolini’s government a continuation of, or departure from, previous Italian governments??
• Did Mussolini’s style of government overextend Italy’s resources during the Second World War?
• With reference to Antonio Gramsci’s speech to the Italian Parliament: 16th May 1925, consider the statement that ‘the fascist revolution (in Italy) was only the replacement of one administrative personnel by another.’
• Were Hitler and Mussolini ‘suspicious allies’ throughout the 1930’s?
• In what forms did the fascist government of Italy collaborate with, or oppose, the Catholic Church?
• Was the Fascist government of Italy anti-Semitic?
• Account for the repression of freemasonry by Mussolini, the forms this oppression took, and the reasons for this.
Nazi Germany Dissertation Topics
Hitler came to power as, first chancellor, and then dictator, of Germany in 1933. His Nazi Party utilised their propaganda to effectively destroy the last threads of democracy in Germany and went on to attempt to implement their ideology in Europe, with devastating results. The impact of Nazi Germany is key to the history of many countries within Europe, and indeed the world, and would be an excellent area to base your history dissertation on. Some key history dissertation topics related to Nazi Germany are listed below.
• Why did the Weimar Republic’s collapse serve to make Germany so susceptible to the rise of the Nazis?
• What was it about the Nazis that made them an attractive choice for government with a large section the German people?
• What did National Socialism stand for both before and after Hitler took over the party?
• Why was Adolf Hitler able to stay in power after it became apparent to many in Germany that the war was lost?
• Was Hitler successful in his handling of domestic affairs up until 1939?
• What was Hitler seeking to achieve when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939? Is there any way Hitler could have achieved his policy goals in this regard? Why did he not achieve the domination and control he was seeking?
• Did Hitler feel cheated by the Munich agreement? What were the longer-term consequences of Munich for his ambition?
• Why did the German people not respond more forcefully to prevent the Nazis in relation to their dealings with the Jewish population of mainland Europe?
• How did the Nazi regime use art and cinema for wider propaganda purposes?
• With a consideration of contemporary reporting of the Berlin Olympics in 1936, were they a success for the regime?
• Who were the leading women within the Nazi movement, and what did they contribute to the Reich?
• ‘Triumph of the Will’ (1935) – directed by Leni Riefenstahl – can be considered the greatest example of a Nazi propaganda film. With reference to this film and other propaganda measures by the Nazi’s, on what level does the film seek to appeal to the German people?
• Analyse the education policies of the Third Reich, their aims and whether these were ever met.
• To what extent did alternative youth movements such as The Swing Kids offer an alternative for German youth to the Hitler Youth movement?
Stalin’s Russia Dissertation Topics
As Stalin is such a prominent figure in history, you may consider choosing your topic from the history dissertation topics below. Stalin is still an extremely divisive figure in Russia today, and although admired by some for his role in modernising Russia and for his war leadership, he remains a figure of much suspicion for modern historians.
• What contributed to Stalin’s rise to power after the death of Lenin?
• What were the main problems facing Russian/Soviet society after the death of Lenin, and how, if at all, did Stalin resolve them?
• Was Stalin’s repressive approach to governing the Soviet Union at the time of the purges necessary?
• What were Stalin’s biggest successes and failings, and why were they so significant?
• How did Russia move from seemingly being one of the West’s staunchest allies during the Second World War to being universally feared thereafter?
• Why was the USSR allowed to expand to encompass other countries when a similar policy in Nazi Germany led to war?
• Consider the differences between communism and fascism through an evaluation of Hitler and Stalin’s policies, with a view to determining whether they shared political similarities.
• How and why did communism spread from the USSR to other parts of the world?
• To what degree was Stalin’s style of rule in the Soviet Union different from Lenin’s?
• How far could the Soviet Union’s policy goals under Stalin (1944-1947) be considered legitimate in international law?
• Were the 7-10 million deaths in the Ukrainian Holodomor of 1933 a deliberate genocide ordered by Stalin?
• From a Soviet perspective, what were the benefits of the Nazi Soviet Pact, 1939?
• Discuss Soviet Anti-Semitism during the Stalin dictatorship.
• An analysis of the Stalin/Churchill relationship throughout the Second World War.
The Second World War 1939-1945 Dissertation Topics
Unlike the First World War, the Second World War was a war of more rapid advancement and was a complex affair with major campaigns across Europe and the rest of the world – the war was effectively the protection of freedom against the threat of conquest. Such an important event in history would make for excellent reading so you might be interested in the following history dissertation topics:
• Why did the Second World War start? What was the cause?
• Was the war between Finland and Stalin’s Russia an example of Finland losing the war, but winning the peace?
• What was the most significant event in the war that led to the war’s result? Why is the event you have chosen so significant?
• How did Britain survive after the fall of France as the key resistance to Nazi Germany’s complete conquest of Europe? What factor was particularly significant?
• At what point did the Axis powers lose the war? Why?
• What were the effects of the war upon European society in its aftermath?
• Why were the Germans almost completely successful until 1941? How did they so spectacularly lose their position of ascendancy?
• How great was the US’ impact upon the war? What changed when they entered the conflict in Europe?
• Could the Second World War have been resolved peacefully at any point?
• How close was Britain to asking for talks with Hitler after the fall of France?
• To what extent does the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands serve as a blueprint for their policies in other occupied territories?
• Was Rumania a willing, or coerced, ally to Nazi Germany in WW2?
• What was the key factor for German failure to break through in the Battle for Britain?
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