History Essay Topics

History is an ocean with an enormous range of possibilities, and far wider than the rise of Hitler! In looking at history essays today, departments are interested in distinguishing between the different modes of historical practice at different times in the history and prehistory of the discipline’s emergence.

The essays below explore some different historical time periods but offer the chance of some originality and connections to theoretical models debated in historical writing today.


Historical Theory

Within historical theory in universities today there are some essential texts, Jenkins with ‘Re-Thinking History’ or Evans with the Defense of History, remain at the heart of debate as postmodernist ideas clash with the more traditional ideas. The topics below all indicate the types of essay offered in history departments today:

  • How should a historian deal with Masculinity?
  • Is a feminist perspective of history in medieval times possible?
  • Consider the statement “there is no such thing as history, only historians (Peter Greenaway).” Is this true?
  • Churchill once said, “history will be kind to me as I intend to write it.” Is a non-biased history even possible?
  • Keith Jenkins presents a perspective of postmodern history where anything we have is interpretation. To what extent is this perspective validated?
  • A consideration of two main developments in regard to historical theory in the last two decades and how they have influenced historical writing and debates.
  • What is feminist history and why does it matter?
  • How does a focus upon black lives change perspectives of European history?

Medieval and Anglo-Saxon History

The Anglo Saxon and Medieval period remains a specialist area within historical study, but the medieval studies departments are thriving. The period was one of great change and development, and it introduced systems of governance and management. The below topics allow medieval historians to explore areas of interest that have not been overworked in the historical press.

  • When Harold Harefoot debated his right to hold the crown with the Witan in 1035, does this show that Kingship was still a developing concept and not held by “right” alone?
  • A discussion over the extent that the reign of Edward the Confessor was an early version of Norman governance.
  • An examination of Danish government under Canute and his sons and how it differed from the existing Saxon traditions.
  • An analysis of how the reign of Henry Ist saw the promotion of “new men” into high positions as a deliberate policy, and the impact this policy had on Norman landed classes.
  • To what extent did Isabella directly bring about the downfall of her husband Edward II?
  • Were the objections to Matilda as ruler of England during the Anarchy based solely on her gender?
  • Was Becket the architect of his own martyrdom?
  • Did the Magna Carta actually matter?
  • Was the Black Death a major contributory factor in the Peasants Revolt?

Russian History 1900-present day

Russian history is an increasingly popular area of study for Universities, especially the time around the fall of the Tsar and the early years of post-revolution.

This time of turmoil and change is a very interesting one for study. The time of Stalin is always a popular area to focus upon, his manipulation of propaganda and the purges being common areas of study.

  • To what extent did Rasputin contribute to the fall of Nicholas II?
  • Without WWI would the downfall of Nicholas II still have happened?
  • Was the Russian state after the revolution any less oppressive than what had gone before?
  • Did Stalin modernise Russia?
  • Was the holodomor in Ukraine a genocide?
  • Has Russia ever escaped dictatorship?
  • Did Khrushchev blink during the Cuban missile crisis?
  • To what extent did The Beatles help to end the Soviet Union?
  • Was the Yeltsin era a failed democracy?

The UK 1945 –

The UK has seen considerable change in the aftermath of WW2, a nation in search of itself and its place in the world after the loss of the Empire. Although the “New Elizabethans” have found a diverse, multicultural identity today there is plenty of scope to investigate within the recent decades. The following essays dip into areas of social change and political turmoil, that post Brexit continues today.

  • Was Britain really swinging in the sixties?
  • In the 1970’s how true is the maxim that Britain was the “sick man of Europe?”
  • Did the Heath government make a mistake when it took Britain into Europe?
  • An analysis of the roots for Brexit, when did Brexit begin?
  • Is Britain a classless or class ridden society in the twenty-first century?
  • What perspective, in retrospect, can be taken of Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech today.
  • Has the twenty first Britain finally found an identity for itself in a post-colonial world?
  • What were the underlying causes of the 2008 financial crash?
  • What is the true legacy of Thatcherism?
  • Have Indian entrepreneurs changed the face of Britain?

America in the Twentieth Century

This is another area of great interest for many University students and departments. The arrival of the US as the main world power after its Civil War showed its emergence as the one great superpower, but the journey was far from easy. These topics all explore different aspects of the US Century in which prohibition, the Wall Street Crash, the assassination of Kennedy, the Cuba Crisis, Vietnam, Watergate and the Korean War were all turning points.

  • Was the Presidency of Warren Harding really a “return to Normalcy?”
  • An analysis of the different strands of the black protest movements of the 1960’s and the relative success of each.
  • Discuss America’s relationship with China post 1945.
  • Without Pearl Harbour would the US ever have entered WW2?
  • How much sympathy was there for the Nazi’s in the 1930’s US?
  • To what extent was the Presidency tarnished by Ford’s pardon of Nixon?
  • Who was to blame for the Cuban Crisis?
  • Did anyone see the Wall Street Crash coming in 1929?



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