history essay introduction

How to write an introduction for a history essay

Gladiator equipment

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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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 a Good History Essay. A Sequence of Actions and Useful Tips

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Before you start writing your history essay, there is quite a lot of work that has to be done in order to gain success.

You may ask: what is history essay? What is the difference between it and other kinds of essays? Well, the main goal of a history essay is to measure your progress in learning history and test your range of skills (such as analysis, logic, planning, research, and writing), it is necessary to prepare yourself very well.

Your plan of action may look like this. First of all, you will have to explore the topic. If you are going to write about a certain historical event, think of its causes and premises, and analyze what its impact on history was. In case you are writing about a person, find out why and how he or she came to power and how they influenced society and historical situations.

The next step is to make research and collect all the available information about the person or event, and also find evidence.

Finally, you will have to compose a well-organized response.

During the research, make notes and excerpts of the most notable data, write out the important dates and personalities. And of course, write down all your thoughts and findings.

It all may seem complicated at first sight, but in fact, it is not so scary! To complete this task successfully and compose a good history essay, simply follow several easy steps provided below.

Detailed Writing Instruction for Students to Follow

If you want to successfully complete your essay, it would be better to organize the writing process. You will complete the assignment faster and more efficient if you divide the whole work into several sections or steps.

  • Introduction

Writing a good and strong introduction part is important because this is the first thing your reader will see. It gives the first impression of your essay and induces people to reading (or not reading) it.

To make the introduction catchy and interesting, express the contention and address the main question of the essay. Be confident and clear as this is the moment when you define the direction your whole essay will take. And remember that introduction is not the right place for rambling! The best of all is, to begin with, a brief context summary, then go to addressing the question and express the content. Finally, mark the direction your essay about history will take.

Its quality depends on how clear you divided the whole essay into sections in the previous part. As long as you have provided a readable and understandable scheme, your readers will know exactly what to expect.

The body of your essay must give a clear vision of what question you are considering. In this section, you can develop your idea and support it with the evidence you have found. Use certain facts and quotations for that. When being judicial and analytical, they will help you to easily support your point of view and argument.

As long as your essay has a limited size, don’t be too precise. It is allowed to summarize the most essential background information, for example, instead of giving a precise list of all the issues that matter.

It is also good to keep in mind that each paragraph of your essay’s body must tell about only one issue. Don’t make a mess out of your paper!

It is not only essential to start your essay well. How you will end it also matters. A properly-written conclusion is the one that restates the whole paper’s content and gives a logical completion of the issue or question discussed above. Your conclusion must leave to chance for further discussion or arguments on the case. It’s time, to sum up, give a verdict.

That is why it is strongly forbidden to provide any new evidence or information here, as well as start a new discussion, etc.

After you finish writing, give yourself some time and put the paper away for a while. When you turn back to it will be easier to take a fresh look at it and find any mistakes or things to improve. Of course, remember to proofread your writing and check it for any grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. All these tips will help you to learn how to write a history essay.

history essay introduction

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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 241,866 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.

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  • ↑ 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?

04 August, 2020

10 minutes read

Author:  Tomas White

There are so many types of essays. It can be hard to know where to start. History papers aren’t just limited to history classes. These tasks can be assigned to examine any important historical event or a person. While they’re more common in history classes, you can find this type of assignment in sociology or political science course syllabus, or just get a history essay task for your scholarship. This is Handmadewriting History Essay Guide - let's start!

History Essay

Purpose  of a History Essay

Wondering how to write a history essay? First of all, it helps to understand its purpose. Secondly, this essay aims to examine the influences that lead to a historical event. Thirdly, it can explore the importance of an individual’s impact on history.

However, the goal isn’t to stay in the past. Specifically, a well-written history essay should discuss the relevance of the event or person to the “now”. After finishing this essay, a reader should have a fuller understanding of the lasting impact of an event or individual.

Need basic essay guidance? Find out what is an essay with this 101 essay guide: What is an Essay?

Elements for Success

Indeed, understanding how to write a history essay is crucial in creating a successful paper. Notably, these essays should never only outline successful historic events or list an individual’s achievements. Instead, they should focus on examining questions beginning with what , how , and why . Here’s a pro tip in how to write a history essay: brainstorm questions. Once you’ve got questions, you have an excellent starting point.

Preparing to Write

What? Who? Why?

Evidently, a typical history essay format requires the writer to provide background on the event or person, examine major influences, and discuss the importance of the forces both then and now. In addition, when preparing to write, it’s helpful to organize the information you need to research into questions. For example:

  • Who were the major contributors to this event?
  • Who opposed or fought against this event?
  • Who gained or lost from this event?
  • Who benefits from this event today?
  • What factors led up to this event?
  • What changes occurred because of this event?
  • What lasting impacts occurred locally, nationally, globally due to this event?
  • What lessons (if any) were learned?
  • Why did this event occur?
  • Why did certain populations support it?
  • Why did certain populations oppose it?

These questions exist as samples. Therefore, generate questions specific to your topic. Once you have a list of questions, it’s time to evaluate them.

Evaluating the Question

Assess the impact

Seasoned writers approach writing history by examining the historic event or individual. Specifically, the goal is to assess the impact then and now. Accordingly, the writer needs to evaluate the importance of the main essay guiding the paper. For example, if the essay’s topic is the rise of American prohibition, a proper question may be “How did societal factors influence the rise of American prohibition during the 1920s? ”

This question is open-ended since it allows for insightful analysis, and limits the research to societal factors. Additionally, work to identify key terms in the question. In the example, key terms would be “societal factors” and “prohibition”.

Summarizing the Argument

The argument should answer the question. Use the thesis statement to clarify the argument and outline how you plan to make your case. In other words. the thesis should be sharp, clear, and multi-faceted. Consider the following tips when summarizing the case:

  • The thesis should be a single sentence
  • It should include a concise argument and a roadmap
  • It’s always okay to revise the thesis as the paper develops
  • Conduct a bit of research to ensure you have enough support for the ideas within the paper

Outlining a History Essay Plan

Outlining a Plan

Once you’ve refined your argument, it’s time to outline. Notably, many skip this step to regret it then. Nonetheless, the outline is a map that shows where you need to arrive historically and when. Specifically, taking the time to plan, placing the strongest argument last, and identifying your sources of research is a good use of time. When you’re ready to outline, do the following:

  • Consider the necessary background the reader should know in the introduction paragraph
  • Define any important terms and vocabulary
  • Determine which ideas will need the cited support
  • Identify how each idea supports the main argument
  • Brainstorm key points to review in the conclusion

Gathering Sources

As a rule, history essays require both primary and secondary sources . Primary resources are those that were created during the historical period being analyzed. Secondary resources are those created by historians and scholars about the topic. It’s a good idea to know if the professor requires a specific number of sources, and what kind he or she prefers. Specifically, most tutors prefer primary over secondary sources.

Where to find sources? Great question! Check out bibliographies included in required class readings. In addition, ask a campus Librarian. Peruse online journal databases; In addition, most colleges provide students with free access. When in doubt, make an appointment and ask the professor for guidance.

Writing the Essay

Writing the Essay

Now that you have prepared your questions, ideas, and arguments; composed the outline ; and gathered sources – it’s time to write your first draft. In particular, each section of your history essay must serve its purpose. Here is what you should include in essay paragraphs.

Introduction Paragraph

Unsure of how to start a history essay? Well, like most essays, the introduction should include an attention-getter (or hook):

  • Relevant fact or statistic
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Interesting quotation
  • Application anecdote if appropriate

Once you’ve captured the reader’s interest, introduce the topic. Similarly, present critical historic context. Namely, it is necessary to introduce any key individuals or events that will be discussed later in the essay. At last, end with a strong thesis which acts as a transition to the first argument.

Body Paragraphs

Indeed, each body paragraph should offer a single idea to support the argument. Then, after writing a strong topic sentence, the topic should be supported with correctly cited research. Consequently, a typical body paragraph is arranged as follows:

  • Topic sentence linking to the thesis
  • Background of the topic
  • Research quotation or paraphrase #1
  • Explanation and analysis of research
  • Research quotation or paraphrase #2
  • Transition to the next paragraph

Equally, the point of body paragraphs is to build the argument. Hence, present the weakest support first and end with the strongest. Admittedly, doing so leaves the reader with the best possible evidence.

Conclusion Paragraph

You’re almost there! Eventually, conclusion paragraphs should review the most important points in the paper. In them, you should prove that you’ve supported the argument proposed in the thesis. When writing a conclusion paragraph keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep it simple
  • Avoid introducing new information
  • Review major points
  • Discuss the relevance to today
Problems with writing Your History essay ? Try our Essay Writer Service!

history essay

Proofreading Your Essay

Once the draft is ready and polished, it’s time to proceed to final editing. What does this process imply? Specifically, it’s about removing impurities and making the essay look just perfect. Here’s what you need to do to improve the quality of your paper:

  • Double check the content. In the first place, it’s recommended to get rid of long sentences, correct vague words. Also, make sure that all your paragrahps contain accurate sentences with transparent meaning. 
  • Pay attention to style. To make the process of digesting your essay easier, focus on crafting a paper with readable style, the one that is known to readers. Above all, the main mission here is to facilitate the perception of your essay. So, don’t forget about style accuracy.
  • Practice reading the essay. Of course, the best practice before passing the paper is to read it out loud. Hence, this exercise will help you notice fragments that require rewriting or a complete removal.  

History Essay Example

Did you want a history essay example? Take a look at one of our history essay papers. 

Make it Shine

An A-level essay takes planning and revision, but it’s achievable. 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. A strong thesis is easier to support.
  • Incorporate evidence critically. If while researching you find opposing arguments, include them and discuss their flaws.
  • Cite all the research. Whether direct quotations or paraphrases, citing evidence is crucial to avoiding plagiarism, which can have serious academic consequences.
  • Include primary and secondary resources. While primary resources may be harder to find, the professor will expect them—this is, after all, a history essay.

History Essay Sample

Ready to tackle the history essay format? Great! Check out this history essay sample from an upper-level history class. While the essay isn’t perfect, the professor points out its many strengths.

Remember: start early and revise, revise, revise . We can’t revise history, but you can revise your ideas until they’re perfect.

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Introduction and Conclusion

INTRODUCTIONS 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 fought in the battle of Saratoga” gives the reader virtually no guidance about the paper’s thesis (i.e., what the paper concludes/argues about the British army at Saratoga).

History papers are not mystery novels. Historians WANT and NEED to give away the ending immediately. Their conclusions—presented in the introduction—help the reader better follow/understand their ideas and interpretations.

In other words, an introduction is a MAP that lays out “the trip the author is going to take [readers] on” and thus “lets readers connect any part of the argument with the overall structure. Readers with such a map seldom get confused or lost.”1

Introductions do four things:

attract the ATTENTION of the reader convince the reader that he/she NEEDS TO READ what the author has to say define the paper’s SPECIFIC TOPIC state and explain the paper’s THESIS Writing the introduction: Consider writing the introduction AFTER finishing your paper. By then, you will know what your paper says. You will have thought it through and provided arguments and supporting evidence; therefore, you will know what the reader needs to know—in brief form—in the introduction. (Always think of your initial introduction as “getting started” and as something that “won’t count.” It is for your eyes only; discard it when you know exactly what your paper says.) A common technique is to turn your conclusion into an introduction. It usually reflects what is in the paper—topic, thesis, arguments, evidence—and can be easily adjusted to be a clear and useful introduction.

Some types of introductions:

Quotation Historical overview (provides introduction to topic AND background so that fewer explanations are needed later in paper) Review of literature or a controversy Statistics or startling evidence Anecdote or illustration Question From general to specific OR specific to general Avoid:

“The purpose of this paper is . . .” OR “This paper is about . . . .” First person (e.g., “I will argue that”) Too many questions Dictionary definitions Length: There is no rule other than to be logical. Short papers require short introductions (e.g., a short paragraph); longer ones may require a page or more to provide all that a reader needs. Longer papers require ELABORATION of the thesis; a sentence is not sufficient to prepare the reader for the many pages of arguments and evidence that follow.

CONCLUSIONS Conclusions are the last thing that readers read; they define readers’ final impression of a paper. A flat, boring conclusion means a flat, boring (or, at least, disappointing) paper.

Conclusions should be a climax, not an anti-climax. They do not just restate what has already been said; they interpret, speculate, and provoke thinking.

Some types of conclusions:

Statement of subject’s significance Call for further research Recommendation or speculation Comparison of part to present Anecdote Quotation Questions (with or without answers) Avoid:

“In conclusion”; “finally”; “thus” Additional or new ideas that introduce a new paper First person Length: Again, there is no rule, although too short conclusions should definitely be avoided. Short conclusions leave the reader on the edge of a cliff with no directions on how to get down.

You are the expert – help your reader pull together and appreciate what he/she has read.

____________________________ 1Howard Becker, Writing for Social Scientists (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986).

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  • How to write an essay introduction | 4 steps & examples

How to Write an Essay Introduction | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on February 4, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A good introduction paragraph is an essential part of any academic essay . It sets up your argument and tells the reader what to expect.

The main goals of an introduction are to:

  • Catch your reader’s attention.
  • Give background on your topic.
  • Present your thesis statement —the central point of your essay.

This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.

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 that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

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Table of contents

Step 1: hook your reader, step 2: give background information, step 3: present your thesis statement, step 4: map your essay’s structure, step 5: check and revise, more examples of essay introductions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.

Your first sentence sets the tone for the whole essay, so spend some time on writing an effective hook.

Avoid long, dense sentences—start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

The hook should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of the topic you’re writing about and why it’s interesting. Avoid overly broad claims or plain statements of fact.

Examples: Writing a good hook

Take a look at these examples of weak hooks and learn how to improve them.

  • Braille was an extremely important invention.
  • The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

The first sentence is a dry fact; the second sentence is more interesting, making a bold claim about exactly  why the topic is important.

  • The internet is defined as “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities.”
  • The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education.

Avoid using a dictionary definition as your hook, especially if it’s an obvious term that everyone knows. The improved example here is still broad, but it gives us a much clearer sense of what the essay will be about.

  • Mary Shelley’s  Frankenstein is a famous book from the nineteenth century.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement.

Instead of just stating a fact that the reader already knows, the improved hook here tells us about the mainstream interpretation of the book, implying that this essay will offer a different interpretation.

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Next, give your reader the context they need to understand your topic and argument. Depending on the subject of your essay, this might include:

  • Historical, geographical, or social context
  • An outline of the debate you’re addressing
  • A summary of relevant theories or research about the topic
  • Definitions of key terms

The information here should be broad but clearly focused and relevant to your argument. Don’t give too much detail—you can mention points that you will return to later, but save your evidence and interpretation for the main body of the essay.

How much space you need for background depends on your topic and the scope of your essay. In our Braille example, we take a few sentences to introduce the topic and sketch the social context that the essay will address:

Now it’s time to narrow your focus and show exactly what you want to say about the topic. This is your thesis statement —a sentence or two that sums up your overall argument.

This is the most important part of your introduction. A  good thesis isn’t just a statement of fact, but a claim that requires evidence and explanation.

The goal is to clearly convey your own position in a debate or your central point about a topic.

Particularly in longer essays, it’s helpful to end the introduction by signposting what will be covered in each part. Keep it concise and give your reader a clear sense of the direction your argument will take.

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history essay introduction

As you research and write, your argument might change focus or direction as you learn more.

For this reason, it’s often a good idea to wait until later in the writing process before you write the introduction paragraph—it can even be the very last thing you write.

When you’ve finished writing the essay body and conclusion , you should return to the introduction and check that it matches the content of the essay.

It’s especially important to make sure your thesis statement accurately represents what you do in the essay. If your argument has gone in a different direction than planned, tweak your thesis statement to match what you actually say.

To polish your writing, you can use something like a paraphrasing tool .

You can use the checklist below to make sure your introduction does everything it’s supposed to.

Checklist: Essay introduction

My first sentence is engaging and relevant.

I have introduced the topic with necessary background information.

I have defined any important terms.

My thesis statement clearly presents my main point or argument.

Everything in the introduction is relevant to the main body of the essay.

You have a strong introduction - now make sure the rest of your essay is just as good.

  • Argumentative
  • Literary analysis

This introduction to an argumentative essay sets up the debate about the internet and education, and then clearly states the position the essay will argue for.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

This introduction to a short expository essay leads into the topic (the invention of the printing press) and states the main point the essay will explain (the effect of this invention on European society).

In many ways, the invention of the printing press marked the end of the Middle Ages. The medieval period in Europe is often remembered as a time of intellectual and political stagnation. Prior to the Renaissance, the average person had very limited access to books and was unlikely to be literate. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century allowed for much less restricted circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.

This introduction to a literary analysis essay , about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , starts by describing a simplistic popular view of the story, and then states how the author will give a more complex analysis of the text’s literary devices.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale. Arguably the first science fiction novel, its plot can be read as a warning about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, and in popular culture representations of the character as a “mad scientist”, Victor Frankenstein represents the callous, arrogant ambition of modern science. However, far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to gradually transform our impression of Frankenstein, portraying him in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.

To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

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McCombes, S. (2023, July 23). How to Write an Essay Introduction | 4 Steps & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 17, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/introduction/

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history essay introduction

How To Write a Good History Essay

The former editor of History Review Robert Pearce gives his personal view.

First of all we ought to ask, What constitutes a good history essay? Probably no two people will completely agree, if only for the very good reason that quality is in the eye – and reflects the intellectual state – of the reader. What follows, therefore, skips philosophical issues and instead offers practical advice on how to write an essay that will get top marks.

Witnesses in court promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. All history students should swear a similar oath: to answer the question, the whole question and nothing but the question. This is the number one rule. You can write brilliantly and argue a case with a wealth of convincing evidence, but if you are not being relevant then you might as well be tinkling a cymbal. In other words, you have to think very carefully about the question you are asked to answer. Be certain to avoid the besetting sin of those weaker students who, fatally, answer the question the examiners should have set – but unfortunately didn’t. Take your time, look carefully at the wording of the question, and be certain in your own mind that you have thoroughly understood all its terms.

If, for instance, you are asked why Hitler came to power, you must define what this process of coming to power consisted of. Is there any specific event that marks his achievement of power? If you immediately seize on his appointment as Chancellor, think carefully and ask yourself what actual powers this position conferred on him. Was the passing of the Enabling Act more important? And when did the rise to power actually start? Will you need to mention Hitler’s birth and childhood or the hyperinflation of the early 1920s? If you can establish which years are relevant – and consequently which are irrelevant – you will have made a very good start. Then you can decide on the different factors that explain his rise.

Or if you are asked to explain the successes of a particular individual, again avoid writing the first thing that comes into your head. Think about possible successes. In so doing, you will automatically be presented with the problem of defining ‘success’. What does it really mean? Is it the achievement of one’s aims? Is it objective (a matter of fact) or subjective (a matter of opinion)? Do we have to consider short-term and long-term successes? If the person benefits from extraordinary good luck, is that still a success? This grappling with the problem of definition will help you compile an annotated list of successes, and you can then proceed to explain them, tracing their origins and pinpointing how and why they occurred. Is there a key common factor in the successes? If so, this could constitute the central thrust of your answer.

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The key word in the above paragraphs is think . This should be distinguished from remembering, daydreaming and idly speculating. Thinking is rarely a pleasant undertaking, and most of us contrive to avoid it most of the time. But unfortunately there’s no substitute if you want to get the top grade. So think as hard as you can about the meaning of the question, about the issues it raises and the ways you can answer it. You have to think and think hard – and then you should think again, trying to find loopholes in your reasoning. Eventually you will almost certainly become confused. Don’t worry: confusion is often a necessary stage in the achievement of clarity. If you get totally confused, take a break. When you return to the question, it may be that the problems have resolved themselves. If not, give yourself more time. You may well find that decent ideas simply pop into your conscious mind at unexpected times.

You need to think for yourself and come up with a ‘bright idea’ to write a good history essay. You can of course follow the herd and repeat the interpretation given in your textbook. But there are problems here. First, what is to distinguish your work from that of everybody else? Second, it’s very unlikely that your school text has grappled with the precise question you have been set.

The advice above is relevant to coursework essays. It’s different in exams, where time is limited. But even here, you should take time out to do some thinking. Examiners look for quality rather than quantity, and brevity makes relevance doubly important. If you get into the habit of thinking about the key issues in your course, rather than just absorbing whatever you are told or read, you will probably find you’ve already considered whatever issues examiners pinpoint in exams.

The Vital First Paragraph

Every part of an essay is important, but the first paragraph is vital. This is the first chance you have to impress – or depress – an examiner, and first impressions are often decisive. You might therefore try to write an eye-catching first sentence. (‘Start with an earthquake and work up to a climax,’ counselled the film-maker Cecil B. De Mille.) More important is that you demonstrate your understanding of the question set. Here you give your carefully thought out definitions of the key terms, and here you establish the relevant time-frame and issues – in other words, the parameters of the question. Also, you divide the overall question into more manageable sub-divisions, or smaller questions, on each of which you will subsequently write a paragraph. You formulate an argument, or perhaps voice alternative lines of argument, that you will substantiate later in the essay. Hence the first paragraph – or perhaps you might spread this opening section over two paragraphs – is the key to a good essay.

On reading a good first paragraph, examiners will be profoundly reassured that its author is on the right lines, being relevant, analytical and rigorous. They will probably breathe a sign of relief that here is one student at least who is avoiding the two common pitfalls. The first is to ignore the question altogether. The second is to write a narrative of events – often beginning with the birth of an individual – with a half-hearted attempt at answering the question in the final paragraph.

Middle Paragraphs

Philip Larkin once said that the modern novel consists of a beginning, a muddle and an end. The same is, alas, all too true of many history essays. But if you’ve written a good opening section, in which you’ve divided the overall question into separate and manageable areas, your essay will not be muddled; it will be coherent.

It should be obvious, from your middle paragraphs, what question you are answering. Indeed it’s a good test of an essay that the reader should be able to guess the question even if the title is covered up. So consider starting each middle paragraph will a generalisation relevant to the question. Then you can develop this idea and substantiate it with evidence. You must give a judicious selection of evidence (i.e. facts and quotations) to support the argument you are making. You only have a limited amount of space or time, so think about how much detail to give. Relatively unimportant background issues can be summarised with a broad brush; your most important areas need greater embellishment. (Do not be one of those misguided candidates who, unaccountably, ‘go to town’ on peripheral areas and gloss over crucial ones.)

The regulations often specify that, in the A2 year, students should be familiar with the main interpretations of historians. Do not ignore this advice. On the other hand, do not take historiography to extremes, so that the past itself is virtually ignored. In particular, never fall into the trap of thinking that all you need are sets of historians’ opinions. Quite often in essays students give a generalisation and back it up with the opinion of an historian – and since they have formulated the generalisation from the opinion, the argument is entirely circular, and therefore meaningless and unconvincing. It also fatuously presupposes that historians are infallible and omniscient gods. Unless you give real evidence to back up your view – as historians do – a generalisation is simply an assertion. Middle paragraphs are the place for the real substance of an essay, and you neglect this at your peril.

Final Paragraph

If you’ve been arguing a case in the body of an essay, you should hammer home that case in the final paragraph. If you’ve been examining several alternative propositions, now is the time to say which one is correct. In the middle paragraph you are akin to a barrister arguing a case. Now, in the final paragraph, you are the judge summing up and pronouncing the verdict.

It’s as well to keep in mind what you should not be doing. Do not introduce lots of fresh evidence at this stage, though you can certainly introduce the odd extra fact that clinches your case. Nor should you go on to the ‘next’ issue. If your question is about Hitler coming to power, you should not end by giving a summary of what he did once in power. Such an irrelevant ending will fail to win marks. Remember the point about answering ‘nothing but the question’? On the other hand, it may be that some of the things Hitler did after coming to power shed valuable light on why he came to power in the first place. If you can argue this convincingly, all well and good; but don’t expect the examiner to puzzle out relevance. Examiners are not expected to think; you must make your material explicitly relevant.

Final Thoughts

A good essay, especially one that seems to have been effortlessly composed, has often been revised several times; and the best students are those who are most selfcritical. Get into the habit of criticising your own first drafts, and never be satisfied with second-best efforts. Also, take account of the feedback you get from teachers. Don’t just look at the mark your essay gets; read the comments carefully. If teachers don’t advise how to do even better next time, they are not doing their job properly.

Relevance is vital in a good essay, and so is evidence marshalled in such a way that it produces a convincing argument. But nothing else really matters. The paragraph structure recommended above is just a guide, nothing more, and you can write a fine essay using a very different arrangement of material. Similarly, though it would be excellent if you wrote in expressive, witty and sparklingly provocative prose, you can still get top marks even if your essay is serious, ponderous and even downright dull.

There are an infinite number of ways to write an essay because any form of writing is a means of self-expression. Your essay will be unique because you are unique: it’s up to you to ensure that it’s uniquely good, not uniquely mediocre.

Robert Pearce is the editor of History Review .

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A scene from Auschwitz by Holocaust survivor Leo Haas, c. 1947. Center for Jewish History, New York. Public Domain.

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How to organise a history essay or dissertation

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Research guide

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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How To Write A History Essay

  • Essay Writing Guides

how to write a good hook for a history essay

Essay writing is one of the most effortful student assignments. Not everybody can skillfully enunciate their views and ideas, especially when it comes to an essay that requires the presentation of arguments and counterarguments. Simultaneously, it is one of the best tools to improve your critical thinking and research skills.  

A history essay is a particular type of creative work that requires brilliant research potential and the ability to analyze and track the consistent picture of historical events. To craft a successful history essay, students should go beyond the regular history classes and demonstrate their significant knowledge in political science, sociology, and even psychology. 

If you were lucky to get a creative assignment in history, get ready to experience not the easiest time in your life. To make the overall process more efficient and straightforward, use this history essay writing guide for assistance. 

What is a History Essay?

To elaborate an impeccable history paper, it is crucial to answer the ‘what is history essay’ question. The history essay’s essence lies in the successful introduction and confirmation of statements related to some historical events or personalities. To make your work sound professional, you need to:

  • elucidate the factors that have led to such consequences;
  • build a logical bridge between the past and the present by describing the importance of the phenomenon you are dealing with.

A top-notch history paper never focuses on the past mainly. It rather comes up with the impact the past events have on the present. An ability to fully reveal the given influence is the most significant proof that the author has a good understanding of the topic and can easily share their perspective professionally and to the point. 

Having the instructions and practical tips on how to write a history essay is the first key to a successful paper. Many students just start rewriting the historical events in their own words at this stage. Instead, your essay should provide clear answers to three central questions: what, why, and how. These questions may become good starting points for your history essay and help you stay coherent. 

Before You Start: Preparing to Write

how to write history essays

Having three questions in mind when preparing to write a history essay is already half a work done. Carry out a little brainstorm session and formulate several sub-questions using the mentioned interrogative adverbs. They will contribute much to the creation of an effective structure in your history essay. Here’s a breakdown of the main questions addressed.

  • Who are the main characters of the given events?
  • Who is against the given events?
  • Who won from the given events? Who lost?
  • Who is currently in the winning position thanks to the mentioned events?
  • What circumstances caused the given events?
  • What changes did the given events cause?
  • What kind of effect did the events have on the present?
  • What conclusions have been made after these events?
  • Why did the given events take place?
  • Why were they supported/not supported by people?

You may also come up with your suggestions regarding the specific topic to make your essay even more professional. 

Nonetheless, it is not enough only to write down the questions. You have to analyze and evaluate them profoundly. You may be very accurate about the described shreds of evidence, proofs, and arguments. However, if your essay doesn’t provide precise answers to the fundamental questions, it is unlikely to be highly scored. To stay coherent and to the point, use an explanation/interpretation scheme that implies the reasons why something has happened, followed by the profound analysis of the events. 

When the above-mentioned work is done and questions have been answered, you are ready to form your paper’s thesis statement. If we talk about the history essay, its thesis statement should be strong enough to prove the significance and value of your work. Besides, convincing arguments help create a solid bone to structure your essay around.

Your paper’s thesis statement should accurately elucidate the essay’s essence and be supported with the concise arguments that would become its paragraphs. All you need to do is specify them and then elaborate in more detail.

You can change the arguments throughout the essay, but the thesis statement should remain the same and be rational enough to stay relevant till the end. 

Research Stage

Nominally, the sources you will be using for your history essay can be divided into primary and secondary ones. Primary sources refer directly to the description of the events or personalities you base your paper on. Secondary sources represent the works of experienced historians, sociologists, and politicians that contain the profound analysis of the events described within your topic.

The professional history essay cannot exist without trustful primary sources. It can be challenging to find and identify them. Fortunately, the XXIst century provides a decent range of opportunities to complete thorough research work. You can have access to the best scholars’ papers, databases of the world libraries, and blogs of famous experts. Crowd-sourced websites can also be of good service. However, they should be used very selectively after you make sure they are credible. 

Secondary sources are as important as the primary ones. You need to be sure of their credibility and choose exclusively scholarly works. Check whether the author of the paper you are going to use in your essay is a professional historian and can be trusted. To make the right choice, ask yourself several questions before referring to any source:

  • What do you know about the author? 
  • Does the author have an academic degree and enough experience to be trusted?
  • What can you say about the publishing house? Is it academic? If it is a website, check its nature and audience. The idea to use materials published on Government online platforms in your paper sounds just perfect.

History Essay Outline

Coming to the outline stage means that you have done all the preparatory work and are ready to move forward. The outline is frequently skipped by students, which makes them regret it later. The outline is a so-called roadmap to indicate the direction you need to move in and mark the proper placing of arguments and ideas. 

Like all other types of essays, a history paper consists of an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. 

Introduction 

Are you wondering how to start a history essay? With the catching introduction, of course. 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;
  • Rhetorical questions always help define the sense of your creative work. Use them in the introduction to indicate the main points your work will be based on;
  • Quotations may also be of good service in case you want to make people intrigued.

Provided the hook has worked, don’t hesitate to introduce your paper’s theme: mention the key events or persons your essay is about. Usually, a good introduction ends with a strong thesis statement. Make it short and up to the point. Besides, make sure it provides a smooth transition to the body section of your history essay.

Divide your critical ideas described in the essay and between the paragraphs: one paragraph = one idea. Each idea needs to be supported by concise arguments. There is no standard scheme to build your body paragraphs on. However, you may take the following algorithm for the basis:

  • A sentence related to the thesis statement and elucidating the idea;
  • Context of your history essay; 
  • Facts in the form of quotation or rewritten
  • Analysis and your point of view
  • Description of the controversial points
  • Smooth transition to the next paragraph

It is highly recommended to place the arguments of your body section in correct order. Start with the weakest ones and leave the strongest ones for a dessert. 

You should put your best effort into making this paragraph as impressive and convincing as possible. The final part of your paper should focus on the main points of the essay and again prove the theory mentioned in the thesis statement. Don’t make the conclusion too complicated – it needs to be simple and straightforward. The conclusion is not a part of the paper where you may introduce some new facts and ideas. Its main goal is in summarizing the critical points previously specified in the essay. If you want to make a conclusion sound professional, don’t forget to mention the historical events’ relevance to today’s reality.

How to Choose a Topic for a History Essay?

In case you were lucky to choose the topic for your history essay by yourself, don’t skip this part. Selecting from a pile of history essay topics may be challenging as you need to know your educational level, interests, and ability to elaborate on the theme. An adequately chosen history essay topic is a basis for a good paper. It affects the overall writing process and the level of your engagement in the subject. Use these tips to choose the best topic for your history paper:

  • Focus on the theme that sounds interesting to you. If history is not your cup of tea, try to pick the theme that seems more interesting than others. History is tightly connected with all aspects of human life. So, there should be something that makes your heart beat faster.
  • Don’t be guided by interest only when choosing a topic for the history essay. You should know at least something about the given theme. Even the most exciting issues can turn out to be a nightmare to deal with if you know absolutely nothing about them.
  • Analyze the broadness of the topic. If it is too broad, you won’t be able to elaborate the theme decently. For example, the topic “Ancient Egypt” is unclear. You won’t be able to elucidate all its aspects and perspectives properly. However, dealing with “Attitudes Towards Women in Ancient Egypt” narrows your research scope and lets you stay clear and precise. 
  • Make sure the topic you are going to choose has been analyzed before, and you can find a lot of credible materials to base your research on. Even narrow themes can be challenging if they are unexplored.
  • If you have a chance to use the theme you have already been dealing with before, don’t hesitate to do it. There is no need to rewrite your old paper – you have an excellent opportunity to analyze things from another perspective. Reusing the topic is hugely advantageous, as you have all the research work done already and may concentrate on your personal opinion.
  • In case sitting on the fence while choosing the topic for your history essay becomes unbearable, you can always ask your tutor for a piece of advice. In such a way, you will demonstrate your respect and trust. 
  • Avoid offbeat themes. They may be interesting, however, totally new. If you are not afraid of being stuck at the research stage – go ahead!
  • Make a little brainstorm session before choosing any topic. Provided you can come up with at least five strong arguments related to the theme, don’t hesitate to pick it. 

History Essay Examples 

Nothing can be more helpful than a brilliant history essay example you can use for your future work. You may take a look at the essay’s purpose, analyze the structure, get an idea about transitions and vocabulary used. Check on these top-notch examples of history paper to get inspired and motivated:

https://www.slideshare.net/alipinedo/us-history-slavery-essay

https://studentshare.org/visual-arts-film-studies/1494729-art-history-paper

http://www.markedbyteachers.com/international-baccalaureate/history/compare-and-contrast-the-causes-of-the-first-world-war-and-the-second-world-war.html

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Writing Tips for a History Essay

Interpretation of the past may be pretty controversial. So are the rules on how to write a perfect history essay. Nevertheless, there are some standard conventions and guidelines for elaborating professional history papers without any special effort from your side. Just follow the below tips to get the highest grade under the toughest history essay rubric.

Use the past tense

The present tense is just inappropriate when dealing with the history essay. Moreover, it can undermine confidence in the qualifications and expertise of the author. The present tense is acceptable only when you draw parallels between past events and the current time. 

Avoid generalizations

Specificity and accuracy are the best friends of a highly professional history essay. If you talk about some specific period, introduce exact dates or centuries. In case you mention some personalities, provide their full names. History paper is senseless without these critical details. 

Exclude anachronisms

When dealing with some historical events from today’s perspective, it is easy to get lost in chronological order. Such a jumble can confuse the readers and make your work less credible. Mind the vocabulary you use when talking about a specific epoch.

Try not to judge the epoch from a modern perspective

Every generation has its advantages and drawbacks. Your main task as an author is to analyze both and convey them clearly to a reader. Don’t be judgmental.

Paraphrasing is always better than quoting

Stuffing your history essay with the quotes can be more of a hindrance than help. Don’t be afraid to showcase your analytical skills and dive deep into the profound analysis of past events. If paraphrasing is impossible, use the quote indicating its source.

Be responsible for the context

As an author, you assume full responsibility for your personal opinion and ideas. At the same time, you should be sure of the sources you use in your paper. History essays don’t stand uncertainty and double standards. 

Choose the proper citation style

As a rule, history papers require Chicago citation style. A poorly arranged citation page can question your reputation as a history expert. 

Stick to the proper voice

A formal academic voice is the most appropriate one when we talk about the history essay. Also, avoid passive voice phrases, redundant constructions, and generalizations. 

Take care of thorough proofreading

You have made it: your history essay is ready and waits to be polished. The editing stage is crucial as even the brightest ideas can get lost in a sea of mistakes, impurities, and vague phrases. How to proofread your history essay to make it shine? Check the below instructions to learn how to do it:

  • Read your history essay aloud several times to make sure it is clear and sounds smooth. Avoid long sentences and inaccurate phrases with unclear meaning.
  • Proper style is  important when we talk about the academic history essay. Make sure it is formal but readable. Readers should easily percept your message and clearly understand the goal of your research.
  • Proofreading may be challenging in case you have spent a lot of time elaborating on the content. If you can ask someone to look at your history paper with a fresh pair of eyes, it would be perfect. Independent readers can identify the weak places in your work faster, and you will get a valuable second opinion on your piece of writing.

Write My History Essay for Me, Please!

History paper is one of the most complicated types of writing. Students dealing with history topics should know more than just a material of a regular history syllabus. Moreover, this paper requires a lot of time and effort to do research, analyze, and establish logical connections and predictions. You have to deal with the vast amount of dates, personalities, and theories that may not always be true. No wonder a lot of students choose to ask someone to write their history assignment for them. This decision appears to be justified as our essay writing service offers help provided by the actual history scholars who, by the way, are excellent in writing. 

All you need to do is formulate the task specifying the detailed instructions to your assignment and indicate the deadline. In case you want some specific sources to be used when elaborating on your history paper, you should mention them in your reference list.

In case your history essay is ready and you just need to make it shine, our essay service is always ready to help you with editing and proofreading. In such a way, you pay only for a specific service, not for the whole writing package.

A brilliantly elaborated history essay can serve as a good base for all your future works. You may get a clear idea about the content, research process, vocabulary, structure, and citation style. Just place the order, and our highly professional expert will be there to help you with your history paper. 

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

graphic of Female writing essay main

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.

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.

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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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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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History: A Very Short Introduction

History: A Very Short Introduction

Professor of History, School of History, Classics and Archaeology,

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History: A Very Short Introduction is an essay about how we study and understand history. Rather than concentrating on a specific period of history, it discusses the theory of history in a general way. It begins by inviting us to think about various questions provoked by our investigation of history, and explores the ways these questions have been answered in the past. Concepts such as causation, interpretation, and periodization are introduced by means of concrete examples of how historians work, giving the reader a sense of the excitement of discovering not only the past, but also ourselves.

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IMAGES

  1. How to Write a History Essay & Exam Practice

    history essay introduction

  2. Writing a History Essay

    history essay introduction

  3. A level History Essay

    history essay introduction

  4. Historical essay writing introduction

    history essay introduction

  5. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Brilliant History Essay

    history essay introduction

  6. How to write an introduction for a history research paper in 2021

    history essay introduction

VIDEO

  1. History Essay Writing Workshop

  2. History essay writing

  3. HOW TO SCORE FOR HISTORY ESSAY OL

  4. IB History Essay Writing

  5. Essay Formatting

  6. How to understand a history essay question

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 , your reader understands the specific point you are arguing about. Background sentences explain the important historical period, dates ...

  2. PDF A Brief Guide to Writing the History Paper

    A Brief Guide to Writing 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. PDF HISTORY ESSAY GUIDE

    reading and taking notes, writing an outline, composing a draft, and revising your draft into a. polished essay. These stages often overlap. This guide addresses some of the most common questions related to researching, writing, and formatting a history research paper. It provides visual examples for the main stages of the.

  4. Tips from my first year

    11 May 2021 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.

  5. History Essay: A Complete Writing Guide for Students

    Introduction Writing a good and strong introduction part is important because this is the first thing your reader will see. It gives the first impression of your essay and induces people to reading (or not reading) it. To make the introduction catchy and interesting, express the contention and address the main question of the essay.

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

    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.

  7. PDF History Essay Guidelines

    History Essay Guidelines _____ 1 Planning and Writing a Successful History Essay Establish what you are being asked to argue about. Because an essay calls for an argument, you need to read the question carefully to determine what you are being asked, and what responses you can make - supporting, rejecting or offering qualified (dis)agreement.

  8. History Essay: Topics, Tips and the Outline

    How to Write a History Essay? There are so many types of essays. It can be hard to know where to start. History papers aren't just limited to history classes. These tasks can be assigned to examine any important historical event or a person.

  9. Introduction and Conclusion

    Readers with such a map seldom get confused or lost."1 Introductions do four things: attract the ATTENTION of the reader convince the reader that he/she NEEDS TO READ what the author has to say define the paper's SPECIFIC TOPIC state and explain the paper's THESIS Writing the introduction:

  10. 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.

  11. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    Step 1: Hook your reader Step 2: Give background information Step 3: Present your thesis statement Step 4: Map your essay's structure Step 5: Check and revise More examples of essay introductions Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about the essay introduction Step 1: Hook your reader

  12. Writing a history essay

    Writing a history essay An essay is a piece of sustained writing in response to a question, topic or issue. Essays are commonly used for assessing and evaluating student progress in history. History essays test a range of skills including historical understanding, interpretation and analysis, planning, research and writing.

  13. How To Write a Good History Essay

    Relevance. Witnesses in court promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. All history students should swear a similar oath: to answer the question, the whole question and nothing but the question. This is the number one rule. You can write brilliantly and argue a case with a wealth of convincing evidence, but if you ...

  14. 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 ...

  15. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Brilliant History Essay

    A history essay is a particular type of creative work that requires brilliant research potential and the ability to analyze and track the consistent picture of historical events.

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

    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.

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

    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.

  18. How to Write the PERFECT Introduction for a Modern History Essay

    Learn how to write an effective introduction for any Modern History essay. Find our most comprehensive resources for the course at: https://www.ignitehsc.com...

  19. How to Write a History Essay: Forming an Introduction

    Dr Nicholas Morton's advice on how to form an essay introduction.

  20. How to Write an Introduction to a History Essay

    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.

  21. How to Write an 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.

  22. History: A Very Short Introduction

    History: A Very Short Introduction is an essay about how we study and understand history. Rather than concentrating on a specific period of history, it discusses the theory of history in a general way.

  23. Introduction

    The Library of Congress has a long tradition of collecting women's history materials in a variety of formats and subject areas. As noted in the preface to the first American Women guide, published in 2001, "For two hundred years, the Library of Congress…has been gathering materials necessary to tell the stories of women in America." 1 The Library identified women's suffrage as a ...