History Essay Questions

A List of Intriguing World History Essay Topics for High School

High school students should prepare for some bad news: history essays are an integral part of their future. Since history is generally taught through ideas and developments, teachers often assign history essays. While a world history may be a student's first experience of this type of essay, it will not be their last. To get started on the essay, students should consider some of the following topics.

  1. How did the Catholic Church lead European governance during the Middle Ages?
  2. How did the art patronage system work during the Renaissance?
  3. Were the Dark Ages actually a time of cultural regression outside of Europe?
  4. How did small pox influence the colonization of the Americas?
  5. How did the role of peasants in western Europe compare to the role of serfs in Russia?
  6. What impact did Buddhism have on the Chinese empire?
  7. How did geography shape Greek history?
  8. How did World War I directly influence the beginning of World War II?
  9. What factors led to the rise of William the Conqueror as the king of England?
  10. What caused the Panic of 1819 and the first economic downturn of the United States?
  11. What was the role of the Tokugawa shogunate in Japanese history?
  12. Why was the generation following World War I known as the “Lost Generation”?
  13. What role did the Golden Age play in developing Western Civilization?
  14. How did Medieval Canon Law influence the status of marriage?
  15. How did the Industrial Age influence Karl Marx's writing of the Communist Manifesto?
  16. What was the Christmas Truce in World War II and why did it occur?
  17. What was the role of slavery and slave rebellions in Jamaica's past?
  18. How did the Bubonic Plague influence drastic changes in European society?
  19. How did the United States play a role in the creation of Panama?
  20. What brought about the end of apartheid in South Africa?
  21. Were pirates viewed as 16th century Robin Hoods or barbarians while they were alive?
  22. How did the Spanish-American War begin the United States' rise as a colonial power?
  23. Why did the United States force Japan to adopt Article IX in their post-World War II constitution?
  24. What caused Britain to stop using the gold standard following World War I?
  25. How did concepts from the Enlightenment and writers like Rousseau influence the start of the French Revolution?
  26. What role did Pol Pot play in creating modern Cambodia? How did he have a negative impact on the country?
  27. How have Chinese and Japanese relations developed over the centuries?

Let’s see, for your Ancient History 101 course, your topics so far look like this:

  • The history of the landline phone
  • Life before the Internet
  • A world without Snapchat

Even though these topics might seem like ancient history, they’re probably not what your course is about or what your professor had in mind when she assigned the paper.

But what is there to write about in any history course? That stuff is so old and boring, right? Not necessarily. Here are 13 history essay topics to bring your essay to life.

But wait…I don’t know how to write a history paper

Maybe you’re not even at the point where you should be picking a topic just yet. Maybe you still need to understand more about how to write a history paper.

If that’s the case, check out How to Write a History Paper That Will Go Down in History. Then finish reading this post to learn more about finding a topic and see those 13 history essay topics you came here for.

13 History Essay Topics That Will Bring Your Essay to Life

Here are 13 history essay topics to help you find the perfect subject for your paper. I’ve also included a few links to example essays for even more historical inspiration!

1. How did Homer influence history (and literature), and did he really exist? No, I don’t mean Homer Simpson. I mean the ancient poet, Homer. But if you’re really creative and your professor allows some flexibility in assignments, maybe you can write a compare and contrast paper about how both Homers have influenced history.

2. Examine Hitler’s rise to power. You might consider several elements of Adolf Hitler’s childhood and early adulthood that influenced his desire for power. You might also write about larger, societal influences and what allowed Hitler to become so powerful.

3. Compare and contrast religions. Examine two (or more) religions and compare and contrast various elements, such as how they treat death, the afterlife, or marriage. I’d suggest picking two to three  topics and examining them in-depth. Don’t try to compare the religions as a whole without any specific criteria.

You might also examine one religion more closely (such as Buddhism, Confucianism, or Christianity) and examine how the religion is different in various parts of the world. Again, pick two to three criteria to compare and/or contrast.

Read Compare and Contrast Essay Tips from a Kibin Editor to learn more about writing a compare and contrast essay.

4. Were the Dark Ages really that dark? The Dark Ages were long before the days without cell phones and Internet. During this time, millions died from war and sickness, but this was also a time of great ideas and discoveries. Thus, is the name “Dark Ages” an appropriate title for the time period?

5. Examine historical myths and legends. Did people like Count Dracula or Robin Hood exist, or were they simply subjects of great legends (and movies)?

Remember, if you’re writing an argument about whether they really existed, you’ll need to present evidence to support your argument but will also need to address the counterargument.

Read How to Write a Winning Argument Essay to learn more about argument writing.

6. Examine the causes and effects of the Cold War. What were the underlying causes of conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union? What were the effects of the Cold War on the United States, the Soviet Union, or other parts of the world?

If you want to write about the Cold War, you could also write about the events that precipitated the ending of the Cold War.

Read this tip sheet on cause and effect papers for more help with this type of essay.

7. Examine the causes and effects of China’s one-child policy. Why did China implement a one-child policy, and what effect did this have on the country and its citizens? (Note: In 2015, the government began to phase out the one-child policy. Why was this necessary?)

8. Argue that there are positive effects of war. Most argue that there are only negative results of war. However, some argue that war produces positive changes in culture and encourages patriotism. (You might examine war in general or focus your argument on a specific war.)

9. Compare the Salem Witch Trials to another historical event. The era of the Salem Witch Trials was a time of fear and paranoia. Compare this time period to other times of hysteria, such as The Red Scare or the months following the September 11 terror attacks.

10. Examine the war on drugs throughout history. The war on drugs isn’t a recent phenomenon. Examine the use, influence, and prosecution of drugs throughout history.

You could chronicle the more recent developments of the war on drugs (the past 20–30 years), or you might try another angle and consider opium use and trade in China or the use and cultivation of spiritual and medicinal plants in Native American culture.

11. Argue how a specific invention changed history. This type of paper might examine inventions, such as electricity, television, the phone, or the personal computer. Or the paper might focus on medical discoveries, such as the polio vaccine or penicillin.

12. How has feminism either positively or negatively changed society? This type of paper might present both positive and negative aspects or examine only positive or only negative influences. You might focus your discussion on one society or compare and contrast different regions or countries.

13. Examine the historical significance of the number 13. Why is 13 considered an unlucky number in the United States? Some trace the unlucky origins back to the Bible. Others point to mythology. You might examine the number’s origin and why the number is still considered unlucky today (think Friday the 13th).

But wait…I don’t know anything about any of these history essay topics

You probably know something about some of these history essay topics, but maybe not enough to write a successful paper. This simply means that you’ll need to do some research.

Locating a variety of resources, including primary and secondary sources, will help you turn the boring textbook stuff into a more lively and interesting read.

If you need even more help with research, check out these posts:

Ready to share your draft and have the Kibin editors provide feedback? Send it our way!

Happy writing!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

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