History Thesis Topics

A history thesis must be direct and specific.
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Choosing a topic for a history thesis can be a challenging task because the subject matter is so broad. Start by thinking about historical events that interest you. How did those events affect society? Why are they meaningful? An effective history thesis topic must be concise and detailed, or the subject matter will be too extensive to cover in a single analysis. Before you finalize your topic, research it thoroughly to ensure there's sufficient background information to support your work.

1 People Group

Consider a history thesis topic about a particular people group. Possibly there's a remote tribe or a unique culture that has made an impact on society, but it hasn't received much recognition and deserves an in-depth study. Examples of theses from Duke University's history department include "Planter Descendants and their Role in Shaping the Public History of Coastal South Carolina," or "The Narratives of the Ethiopian-American Community." If you're interested in the social, economic, cultural and historical influences a specific group of people had on society, consider a thesis statement that explores the role they played in history.

2 Historical Event

Select a thesis topic that revolves around a specific historical event. This can be tricky because many historical events are way too expansive. For example, a general thesis about World War II would be way too broad, so you might focus on the role B-29 bombers played in the war, or the effects post-war economics had on Berlin. Research might help you uncover a thesis topic that isn't widely known. For example, Zimbabwe's exportation of diamonds isn't considered trafficking blood diamonds because it follows the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme -- Cote d'Ivoire does not and it has incurred heavy sanctions. When you choose a historical event, make sure it's one that made, or is currently making, a significant impact on society. Otherwise, your thesis will sound more like a basic research project than a thought-provoking dissertation.

3 Issue or Cause

Explore potential thesis topics that revolve around significant issues or causes, especially those that positively or negatively affected humanity. For example, former Duke University history thesis topics include the role AIDS played in reformed sex education classes, Operation Pedro in Cuba, the church's role in slavery, and black women's resistance to Jim Crow laws. Historical causes typically have emotional ties, so they can be quite heart-wrenching or heart-warming to study. As you craft your thesis, use a specific time line, historical event or historical figure to show how a particular cause shaped history, both then and now.

4 Considerations

Choose a history thesis topic that has a definitive answer, solution or outcome. According to the Harvard University History Department, you shouldn't choose a topic that's unanswerable or your research won't be conclusive. Your proposal must have sustainable evidence to back it up -- otherwise, it's just an opinion paper. Once you decide on a topic, use your resources to help develop and prove your thesis. Don't try to answer or resolve the issues without relying on research or you might make false assumptions. According to Harvard, you must "let your sources talk to you."

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.