How to Write a Great History Essay

history essay writing

One of the most common cliches ever used is that “you learn from your mistakes.” This rings true of almost everything, as it can be used as a teaching point for yourself and others. Some also view History as a crucial subject taught in schools, mostly because of this very idea. History is an evaluation of our past and helps us understand our society today that we live in and how it came to be.

Because history is so important to us, schools and universities want to know if the students understand even at a fundamental level what has happened in history so that they also may learn from our mistakes in society. 

Historical essays are not easy to write, in fact, there are lots of ways that students tend to make mistakes while writing their history essays, such as misinformation, incoherence, or even irrelevance. Lots of information needs to be filtered and selected and interpreted in a certain way to carry your thesis. This is not just a regurgitation of information but rather a well-informed critical essay about these historical events, and it should be treated as one in order to make it a great essay. We’ll break these down and give you tips on how to write a great history essay. 

  1. Determine the type of historical essay 

Usually, your professor provides you with a certain topic or essay that you must write about. The first step is to understand what kind of essay this is, so you can collect your data and organize it easier. Is the essay a narrative about past events? Is it an argumentative essay where you defend a particular side? This is important for writing as your assignment depends on this task. Make sure to ask your teacher if you are unsure or having trouble understanding the task. 

  1. Gather sources

Similar to research papers, historical essays will require some extra knowledge from other sources. Reading is essential for understanding a topic, and usually your professor gives an assignment on a certain reading or book that you’ve read in class.  Watching documentaries and videos can also help, but books and articles have more in-depth information. Be sure to double check your sources as well, history can be viewed from two different points of view which will vary their information about it. It’s always safest to fact check your sources. Whether it’s your textbook or an article, be sure to make citations of these sources to avoid plagiarism as well. 

  1. Use the appropriate language

Writing a history essay isn’t exactly the same as writing a science research paper. They require a certain language that propels their ideas forward and fits the criteria for the most efficient way of delivering information. Here’s a few tips of maximizing the efficiency of your essay 

  • Use the past tense

Most literary prose and research essays are about the present or hypothetical situations, and therefore use the present tense. But in history papers, these events take place in the past, so it’s a bit more appropriate to use the past tense when referring to these historical events.

  • Avoid vague generalizations 

This is at most lazy writing for a historical essay. This limits the ideas to just a broad sense and removes the potency of your information. Because all these events happened already, we know roughly the timeline of events and the people involved. There is no need to guess or speculate.

  • Paraphrase instead of quote

Unless the quote is a famously spoken one or truly impactful on your essay, most of the information you’ve researched should be paraphrased into your own words, rather than quotes of certain speeches or dialogues. This allows you to prove that you know what you are talking about and can hold a critical idea together. 

  • Respect your subject 

Even though you may not agree with things that someone has done in the past or that you hold certain values, it should not show up so blatant in your essay. Historical subjects are not perfect, but you are reporting on them, using your own original ideas, so we don’t want to include such a strong bias against the subject or topic. 

  1. Write and rewrite

The first draft is important to get all of your ideas out. The second draft is important to highlight problems and fix mistakes. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither should your essay. Take as many drafts as you can to get everything almost perfect. This applies to every type of writing and isn’t limited to  just history essays. It’s also important to have it reviewed by someone else. Proofreading is great because someone else will see mistakes that you weren’t able to see, and in the long run it will be much more beneficial than just editing yourself. 

  1. Focus on your introduction

First impressions are important and sets the tone for the rest of the essay. If readers aren’t engaged or interested in your topic in the first paragraph, the rest of your essay will be almost useless. You want to set the scene and ask and answer the important question that is your essay. If you’re writing about a certain battle in World War 2, setting the scene and presenting the importance of this battle will show your reader that you are knowledgeable about this topic. 

Breaking down your introduction into parts can also help your reader understand more about the structure of your essay. For example, you list out your topics in order, “Operation Torch, The Siege of Leningrad, and The Battle of the Atlantic all play a crucial role in how WW2 ended up.”

They will expect to learn about your ideas and topic in this way, and will not be surprised or confused at the information you present them. w

Writing a historical essay seems to be a daunting task, but its not more difficult than any other essay. As long as you prepare yourself and follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to writing a great history essay for your class. But if you still struggle to come up with something or you’re pressed for time because of your deadline, head over to Assignment Expert for all your history assignments, including essays. We’ve got your back!