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How to Write a History Essay


Writing a historical essay is not the same as writing a literature or a science one, although all have similar structure following the general thesis and evidence model. A historical paper is based on situating facts and evidences correctly in space and time. Historians pay much attention to errors of anachronism which refers to misplacing events or personalising historical characters by having them act in ways that are inappropriate for the time in which they were living. In order to write a history essay you must find relevant, well documented sources, sustaining your arguments in an objective viewpoint avoiding general theories, statements about humanity or personal thoughts about historical events.

The Research Stage

If you want to learn how to write a history essay you need to be aware of the two different kinds of essay: those based on primary sources and those based on secondary sources.

Primary sources refer to materials dating from the period discussed in your essay; often, the papers based on those kind of sources attempt to recreate an historical event. Primary sources are used to sustain a particular understanding or interpretation of an event. Usually, a history essay that works with primary sources is the result of gathering, arranging and interpreting evidence, offering arguments for a particular point of view.

When writing an essay belonging to the second type, you must take into consideration the history essay that works with secondary sources. Secondary sources refer to those materials that were written after the respective events have unfolded. Learning how to write a history essay based on secondary sources requires good skills of analysis and synthesis, because you will have to deal with multiple historical materials and compare the differences between them, in order to write a paper that challenges or supports these past events.

The purpose of the initial reading is to identify a plausible argument that you can sustain with conviction. A student who knows how to write a history essay will investigate at least three or four different materials. The information must come from trustworthy materials such as articles in books published by reputable scholars, encyclopedias – they can provide overviews but often they do not cover adequately the issue, or even sites on the Internet like Google Scholar or SpringerLink. Remember not to cite general information websites like Wikipedia. It is extremely important to consider where your materials came from, so you should cross check sources as frequently as possible. After gathering the materials, you can start making notes that will help you identify the key points of your essay, and based upon these notes you can draw a plan. It is highly important to also make bibliographical notes for every material you have consulted; you will need this information when it comes to referencing your paper.

The Writing Stage

Regarding the writing stage, learning how to write a history essay is quite similar to learning how to write any other essays. Once you have finished the research stage you should draw up a plan to guide you through the next stage. The plan should be a list of points to be discussed and argued in each paragraph. You might consider answering some of the following questions:

  • What evidence can I bring in order to sustain this argument?
  • Are there different points of view which can be refuted in order to sustain my argument?
  • Do I need to know more about the evidence I am planning to use?

After establishing your plan, you may proceed with writing the next sections of your essay:

Introduction. Once you have established your thesis, you have to write a brief introduction to present the event or events you are going to discuss, indicating the line of argument you will take and the materials you are going to use as evidence. For someone who knows how to write a history essay it will be easy to make a catching, concise and explicit introduction that will focus the reader’s attention.

The body of the essay. Knowing how to write a history essay implies an intelligent use of paragraphing. Try to organise the paragraphs so that each of them contains a premise or an idea essential in the essay’s argumentation. However, if your arguments are not sustained by an irrefutable well-known fact, it is preferable to have a footnote to indicate where you have obtained the information from. Quotations are often used, especially when working with primary sources. However, you must pay attention not to overdo it; it is better to present things in your own words – nevertheless, always use a footnote to indicate the source of the idea.

Conclusions. Learning how to write a history essay requires you to be able to make a well-set conclusion smoothly derived from the body of the essay. You should always check if the conclusion is properly related to the arguments and evidences presented in your text. End the paper with a strong conclusion that brings the reader back to the original thesis. If possible, your conclusion should leave the impression that you have proven a fact of general significance. Very important: Do not summarise your entire essay and do not introduce new materials!

The reference page. A student who knows how to write a history essay must be aware of the importance of quality referencing. The reference page lists all the sources you have based your essay upon in the required citation style.

The revision. The final stage of your history essay is revision. Even if when re-reading your paper you will be tempted to add or remove some paragraphs in order to improve the essay, you must be very careful not to spoil the entire flow of ideas. You must check the logical links between paragraphs, together with the language and grammar.

It is often better to have your paper revised by someone else, a friend a classmate; you might want to consider using our editing and proofreading service at Academic Sciences.

If you have followed carefully all the steps described above you can say you have learned how to write a history essay. Even so, if you fell unsure about your writing abilities or if you do not have enough time to write the essay yourself, you can order a custom essay or even a dissertation at Academic Sciences and our specialised writers will provide you a professionally written paper in accordance with your instructions and deadlines.


Are you struggling with the perfect History essay? Academic Sciences is able to provide custom essays and model answers which can help you manage your History essay writing and get the grade you want. We have a variety of solutions available to you to suit your academic level, time frame and budget. Have a look through our academic guides and if you are still struggling, consider giving us a call or placing an order for an essay on-line.

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