historical context in essay

  • Source Criticism

What is historical context and why does it matter?

Hampton Court Palace

When you are analysing sources , it is important to remember that they were created at a time that is very different to our own.

As a result, they may describe things in very different ways. Source creators , particularly those of primary sources , will even say things that would be offensive today.

By examining the historical context, historians can gain a deeper understanding of the motivations and actions of people and groups in the past and can see how events and developments were shaped by the conditions and circumstances of the time. 

Additionally, understanding historical context can help to provide perspective and insight into the origins of current issues and trends.

What is 'historical context'?

Historical context is the awareness that the people who created sources were living at a time which may have held opinions and beliefs that are very different to what we consider ‘normal’.

Identifying historical context allows us to demonstrate historical empathy : to understand the different attitudes from the past without judging them.

For example:  

When reading an ancient Roman’s letter, they might say very derogatory things about slaves. Being aware of the historical context allows us to know that slavery was normal at the time and the things being said were not seen as ‘wrong’ to other Romans. Therefore, even though we do not condone slavery today, knowing the context allows us to appreciate the point of view of the primary source.  

Historical context is also being aware of the important events at the time that influenced the creation of the source.

Particular events often motivated people to create sources in a specific way.

The creator may have specifically mentioned certain people or events or used certain language because of an event which had recently occurred.

How do I determine a source’s context?

The first thing you need to know in order to contextualise a historical source is when the source was made .

Ensure that you are as precise as possible when identifying the date of creation : the century, decade, year, month and or day may help.

Secondly, once you know when it was created, you need to discover where it was created.

If a soldier wrote a letter in camp before battle, or a convict wrote a letter in a ship while in transit, or a newspaper printed a news report in a particular country town, can all become important to knowing the context of the source.

Thirdly, once you know when it was created, you need to discover what significant event occurred at that time.

Background research will be helpful in identifying this. Remember, you only care about events that directly influenced the creation of the source, not other events that occurred elsewhere in the world which are irrelevant.

Finally, carefully read the information in the source to identify specific language, ideas, and terminology that you need to learn more about in order to make sense of the source. Again, some background research might be required to understand any words with which you are unfamiliar.

John Smith’s letter to his parents was written on the 26th April, 1915: the day after the Gallipoli landings. This explains why he describes the Turkish defenders as “cruel murderers”. It is clear that he wrote this particular source to let his family know that he had survived the first day of battle.

The online newspaper article was written on the 13th February 2008, which was the same day as Kevin Rudd’s official apology speech to the indigenous peoples of Australia. This explains why the article focuses on the history of the Stolen Generations and mentions the “small ounce of relief of the thousands who will be present today”.

Watch a video explanation on the History Skills YouTube channel:

Test your learning

No personal information is collected as part of this quiz. Only the selected responses to the questions are recorded.

What do you need help with?

Download ready-to-use digital learning resources.

historical context in essay

Copyright © History Skills 2014-2024.

Contact  via email

The Importance of Historic Context in Analysis and Interpretation

Print Collector/Getty Images

  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

Historical context is an important part of life and literature, and without it, memories, stories, and characters have less meaning. Historical context deals with the details that surround an occurrence. In more technical terms, historical context refers to the social, religious, economic, and political conditions that existed during a certain time and place. Basically, it's all the details of the time and place in which a situation occurs, and those details are what enable us to interpret and analyze works or events of the past, or even the future, rather than merely judge them by contemporary standards.

In literature, a strong understanding of the historical context behind a work's creation can give us a better understanding of and appreciation for the narrative . In analyzing historical events, context can help us understand what motivates people to behave as they did.

Put another way, context is what gives meaning to the details. It's important, however, that you don't confuse context with cause. Cause is the action that creates an outcome; context is the environment in which that action and outcome occur.

Words and Deeds

Whether dealing with fact or fiction, historical context is important when interpreting behavior and speech. Consider the following sentence which, devoid of context, sounds innocent enough:

"Sally hid her hands behind her back and crossed her fingers before she answered."

But imagine that this statement comes from a transcript of court documents in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 during the famed Salem Witch Trials . Religious fervor was at an extreme, and villagers were nearly obsessed with the devil and witchcraft. At that time, if a young woman were to tell a lie, it was fodder for hysteria and a violent reaction. A reader would assume that poor Sally was a candidate for the gallows.

Now, imagine you're reading a letter from a mother that contains this sentence:

"My daughter will be heading to California shortly after she marries."

How much information does this statement give us? Not much, until we consider when it was written. Should we discover that the letter was written in 1849, we will realize that one sentence can sometimes say a lot. A young woman heading for California in 1849 might be following her husband on a treacherous treasure-seeking expedition for the gold rush. This mother would probably be quite fearful for her child, and she would know that it would be a very long time before she'd see her daughter again, if ever.

Historical Context in Literature

No work of literature can be fully appreciated or understood without historical context. What may seem nonsensical or even offensive to contemporary sensibilities, might actually be interpreted in a completely different manner by considering the era it is from.

A good example is Mark Twain's " Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ," published in 1885. It is considered an enduring work of American literature and a biting social satire. But it is also criticized by modern critics for its casual use of a racial epithet to describe Huck's friend Jim, a freedom-seeking enslaved person. Such language is shocking and offensive to many readers today, but in the context of the day, it was​ the commonplace language for many.

Back in the mid-1880s, when attitudes toward newly liberated enslaved African Americans were often indifferent at best and hostile at worst, the casual use of such racial epithets wouldn't have been considered unusual. In fact, what is actually more surprising, given the historical context of when the novel was written, is Huck's treating Jim not as his inferior but as his equal—something rarely portrayed in the literature of the time.

Similarly, Mary Shelley's " Frankenstein"  cannot be fully appreciated by a reader who is unaware of the Romantic movement that took place in art and literature in the early 19th century. It was a time of rapid social and political upheaval in Europe when lives were transformed by the technological disruptions of the Industrial Age.

The Romantics captured the public's sense of isolation and fear that many experienced as a result of these social changes. "Frankenstein" becomes more than a good monster story, it becomes an allegory for how technology can destroy us.

Other Uses of Historical Context

Scholars and educators rely on historical context to analyze and interpret works of art, literature, music, dance, and poetry. Architects and builders rely on it when designing new structures and restoring existing buildings. Judges may use it to interpret the law, historians to understand the past. Any time critical analysis is required, you may need to consider historical context as well.

Without historical context, we are only seeing a piece of the scene and not fully understanding the influence of the time and place in which a situation occurred.

  • A List of Every Nobel Prize Winner in English Literature
  • Romanticism in Literature: Definition and Examples
  • 5 Tips to Help You Read a Play Script
  • How to Read and Enjoy a Dramatic Play
  • What Literature Can Teach Us
  • Analyzing a Historical Document
  • Glossary of Historical Terms
  • What Is Ethnography?
  • Definition and Examples of Analysis in Composition
  • American Author Maps: Informational Texts in the English Classroom
  • Stylistics and Elements of Style in Literature
  • Instructional Words Used on Tests
  • Theater Experience in Shakespeare's Lifetime
  • Understanding the Use of Language Through Discourse Analysis
  • How to Understand Interpretive Sociology
  • Understanding the Sociological Perspective

helpful professor logo

21 Historical Context Examples

historical context examples and definition, explained below

Historical context refers to all of the information about the time or era in which something occurs. This information can help us to more fully understand the event.

For example, we might look at the the social, cultural, and political circumstances that influenced an event in the past. All of the circumstances that were contemporaneous to the event will give us ‘historical context’ through which we can analyze the event.

The historical context of an event (or person!) helps in understanding why things happened the way they did and gives meaning to those happenings.

Contextual factors worth considering include:

  • Gender roles: How many liberties were women, in particular, able to exercise at that particular time and place in history?
  • Technology : What technological innovations were available for people, and did they affect the course of events?
  • Social norms: What norms were in place that enabled and constrained people at the time?
  • Politics: Was their geopolitical turmoil or relative stability in the world? Did the historical event happen in a free democratic nation or a dictatorship?
  • Economy: Were people able to live a good, comfortable life in a functioning economy, or did poverty potentially affect the course of events?

An accurate interpretation of historical events necessitates a deep understanding of the context of the time.

Historical Context Examples

1. the industrial revolution.

The Industrial Revolution was a key turning point in human history. It was a time when manual labor started to be replaced by machines, and mass production became a reality.

This change increased economic productivity and improved living standards for many. However, it also led to a concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few.

Contextual Factors:

  • The status and distribution of technological advancements during the period
  • Social class divisions and disparities in access to resources.
  • Urbanization and migration trends.
  • Impact of economic laws and regulations.
  • Effects on environment due to industrial activities.

2. The Civil Rights Movement

Emerging in the mid-20th century, the Civil Rights Movement represented a quest for social justice and equality, specifically for African Americans in the United States.

This movement was rooted in centuries of systemic racial discrimination , segregation, and disenfranchisement. The Civil Rights Movement utilized both legal litigation and nonviolent protest to achieve its goals. Its evolution and success can only be understood by recognizing the broader historical context of racial tensions and legislation in the United States.

  • Pre-existing racial segregation laws, also referred to as Jim Crow laws.
  • Influence of the media in spreading the cause.
  • Key ideologies and actors within the movement.
  • The position and response of the federal government during the movement.
  • International socio-political climate and feelings towards racial equality.

3. World War II

One of the deadliest and most wide-ranging conflicts in history, World War II brought devastation and unprecedented changes to the global structure.

The war was fought between the Allies (including the U.S., the U.K., Soviet Union, and China) and the Axis (Germany, Japan, and Italy), with battles taking place on every continent except Antarctica.

  • The aggressive foreign policies and expansionist ideologies of Axis powers.
  • The lingering effects of World War I, including the Treaty of Versailles.
  • The instability caused by the Great Depression and its ripple effects.
  • Advancements in military technology and their tactical implications.
  • The reaction of the international community and the role of alliances.

4. The Renaissance

The Renaissance was a period of intense intellectual and artistic activity in Europe that spanned from the 14th century to the 17th century.

This era marked a profound cultural shift from the Middle Ages, with new ways of thinking about the world stemming from the study of art, science, literature, and philosophy.

  • The decline of the Church’s authority and the rise of secular thinking.
  • Societal impacts of the European discovery of new continents.
  • Influence of Greek and Roman ancient texts and their rediscovery.
  • Changes in socio-economic structures, including the rise of a wealthy merchant class.
  • Novel approaches to art and humanist philosophies.

5. The French Revolution

The French Revolution was a period of radical political and societal change in France that lasted from 1789 until 1799, leading to the end of monarchy and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Revolution had a lasting impact not only on France but also significantly influenced the direction of modern history. France rose as one of the world’s great democracies, which it remains today.

  • The inefficiency and despotism of the French monarchy at the time.
  • The severe economic hardship exacerbated by the monarchy’s taxation system.
  • Popular Enlightenment ideas challenging monarchy and the Church.
  • The impact of the American Revolution on encouraging revolutionary sentiment.
  • The vast socio-economic disparities between different classes in French society.

6. The Cold War

The Cold War was a period of ideological and geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, and their respective allies, from 1945 to the early 1990s.

This era was characterized by political and military tension, arms races, proxy wars, propaganda warfare, and significant technological competition. Fortunately, it ended relatively peacefully, but threatens to start-up again today with newfound Russian imperialist aggression.

  • The conflict of ideologies (Capitalism versus Communism).
  • The power vacuum post-World War II leading to bifurcation of global powers.
  • Advancements in nuclear technology and the fear of mutual destruction.
  • The influence of decolonization and the rise of the Non-Aligned Movement.
  • The effect of economic strategies like the U.S.’s Marshall Plan and the Soviet’s Comecon.

7. The Space Race

The Space Race, occurring from 1955 to 1975, was a competition between the United States and the Soviet Union to achieve firsts in spaceflight capabilities.

It took place during the Cold War and symbolized the ideological and technological clash between the two superpowers. One important contextual factor in this point in history was, in fact, the cold war, which acted as the political backdrop to the massive investment in space infrastructure.

  • The development of rocket technology in the wake of World War II.
  • The geopolitical tensions and surrogate competitions of the Cold War.
  • The technological advancements in satellite and manned spaceflight.
  • The influence of key individuals and agencies, such as NASA and Sergei Korolev.
  • The shift in public opinion towards space exploration.

8. The Abolitionist Movement

The Abolitionist Movement in the United States spanned from the late 18th century until the end of the American Civil War in 1865.

This movement sought to end the practice of slavery and promote equal rights for all citizens, significantly impacting the social and political fabric of the nation.

There was a range of contextual factors at this time, including enlightenment beliefs about the innate natural rights of all humans , religious debate about whether slavery was condoned in the bible, and worries about the economic impact of the loss of slave labor.

Contextual Factors

  • The institution of slavery and its economic and social impacts.
  • The religious reform movements stressing human equality.
  • The influence of key abolitionists like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
  • The passing of key legislation and court rulings regarding slavery.
  • The division between the North and South on the issue of slavery.

9. Roman Empire

The Roman Empire, at its peak, was the most extensive political and social structure in western civilization.

This empire lasted from 27 BC with Augustus becoming the first emperor until AD 476 when the last emperor of Rome, Romulus Augustus, was overthrown. The Roman Empire had a profound impact on Europe and its influence is still seen in architecture, engineering, law, and language.

  • The transition from a republic to an imperial structure and its implications.
  • Military conquests and the expansion of the empire.
  • Cultural integration and diversification within the empire.
  • Economic structure and infrastructure development such as road networks.
  • Weakening of political, military, and economic structures leading to the fall of the Roman Empire.

10. Digital Revolution

The Digital Revolution is a historical shift from traditional industry precipitated by the invention and rapid improvement of digital technology.

This revolution started approximately in the 1950s and is ongoing today. Its origins can be traced back to the development of the personal computer, internet and the transition from analog electronic and mechanical devices to digital technology.

  • Advances in silicon microchip technology driving the proliferation of digital devices.
  • The rise of the personal computer and the conceptualization of the internet.
  • The global shift towards information-based economies.
  • The evolution of social relationships and interactions with the advent of social media.
  • Changes in job markets and sectors due to the impact of automation and digitization.

11. The Enlightenment

Occurring in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe.

It was marked by a focused criticism of traditional authorities , including monarchy and the Church, and an emphasis on intellectual interchange and the scientific method.

  • The religious turmoil and wars of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.
  • The rise of secularism and rationalism in societal thought.
  • The promotion of democratic values and individual freedoms.
  • The advancements in scientific discovery and technological innovation.
  • The proliferation of salons and printed materials spreading Enlightenment ideas.

12. The Age of Exploration

The Age of Exploration, also known as the Age of Discovery, was a period in history starting in the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century.

During this period, technological advancements in navigation allowed European explorers to embark on overseas exploration, leading to the discovery of new lands, trade routes, and civilizations.

  • Technological innovations in shipbuilding and navigation.
  • The desire to establish new trade routes to avoid Ottoman control.
  • The socio-political ambition of European kingdoms to expand their territories.
  • Contact and interaction with previously unknown civilizations and cultures.
  • The subsequent colonization and exploitation of discovered lands.

13. The Reformation

The Reformation was a major religious movement in the 16th century that led to the theological divide in the Christian Church and the emergence of Protestantism.

Initiated by Martin Luther in 1517, its main objectives were to reform and challenge corrupt practices within the Catholic Church. This revolution led to a range of subsequent Christian denominations, many of which are adhered to around the world to this day.

  • Corrupt practices within the Catholic Church, such as selling indulgences.
  • The invention of the printing press, allowing the rapid spread of reformative ideas.
  • The socio-political climate, including the support or resistance from different monarchs.
  • The philosophical underpinnings of the movement, under Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers.
  • The counter-reactions of the Church, leading to the Counter-Reformation.

14. The Meiji Restoration

The Meiji Restoration was a major revolution that occurred in Japan in 1868.

This era marked the end of the Edo period during which the country was ruled by the feudal military regime of the Tokugawa shogunate. The Meiji Restoration saw the reinstatement of the emperor to power, signifying a political shift towards a central government based on western ideas of constitutional monarchy and industrialized economy.

  • The pressure from Western powers to open Japanese ports to international trade.
  • The discontent with the Tokugawa shogunate among many provincial samurai.
  • The cultural exchange and absorption of Western culture’s ideas about governance and development.
  • Rapid industrialization and modernization efforts in Japan following the restoration.
  • The transformation of societal structures, including the class system .

15. The American Revolution

The American Revolution was the conflict fought between Great Britain and thirteen of its North American colonies, which had declared themselves as the independent United States of America.

Starting in 1775, it resulted in the successful separation of the colonies from British rule, establishing the United States as a sovereign nation.

  • Unpopular laws and taxes imposed by Britain on their American colonies.
  • Influential Enlightenment ideas about government and individual rights.
  • Key events leading up to the Revolution, such as the Boston Tea Party and the First Continental Congress.
  • The military strategies and alliances that ultimately led to American victory.
  • The lasting impact, such as the creation of a democratic republic, marked by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

16. The Great Depression

The Great Depression was a severe, worldwide economic depression that lasted from 1929 to the late 1930s, with different nations recovering at different times.

The depression began in the United States after a major fall in stock prices that began around September 4, 1929, and became a worldwide news with the stock market crash of October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday.

  • The speculative bubble in the stock market leading to the 1929 crash.
  • Failures in policy responses, such as the America’s Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.
  • The established economic structures, and diversity or lack thereof in different economies.
  • Changes in social and cultural spheres as a response to economic hardship.
  • Global effects and variations in recovery responses, such as aspects of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

17. The Victorian Era

The Victorian era is the period during which Queen Victoria ruled Britain, from 1837 to 1901.

This era was marked by significant changes and developments in almost every sphere from politics to social norms, giving it a distinct spot in British history. Today, there remain many signs of Victorian architecture throughout the former British colonies.

  • Industrialization and its impact on society, including urban growth and changing class structures.
  • Queen Victoria’s reign and her influence over national identity.
  • Rigid social norms, gender roles, and moral codes.
  • Advances in science, technology, and culture which fuelled an age of innovation.
  • The British Empire’s vast colonial influence and reach during this time.

18. The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa from 1302–1922 (though its peak was in the 15th–17th centuries).

This empire was established by Osman I and after a long line of rulers, disintegrated immediately after World War I.

  • The empire’s strategic geographic location influencing politics and trade.
  • Various phases of expansion and contraction marked by numerous wars and sieges.
  • Multicultural and multireligious nature of the empire and its impact on governance.
  • Administrative and military systems created during the zenith of the empire, such as the Janissary corps.
  • Internal problems and external pressures leading to the fall of the empire.

19. The Age of Enlightenment

The Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated Europe during the 18th century.

The Enlightenment was characterized by revolutionary ideas in politics, philosophy, science, and communications – all of which shaped the modern world.

  • The influence of thinkers such as Descartes, Locke, and Newton.
  • The emphasis on reason, science, and respect for humanity.
  • The Frankfurt School’s critique of mass production and consumer culture.
  • The importance of education in society’s progression.
  • The role of print culture in the spread of Enlightenment values.

20. The Scientific Revolution

The Scientific Revolution was a series of events in the 16th and 17th centuries that led to the birth of modern science.

During this time, new ideas in physics, astronomy, biology, anatomy, and chemistry transformed views of nature and society. It gave rise to the scientific method , which to this day is the gold standard for finding fact from fiction.

  • The influence of scholars such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler.
  • Shift from a geocentric to a heliocentric model of the solar system.
  • The development and refinement of the scientific method.
  • Transition from qualitative to quantitative approaches in study.
  • The impact of technological advancements on exploration and observation.

21. The Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation passed in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national, and religious minorities and women.

The Act signaled a significant step in the progression of equal rights in the United States and was precipitated by a range of injustices, now visible on the television screens, as well as a range of court rulings from the newfound liberal majority in the supreme court of the USA.

  • The momentum and progress of the civil rights movement, with leaders like Martin Luther King Jr.
  • The impact of the televised 1963 March on Washington.
  • Influence of previous court rulings, such as Brown v. Board of Education.
  • The political climate at the time and support from President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • The long-term effects, including ongoing struggles with racial equality and the passage of additional rights legislation.

Read Next: Social and Cultural Context Examples

Before you Go

When thinking about historical context examples, it’s worth reflecting on how much the contextual factors influenced outcomes. Some people, known as determinists , believe that contextual factors determine outcomes , while others think they just influence outcomes. For example, in the current era of rapidly improving artificial intelligence, we can ask ourselves if AI is going to determine our futures (known as technological determinism) or if we have the power to choose our destiny, while AI acts as only a part of the story. For more, check out our guides on various types of determinism:

  • Technological determinism
  • Linguistic determinism
  • Environmental determinism


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 15 Self-Actualization Examples (Maslow's Hierarchy)
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ Forest Schools Philosophy & Curriculum, Explained!
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ Montessori's 4 Planes of Development, Explained!
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ Montessori vs Reggio Emilia vs Steiner-Waldorf vs Froebel

Leave a Comment Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

UCLA logo

  • 3. Historical Analysis and Interpretation

One of the most common problems in helping students to become thoughtful readers of historical narrative is the compulsion students feel to find the one right answer, the one essential fact, the one authoritative interpretation. “Am I on the right track?” “Is this what you want?” they ask. Or, worse yet, they rush to closure, reporting back as self-evident truths the facts or conclusions presented in the document or text.

These problems are deeply rooted in the conventional ways in which textbooks have presented history: a succession of facts marching straight to a settled outcome. To overcome these problems requires the use of more than a single source: of history books other than textbooks and of a rich variety of historical documents and artifacts that present alternative voices, accounts, and interpretations or perspectives on the past.

Students need to realize that historians may differ on the facts they incorporate in the development of their narratives and disagree as well on how those facts are to be interpreted. Thus, “history” is usually taken to mean what happened in the past; but written history is a dialogue among historians, not only about what happened but about why and how events unfolded. The study of history is not only remembering answers. It requires following and evaluating arguments and arriving at usable, even if tentative, conclusions based on the available evidence.

To engage in  historical analysis and interpretation  students must draw upon their skills of historical comprehension . In fact, there is no sharp line separating the two categories. Certain of the skills involved in comprehension overlap the skills involved in analysis and are essential to it. For example, identifying the author or source of a historical document or narrative and assessing its credibility (comprehension) is prerequisite to comparing competing historical narratives (analysis). Analysis builds upon the skills of comprehension; it obliges the student to assess the evidence on which the historian has drawn and determine the soundness of interpretations created from that evidence. It goes without saying that in acquiring these analytical skills students must develop the ability to differentiate between expressions of opinion, no matter how passionately delivered, and informed hypotheses grounded in historical evidence.

Well-written historical narrative has the power to promote students’ analysis of historical causality–of how change occurs in society, of how human intentions matter, and how ends are influenced by the means of carrying them out, in what has been called the tangle of process and outcomes. Few challenges can be more fascinating to students than unraveling the often dramatic complications of cause. And nothing is more dangerous than a simple, monocausal explanation of past experiences and present problems.

Finally, well-written historical narratives can also alert students to the traps of  lineality and inevitability . Students must understand the relevance of the past to their own times, but they need also to avoid the trap of lineality, of drawing straight lines between past and present, as though earlier movements were being propelled teleologically toward some rendezvous with destiny in the late 20th century.

A related trap is that of thinking that events have unfolded inevitably–that the way things are is the way they had to be, and thus that individuals lack free will and the capacity for making choices. Unless students can conceive that history could have turned out differently, they may unconsciously accept the notion that the future is also inevitable or predetermined, and that human agency and individual action count for nothing. No attitude is more likely to feed civic apathy, cynicism, and resignation–precisely what we hope the study of history will fend off. Whether in dealing with the main narrative or with a topic in depth, we must always try, in one historian’s words, to “restore to the past the options it once had.”


The student engages in historical analysis and interpretation:

Therefore, the student is able to:

  • Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas , values, personalities, behaviors, and institutions by identifying likenesses and differences.
  • Consider multiple perspectives  of various peoples in the past by demonstrating their differing motives, beliefs, interests, hopes, and fears.
  • Analyze cause-and-effect relationships  bearing in mind  multiple causation including (a)  the importance of the individual  in history; (b)  the influence of ideas , human interests, and beliefs; and (c) the role of chance, the accidental and the irrational.
  • Draw comparisons across eras and regions in order to define enduring issues as well as large-scale or long-term developments that transcend regional and temporal boundaries.
  • Distinguish between unsupported expressions of opinion and informed hypotheses grounded in historical evidence.
  • Compare competing historical narratives.
  • Challenge arguments of historical inevitability  by formulating examples of historical contingency, of how different choices could have led to different consequences.
  • Hold interpretations of history as tentative , subject to changes as new information is uncovered, new voices heard, and new interpretations broached.
  • Evaluate major debates among historians  concerning alternative interpretations of the past.
  • Hypothesize the influence of the past , including both the limitations and opportunities made possible by past decisions.

Interesting links

  • 1. Chronological Thinking
  • 2. Historical Comprehension
  • 4. Historical Research Capabilities
  • 5. Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making
  • BLM Situation
  • Covid 19: Making History
  • Current Projects
  • Developing Standards in Grades K-4
  • Food Connects Us
  • Historical Reflections on the George Floyd Protests. By Ian Price
  • History Standards
  • How to create a successful application
  • How to enroll in History 195
  • Internship Application
  • Internship Sites
  • LA Neighborhood Project
  • Living through the Great Plague of London
  • Moving Forward
  • Poverty in the British Popular Imagination
  • Significance of History for the Educated Citizen
  • There’s a Reason Why COVID-19 Is Killing Black and Brown Americans: It’s Called Racism
  • United States Era 1
  • Use It Don’t Waste It: Vital Lessons of the Covid-19 Pandemic & Navigating Our “New Normal”
  • World History Era 1
  • World History Era 2
  • World History Era 3
  • World History Era 4
  • World History Era 5
  • World History Era 6
  • World History Era 7
  • World History Era 8
  • World History Era 9
  • World History Resources
  • About this project
  • Definition of Standards
  • Historical Thinking Standards
  • HistoryCorps Internships
  • United States Era 2
  • Criteria for the Development of Standards
  • National Center for History in the Schools
  • Public History Courses at UCLA
  • Structural Racism and Public Health
  • United States History Content Standards
  • A Global Pandemic
  • Developing Standards
  • Topical Organization
  • United States Era 3
  • World History Content Standards
  • 4. Historical Research Capabilities  
  • Climate Change
  • Content Standards for K-4
  • Historical Understanding
  • Meet Our Interns
  • Standards FAQ
  • United States Era 4
  • 5. Historical Issues
  • Covid and the Performing Arts
  • Historical Thinking
  • Policy Issues
  • Standards for Grades K-4
  • United States Era 5
  • Covid and the 2020 Presidential Elections
  • Integrating Thinking and Understandings
  • Putting Historical Thinking Skills to Work
  • United States Era 6
  • United States Era 7
  • United States Era 8
  • United States Era 9
  • Alignment to Common Core Standards
  • United States Era 10
  • World History Across the Eras
  • October 2016
  • February 2016

historical context in essay

PreSearch Video

Narrowing Your Topic Video

Developing Search Terms

  • << Previous: Welcome
  • Next: Finding Background Knowledge >>
  • Last Updated: Apr 22, 2024 5:03 PM
  • URL: https://bakersfieldcollege.libguides.com/HistoricalContext

How to Write a History Essay with Outline, Tips, Examples and More

History Essay

Samuel Gorbold

Before we get into how to write a history essay, let's first understand what makes one good. Different people might have different ideas, but there are some basic rules that can help you do well in your studies. In this guide, we won't get into any fancy theories. Instead, we'll give you straightforward tips to help you with historical writing. So, if you're ready to sharpen your writing skills, let our history essay writing service explore how to craft an exceptional paper.

What is a History Essay?

A history essay is an academic assignment where we explore and analyze historical events from the past. We dig into historical stories, figures, and ideas to understand their importance and how they've shaped our world today. History essay writing involves researching, thinking critically, and presenting arguments based on evidence.

Moreover, history papers foster the development of writing proficiency and the ability to communicate complex ideas effectively. They also encourage students to engage with primary and secondary sources, enhancing their research skills and deepening their understanding of historical methodology. Students can benefit from utilizing essay writers services when faced with challenging assignments. These services provide expert assistance and guidance, ensuring that your history papers meet academic standards and accurately reflect your understanding of the subject matter.

History Essay Outline

History Essay Outline

The outline is there to guide you in organizing your thoughts and arguments in your essay about history. With a clear outline, you can explore and explain historical events better. Here's how to make one:


  • Hook: Start with an attention-grabbing opening sentence or anecdote related to your topic.
  • Background Information: Provide context on the historical period, event, or theme you'll be discussing.
  • Thesis Statement: Present your main argument or viewpoint, outlining the scope and purpose of your history essay.

Body paragraph 1: Introduction to the Historical Context

  • Provide background information on the historical context of your topic.
  • Highlight key events, figures, or developments leading up to the main focus of your history essay.

Body paragraphs 2-4 (or more): Main Arguments and Supporting Evidence

  • Each paragraph should focus on a specific argument or aspect of your thesis.
  • Present evidence from primary and secondary sources to support each argument.
  • Analyze the significance of the evidence and its relevance to your history paper thesis.

Counterarguments (optional)

  • Address potential counterarguments or alternative perspectives on your topic.
  • Refute opposing viewpoints with evidence and logical reasoning.
  • Summary of Main Points: Recap the main arguments presented in the body paragraphs.
  • Restate Thesis: Reinforce your thesis statement, emphasizing its significance in light of the evidence presented.
  • Reflection: Reflect on the broader implications of your arguments for understanding history.
  • Closing Thought: End your history paper with a thought-provoking statement that leaves a lasting impression on the reader.


  • List all sources used in your research, formatted according to the citation style required by your instructor (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago).
  • Include both primary and secondary sources, arranged alphabetically by the author's last name.

Notes (if applicable)

  • Include footnotes or endnotes to provide additional explanations, citations, or commentary on specific points within your history essay.

History Essay Format

Adhering to a specific format is crucial for clarity, coherence, and academic integrity. Here are the key components of a typical history essay format:

Font and Size

  • Use a legible font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.
  • The recommended font size is usually 12 points. However, check your instructor's guidelines, as they may specify a different size.
  • Set 1-inch margins on all sides of the page.
  • Double-space the entire essay, including the title, headings, body paragraphs, and references.
  • Avoid extra spacing between paragraphs unless specified otherwise.
  • Align text to the left margin; avoid justifying the text or using a centered alignment.

Title Page (if required):

  • If your instructor requires a title page, include the essay title, your name, the course title, the instructor's name, and the date.
  • Center-align this information vertically and horizontally on the page.
  • Include a header on each page (excluding the title page if applicable) with your last name and the page number, flush right.
  • Some instructors may require a shortened title in the header, usually in all capital letters.
  • Center-align the essay title at the top of the first page (if a title page is not required).
  • Use standard capitalization (capitalize the first letter of each major word).
  • Avoid underlining, italicizing, or bolding the title unless necessary for emphasis.

Paragraph Indentation:

  • Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches or use the tab key.
  • Do not insert extra spaces between paragraphs unless instructed otherwise.

Citations and References:

  • Follow the citation style specified by your instructor (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago).
  • Include in-text citations whenever you use information or ideas from external sources.
  • Provide a bibliography or list of references at the end of your history essay, formatted according to the citation style guidelines.
  • Typically, history essays range from 1000 to 2500 words, but this can vary depending on the assignment.

historical context in essay

How to Write a History Essay?

Historical writing can be an exciting journey through time, but it requires careful planning and organization. In this section, we'll break down the process into simple steps to help you craft a compelling and well-structured history paper.

Analyze the Question

Before diving headfirst into writing, take a moment to dissect the essay question. Read it carefully, and then read it again. You want to get to the core of what it's asking. Look out for keywords that indicate what aspects of the topic you need to focus on. If you're unsure about anything, don't hesitate to ask your instructor for clarification. Remember, understanding how to start a history essay is half the battle won!

Now, let's break this step down:

  • Read the question carefully and identify keywords or phrases.
  • Consider what the question is asking you to do – are you being asked to analyze, compare, contrast, or evaluate?
  • Pay attention to any specific instructions or requirements provided in the question.
  • Take note of the time period or historical events mentioned in the question – this will give you a clue about the scope of your history essay.

Develop a Strategy

With a clear understanding of the essay question, it's time to map out your approach. Here's how to develop your historical writing strategy:

  • Brainstorm ideas : Take a moment to jot down any initial thoughts or ideas that come to mind in response to the history paper question. This can help you generate a list of potential arguments, themes, or points you want to explore in your history essay.
  • Create an outline : Once you have a list of ideas, organize them into a logical structure. Start with a clear introduction that introduces your topic and presents your thesis statement – the main argument or point you'll be making in your history essay. Then, outline the key points or arguments you'll be discussing in each paragraph of the body, making sure they relate back to your thesis. Finally, plan a conclusion that summarizes your main points and reinforces your history paper thesis.
  • Research : Before diving into writing, gather evidence to support your arguments. Use reputable sources such as books, academic journals, and primary documents to gather historical evidence and examples. Take notes as you research, making sure to record the source of each piece of information for proper citation later on.
  • Consider counterarguments : Anticipate potential counterarguments to your history paper thesis and think about how you'll address them in your essay. Acknowledging opposing viewpoints and refuting them strengthens your argument and demonstrates critical thinking.
  • Set realistic goals : Be realistic about the scope of your history essay and the time you have available to complete it. Break down your writing process into manageable tasks, such as researching, drafting, and revising, and set deadlines for each stage to stay on track.

How to Write a History Essay

Start Your Research

Now that you've grasped the history essay topic and outlined your approach, it's time to dive into research. Here's how to start:

  • Ask questions : What do you need to know? What are the key points to explore further? Write down your inquiries to guide your research.
  • Explore diverse sources : Look beyond textbooks. Check academic journals, reliable websites, and primary sources like documents or artifacts.
  • Consider perspectives : Think about different viewpoints on your topic. How have historians analyzed it? Are there controversies or differing interpretations?
  • Take organized notes : Summarize key points, jot down quotes, and record your thoughts and questions. Stay organized using spreadsheets or note-taking apps.
  • Evaluate sources : Consider the credibility and bias of each source. Are they peer-reviewed? Do they represent a particular viewpoint?

Establish a Viewpoint

By establishing a clear viewpoint and supporting arguments, you'll lay the foundation for your compelling historical writing:

  • Review your research : Reflect on the information gathered. What patterns or themes emerge? Which perspectives resonate with you?
  • Formulate a thesis statement : Based on your research, develop a clear and concise thesis that states your argument or interpretation of the topic.
  • Consider counterarguments : Anticipate objections to your history paper thesis. Are there alternative viewpoints or evidence that you need to address?
  • Craft supporting arguments : Outline the main points that support your thesis. Use evidence from your research to strengthen your arguments.
  • Stay flexible : Be open to adjusting your viewpoint as you continue writing and researching. New information may challenge or refine your initial ideas.

Structure Your Essay

Now that you've delved into the depths of researching historical events and established your viewpoint, it's time to craft the skeleton of your essay: its structure. Think of your history essay outline as constructing a sturdy bridge between your ideas and your reader's understanding. How will you lead them from point A to point Z? Will you follow a chronological path through history or perhaps dissect themes that span across time periods?

And don't forget about the importance of your introduction and conclusion—are they framing your narrative effectively, enticing your audience to read your paper, and leaving them with lingering thoughts long after they've turned the final page? So, as you lay the bricks of your history essay's architecture, ask yourself: How can I best lead my audience through the maze of time and thought, leaving them enlightened and enriched on the other side?

Create an Engaging Introduction

Creating an engaging introduction is crucial for capturing your reader's interest right from the start. But how do you do it? Think about what makes your topic fascinating. Is there a surprising fact or a compelling story you can share? Maybe you could ask a thought-provoking question that gets people thinking. Consider why your topic matters—what lessons can we learn from history?

Also, remember to explain what your history essay will be about and why it's worth reading. What will grab your reader's attention and make them want to learn more? How can you make your essay relevant and intriguing right from the beginning?

Develop Coherent Paragraphs

Once you've established your introduction, the next step is to develop coherent paragraphs that effectively communicate your ideas. Each paragraph should focus on one main point or argument, supported by evidence or examples from your research. Start by introducing the main idea in a topic sentence, then provide supporting details or evidence to reinforce your point.

Make sure to use transition words and phrases to guide your reader smoothly from one idea to the next, creating a logical flow throughout your history essay. Additionally, consider the organization of your paragraphs—is there a clear progression of ideas that builds upon each other? Are your paragraphs unified around a central theme or argument?

Conclude Effectively

Concluding your history essay effectively is just as important as starting it off strong. In your conclusion, you want to wrap up your main points while leaving a lasting impression on your reader. Begin by summarizing the key points you've made throughout your history essay, reminding your reader of the main arguments and insights you've presented.

Then, consider the broader significance of your topic—what implications does it have for our understanding of history or for the world today? You might also want to reflect on any unanswered questions or areas for further exploration. Finally, end with a thought-provoking statement or a call to action that encourages your reader to continue thinking about the topic long after they've finished reading.

Reference Your Sources

Referencing your sources is essential for maintaining the integrity of your history essay and giving credit to the scholars and researchers who have contributed to your understanding of the topic. Depending on the citation style required (such as MLA, APA, or Chicago), you'll need to format your references accordingly. Start by compiling a list of all the sources you've consulted, including books, articles, websites, and any other materials used in your research.

Then, as you write your history essay, make sure to properly cite each source whenever you use information or ideas that are not your own. This includes direct quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. Remember to include all necessary information for each source, such as author names, publication dates, and page numbers, as required by your chosen citation style.

Review and Ask for Advice

As you near the completion of your history essay writing, it's crucial to take a step back and review your work with a critical eye. Reflect on the clarity and coherence of your arguments—are they logically organized and effectively supported by evidence? Consider the strength of your introduction and conclusion—do they effectively capture the reader's attention and leave a lasting impression? Take the time to carefully proofread your history essay for any grammatical errors or typos that may detract from your overall message.

Furthermore, seeking advice from peers, mentors, or instructors can provide valuable insights and help identify areas for improvement. Consider sharing your essay with someone whose feedback you trust and respect, and be open to constructive criticism. Ask specific questions about areas you're unsure about or where you feel your history essay may be lacking. If you need further assistance, don't hesitate to reach out and ask for help. You can even consider utilizing services that offer to write a discussion post for me , where you can engage in meaningful conversations with others about your essay topic and receive additional guidance and support.

History Essay Example

In this section, we offer an example of a history essay examining the impact of the Industrial Revolution on society. This essay demonstrates how historical analysis and critical thinking are applied in academic writing. By exploring this specific event, you can observe how historical evidence is used to build a cohesive argument and draw meaningful conclusions.

historical context in essay

FAQs about History Essay Writing

How to write a history essay introduction, how to write a conclusion for a history essay, how to write a good history essay.

Samuel Gorbold , a seasoned professor with over 30 years of experience, guides students across disciplines such as English, psychology, political science, and many more. Together with EssayHub, he is dedicated to enhancing student understanding and success through comprehensive academic support.

historical context in essay

  • Plagiarism Report
  • Unlimited Revisions
  • 24/7 Support

logo removed background

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.


How to Write a Conclusion For a History Essay Step-by-Step

A historical essay is a short piece of writing that answers a question or addresses a topic.  It shows a student’s historical knowledge and ability to express themselves. The conclusion is a...

The Ultimate Guide to Crafting a Winning Historical Essay Body: Tips and Tricks for Success

A historical essay answers a question or addresses a specific topic. The format is like a sandwich: a body cushioned between the introduction and conclusion paragraphs. Each body paragraph is a...

American Psychological Association

Historical Context

Authors are encouraged to avoid perpetuating demeaning attitudes and biased assumptions about people in their writing. At the same time, historians and scholars writing analyses of past events or times or of historical figures must be careful not to misrepresent the ideas of the past in an effort to avoid language bias. Changes in nouns and pronouns may result in misrepresentation of the original author’s ideas and give a false interpretation of that author’s beliefs and intentions. In such writing, the best approach is to retain the original language and to comment on it in the discussion. Quotations should not be changed to accommodate current sensibilities.

Contemporary authors may indicate a historical author’s original term by following it with an asterisk the first time it appears in the text of their paper and by providing historical context on the same page as the quotation in a footnote. Below is an example of historically appropriate use of a term that is considered biased by today’s standards. Substituting a more gender-neutral or inclusive term would be historically inaccurate.

In forming the elite scientific society called the Experimentalists, Titchener “wanted above all to have free, informal interchange between older and younger men* in the area of experimental psychology, with the goal of socializing the next generation into the profession” (Furumoto, 1988, p. 105). 1

The corresponding footnote reads as follows:

1 In this example, the term “men” conveys Titchener’s intention to exclude women from the society.

Bias-free language is covered in the seventh edition APA Style manuals in the Publication Manual Chapter 5 and the Concise Guide Chapter 3

historical context in essay

From the APA Style blog

Why learn APA Style if you already know MLA Style?

Why learn APA Style if you already know MLA style?

Have you ever wondered, why can’t there be one writing style for everything? It’s a good question. We often hear this version: “Why learn APA Style if I already know MLA style?”

Introducing the second edition of APA’s Inclusive Language Guide

Introducing the second edition of APA’s Inclusive Language Guide

Language holds immense power—it shapes people’s perceptions, interactions, and ability to bridge differences to create a more inclusive, equitable, and welcoming environment for all.

Introducing APA Style Journal Article Reporting Standards for Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

Introducing APA Style Journal Article Reporting Standards for Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

These standards are for all authors, reviewers, and editors seeking to improve manuscript quality by encouraging more racially and ethnically conscious and culturally responsive journal reporting standards for empirical studies in psychological science.

collage of diverse people

Three key things you should know about APA’s new inclusive language guidelines

If you are working to champion equity, diversity, and inclusion in the spaces that you learn, teach, work, or conduct research, these guidelines are for you.

Find Study Materials for

  • Explanations
  • Business Studies
  • Combined Science
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • English literature
  • Environmental Science
  • Human Geography
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics
  • Social Studies
  • Browse all subjects
  • Textbook Solutions
  • Read our Magazine

Create Study Materials

  • Flashcards Create and find the best flashcards.
  • Notes Create notes faster than ever before.
  • Study Sets Everything you need for your studies in one place.
  • Study Plans Stop procrastinating with our smart planner features.
  • Historical Context

Nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything we do is surrounded by people, places, and events. To fully understand something, you need to identify the things that surround it, the context . 

Historical Context

Create learning materials about Historical Context with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
  • 5 Paragraph Essay
  • Argumentative Essay
  • Cues and Conventions
  • English Grammar
  • English Language Study
  • Essay Prompts
  • Essay Writing Skills
  • Global English
  • History of English Language
  • International English
  • Key Concepts in Language and Linguistics
  • Language Acquisition
  • Language Analysis
  • Language and Social Groups
  • Lexis and Semantics
  • Linguistic Terms
  • Listening and Speaking
  • Multiple Choice Questions
  • Research and Composition
  • Rhetorical Analysis Essay
  • Single Paragraph Essay
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Summary Text
  • Synthesis Essay
  • Author Authority
  • Direct Quote
  • First Paragraph
  • Intended Audience
  • Primary Source
  • Second Paragraph
  • Secondary Source
  • Source Material
  • Third Paragraph
  • Textual Analysis

For historical topics, it helps to identify the historical context . Historical context is defined as the setting in which something takes place. This setting gives your topic meaning. Characteristics like social norms help you understand why a topic is important.

Historical Context Definition

Historical context is the setting in which a historical event, idea, or object takes place.

  • In writing, historical context includes the social, economic, cultural, and political influences that shape your primary sources.

Historical context helps you understand your topic fully. When analyzing a text, historical context helps you understand how and why a text was written. Historical context helps you identify key influences when explaining a concept or event.

Historical Context Characteristics

Think of your topic as the center of a circle. Your topic is surrounded by everything happening around it. Historical context includes a bunch of things that might have influenced your topic (characteristics). Identifying these characteristics is important to decide what matters to your topic.

Characteristics That May Influence Your Topic

  • When it took place (date)
  • Where it took place (location)
  • Major events that took place at the same time as your topic
  • Religious conditions of the era
  • Cultural traditions and beliefs of people in the same location
  • Social norms of the time and place in which it happened
  • Political landscape during the time it happened
  • Economic structure of the place in which it happened

Historical Context What is Historical Context? Vaia

Your topic is at the center of all of this context! Historical Context shows you how your topic fits into each of these things.

Importance of Historical Context

Historical context is important for writing about how your topic fits into a historical era. It shows you the big picture. Think of your topic as one puzzle piece. Historical context provides other puzzle pieces needed to complete the picture. Without these pieces, you cannot see the entire picture.

Historical Context A Puzzle diagram showing the Pieces of Historical Context Vaia

Historical Context: Seeing the Whole Picture

When you can see the whole picture, you can write much more interesting things!

Historical Context Can Help You Understand:

  • The purpose and motivations of a writer, speaker, or artist
  • Values or feelings that influenced a speech, text, or work of art
  • The intended audience of a speech, text, or work of art
  • Feelings caused by an event, experience, or object
  • The importance of an event, experience, or object
  • Connections between different sources

Historical Context Examples

Examples of historical context show how each characteristic can influence your writing. Historical context affects how you analyze texts and explain concepts.

Here are some examples of each characteristic of historical context in action.

Historical Context: Political Landscape

You are analyzing the use of satire in Gulliver's Travels. You decide to learn about the political landscape of Swift's time.

The political landscape includes the ideas and structures that relate to government.

You learn Swift wrote the novel during Queen Anne's reign. While researching the politics of Queen Anne's reign, you learn the Whigs were in power. You see similarities between the political beliefs of the Whigs and the attitudes of Swift's characters. You now understand that Gulliver's Travels is not just an adventure story. It is a satire of Whig politics in Swift's lifetime.

Historical Context: Major Events

You are comparing two articles with different viewpoints on gun control. The first article supports stricter gun restrictions. The second article opposes strict gun restrictions. You identify major gun-related events that influence their opinions. You conclude that school shootings motivated the first writer's solution. You also decide that shootings caused by mental illness motivate the second author's call for alternative approaches.

Historical Context: Social Norms

You are arguing a position on school dress codes. You research the history of fashion for men and women. You learn early American men wore high heels, wigs, and makeup. You feel that social norms for men's and women's fashion change a lot over time. You argue school dress codes should not be divided by gender because gendered fashion norms always change.

Historical context. Woman wearing a hat low over eyes. Vaia.

Historical Context: Religious Conditions

You are writing a rhetorical analysis of John Winthrop's City Upon a Hill sermon. You research the history of the Puritans traveling with Winthrop. You learn they were hoping to establish a colony founded on Puritan beliefs. You also learn Puritan teachings suggested English Protestantism was immoral and ungodly. You conclude Winthrop appealed to their dislike of England's religious conditions by challenging them to be religious models in the New World.

Historical Context: Economic Structure

You are explaining the concept of "success." You discuss how success looks different depending on one's position in an economic structure .

Economic Structure refers to how goods and services are produced and used.

You explain how "success" for the CEO of a company means earning profits for the company. You also explain how "success" for labor unions means achieving fair working conditions for their communities. You conclude that success looks different for everyone depending on who benefits from that success.

Historical Context: Cultural Traditions and Beliefs

You are analyzing Phyllis Wheatley's poem, "On Being Brought From Africa to America." You learn Wheatley was taken from Africa as a child and sold as a slave in America. You remember the American Constitution was founded on the principles of freedom and equality. You argue that Wheatley appeals to American beliefs in freedom and equality to challenge slavery in America.

Determining Historical Context

To determine historical context, put together all the information you have. Consider how your subject fits into all of it. Then, draw conclusions.

Historical Context Questions to ask for Determining Historical Context Vaia

You can determine historical context by asking yourself the right questions. Consider what interests you the most about your subject. Is it how social norms influenced an author's writing? Or how different religious beliefs shaped the evolution of a major holiday? Think about what matters most to you.

Questions to Determine Historical Context

Here are some questions you should ask yourself to determine the historical context.

Historical Context: When did it happen?

Find out which historical era you are dealing with. If you are analyzing a text, look for a date of publication. When was the text you are analyzing written? When was the concept you are explaining first used?

Historical Context: Where did it happen?

Historical context: what else was going on at the time.

Do some research. Use the characteristics of historical context to guide you. Focus on just one or two characteristics. This will help you stay focused. For example, you might look up major events of the time. Or you find out the political structure of the era you are studying.

Historical Context: What beliefs influenced people at the time?

Look up famous writings and works of art from the time period. What do they have in common? Consider how they reflect what people believed about the world around them. What cultural values shaped their thinking? What common fears influenced their actions?

Historical Context in Communication

To communicate historical context, introduce your topic, set up the historical context, get specific, and bring it all together. Stay focused on your chosen characteristics throughout the essay. Use evidence from sources to support your claims.

Steps for Communicating Historical Context

Use the steps below to write your essay's main point (aka the thesis statement ).

1. Introduce the Topic

Introduce the specifics of your subject. Make it clear what you will be talking about in your essay: who, what, when, and where.

Television (what) has influenced American (where) voters (who) since the 1950s (when).

2. Set up the Context

Let the reader know which characteristics you will be examining. Broadly explain how this characteristic influenced your subject.

Political Structure & Cultural Beliefs: American politics have been influenced by cultural attitudes toward television over time.

Historical context. Surreal red TV sits in a wheelbarrow. Vaia.

3. Get Specific

Now, it's time to get specific. Name the key events, attitudes, or other influences you are writing about. Be clear about how they influenced your topic.

Carefully produced television campaigns, political ads, and televised debates have influenced voters' perceptions of political candidates.

4. Bring It All Together

Now, bring all of these ideas together into one main point. Include the subject details and your specific ideas in one sentence.

Since the 1950s, American voters' perceptions of political candidates have been influenced by carefully produced television campaigns, political ads, and televised debates.

Quick Tip! Repeat these steps for any point you want to make about the historical context of your subject! Don't stop at the thesis statement. Use these steps to write the subpoints that support the thesis statement too!

Tips for Communicating Historical Context Effectively

Here are some helpful tips for communicating historical context. These tips will help you stay on track, support your arguments, and communicate clearly.

  • Stay focused.

As you write the body paragraphs of your essay, be careful not to lose focus. There may be many historical influences on your topic. Good writers focus on just one or two characteristics they think are most important.

  • Provide evidence .

Support your ideas as you explain the connections between your topic and its historical context. Use evidence to back your claims. If you are analyzing a text, use quotes and examples from that text as evidence. If you are explaining a concept or historical event, use evidence from sources you found in your research. Remember, for every claim you make, you must provide proof.

  • Write in the past tense.

Remember, you are exploring the influence of past events and attitudes. When communicating historical context, it's important to write in the past tense. These things have already happened!

  • Avoid generalizations.

When writing about history, it can be easy to assume things that do not quite apply to everyone. Avoid generalizations about large groups based on your research.

Generalizations are assumptions made about a large group based on a small set of examples.

For example, when studying World War II, you find out the Nazi party was popular in Germany. You quickly assume all Germans supported the Nazi party. However, this is not true. Avoid assuming things you cannot know. Stay specific. Focus only on what you know to be true.

Historical Context - Key Takeaways

  • The characteristics of historical context are: date, location, major events, religious conditions, cultural traditions and beliefs, social norms, political landscape, and economic structure.
  • Historical context is important for writing about how your topic fits into a historic era. It shows you the big picture.
  • To determine historical context, put together all of the information you have.
  • You can determine historical context by asking yourself the right questions.

Flashcards in Historical Context 21

What is historical context? 

Historical Context is the setting in which a historical event, idea, or object takes place. In writing, historical context includes the social, economic, cultural, and political influences that shape primary sources.

What are some of the characteristics of historical context?

political landscape

Why is historical context important?

Historical context is important for writing about how your topic fits into a historical era. It shows you the big picture.

What can historical context help writers  understand about their subject?

Purpose and motivations of a writer, speaker, or artist

What is political landscape?

Political landscape includes the ideas and structures that relate to government.

What is economic structure?

Economic structure refers to how goods and services are produced and used. 

Historical Context

Learn with 21 Historical Context flashcards in the free Vaia app

We have 14,000 flashcards about Dynamic Landscapes.

Already have an account? Log in

Frequently Asked Questions about Historical Context

What is historical context?

Historical Context   is the setting in which a historical event, idea, or object takes place. In writing, historical context includes the social, economic, cultural, and political influences that shape your primary sources.  

What is the importance of historical context?

Historical context is important for writing about how your topic fits into a historical era. It shows you the big picture.  

What are examples of historical context?

Some examples of historical context are: 

1. You analyze the use of satire in Gulliver's Travels.  After learning about the politics of the time, you decide the novel is a satire of Whig politics.

2. Analyzing a Phyllis Wheatley poem, you argue she appeals to American beliefs in freedom and equality to challenge slavery in America.

How do you use historical context in a sentence? 

You use historical context in a sentence to explain how the setting impacts your topic. For example: The historical context of Phylliis Wheatly's poem reveals how she appealed to American values to challenge slavery.

What is the impact of historical context? 

Historical context impacts your understanding of a topic. It also impacts your ability to describe why your topic matters. 

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

What questions can a writer ask to determine the historical context of a subject?

Historical Context

Join the Vaia App and learn efficiently with millions of flashcards and more!

Keep learning, you are doing great.

Discover learning materials with the free Vaia app


Vaia is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

Historical Context

Vaia Editorial Team

Team Historical Context Teachers

  • 10 minutes reading time
  • Checked by Vaia Editorial Team

Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

Create a free account to save this explanation..

Save explanations to your personalised space and access them anytime, anywhere!

By signing up, you agree to the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy Policy of Vaia.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

Join over 22 million students in learning with our Vaia App

The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

  • Flashcards & Quizzes
  • AI Study Assistant
  • Study Planner
  • Smart Note-Taking

Join over 22 million students in learning with our Vaia App

Privacy Overview

Ashland University wordmark

Archer Library

Writing an exegetical paper.

  • Introduction
  • Historical Context
  • Literary Context
  • Formal Analysis
  • Detailed Analysis
  • Theological Reflection
  • Writing Help
  • Journal Article Resources
  • Book Resources
  • eCommentaries
  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • ATLASerials Plus Scriptures Index Video
  • Need More Help?

What is Historical Context?

Historical context .

T his section of the paper you will want to focus on background information that a reader may need to sufficiently understand the passage. Focus on any historical, social or cultural context that maybe needed for a greater understanding and to help you engage with the text.

For Example:

  • Any common cultural beliefs
  • Chief characteristics of group of people
  • Ancient events
  • Political Realities
  • Situations that may have prompted the writing of the book

historical context in essay

Research Steps

Determine what 2-3 items that a reader of your paper would need back ground information on. 

Check Bible Dictionaries

Consult Encyclopedias  

Check ATLASerials PLUS for related articles

Look at commentaries that may aid in your research process

Bible Dictionaries


Suggested Books

Cover Art

  • << Previous: Introduction
  • Next: Literary Context >>
  • Last Updated: May 29, 2024 3:02 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.ashland.edu/exegesis

Archer Library • Ashland University © Copyright 2023. An Equal Opportunity/Equal Access Institution.

Historical Argument Definition, Steps & Examples

Additional info.

Kathy Clemens is a community college adjunct professor with a Bachelor's Degree from Loyola University and a Master's Degree from Northwestern, and has been teaching for over twenty-five years.

  • Instructor Bernadette Galang

What are some good historical argument essay topics?

Good examples of historical argument essay topics are those that provide levels of meaning and impact. Some topics are global in scope, such as Greek scholar Homer's foundation for the European study of history. Others are more nationally focused, perhaps discussing the Watergate scandal. Some straddle both, like the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on the United States' image during the Cold War. Any topic can be a good argument about history so long as it is concise and places the event in a context that can be understood and explained as to how and why that event occurred in history.

How does one write a historical argument?

A historical argument provides an explanation as to how or why an event occurred in the past. The argument is presented by a thesis statement which must be specific, must be able to be proven, and must be able to be argued. The thesis statement is the main argument of the paper and is supported by evidence that is quality, relevant, and credible in order to make a strong argument.

What are the components of a historical argument?

The components of a historical argument are the thesis (specific, provable, arguable), the evidence (the information provided that supports the thesis statement), and the conclusion (the decision or deduction rendered that clarifies the position of the thesis). Other factors include previous arguments made by other historical scholars, how this particular piece of history impacts the understanding of the past or of the present, and what processes and sources were used to come to any conclusions.

Table of Contents

What is a historical argument, historical argument essay example, lesson summary.

A historical argument provides reasoning as to why and how an event happened in the past, perhaps to explain the importance of that event and why it matters, or maybe to put that event into context for analysis. This way, what occurred in the past can assist with the understanding of what is happening in the present to show the steps taken that might connect one event to the next. Pulling examples from history to examine the past and how society did, or did not, act in a manner that was reasonable, logical, and beneficial can assist with what to do or not do in almost any given situation.

For instance, scholars might study the influenza epidemic of 1918 or the polio outbreaks in the 1950s to see what the best means might be to handle a pandemic of epic proportions. In that case, the development and use of vaccines, protective measures, and public health policies of the times would provide empirical and scientific evidence that would be helpful in the event of current or future contagion. The argument would focus on how the outbreak occurred and why the solutions were useful in mitigating the effects of the disease. In turn, the historical context can be framed for the present day to prevent similar outbreaks, noting what steps need to be taken to remediate an epidemic should one occur.

Since so much of history can be considered subjective, the information used to make a historical argument should be scientific and based on as much solid evidence as possible. If the record is typically documented by the conquerors and not the conquered, that information can be open to various interpretations and any good argument must be won with facts. The purpose of a historical argument is to bring about more understanding of the past and this can be accomplished by analyzing previous events and viewing them through a contextual lens to identify current issues and how those issues can be resolved or possibly avoided altogether in the future.

How to Write a Historical Argument Essay

A historical argument essay has to be fairly specific and have a very focused thesis , otherwise, it is simply an observation of history and not an analysis of an event. The event must be examined thoroughly and an explanation provided that discusses the impact this event has on current matters as well as how the past can be interpreted and understood. History taken as a whole is immense, as it is essentially all of recorded time, so in order to make an argument about a certain period or certain event, that argument must be carefully crafted.

In turn, a historiographical essay analyzes the arguments and issues of a historical topic through the eyes of historians, using multiple sources and perspectives to provide different viewpoints and contexts when presenting information. It is essentially the history of a history, looking at the methods and sources that historians use when constructing the narrative of a particular period or piece of history.

A good example of a historiographical argument might be: ''Through his work on Egypt, Greek scholar Homer laid the foundation for how Europeans would study history. ''This argument is fairly specific, explains that Homer is a scholar, and notes that he is defining the study of history by Europeans through the steps he took when conducting his own educational training. The argument here can be supported by evidence indicating that the structure of Homer's study of Egyptian history can help a scholar in Europe understand the process and analyze the context of world events through the perspective of events that occurred in the past. Homer's work in turn influenced Herodotus, colloquially known as '' The Father of History ''. Herodotus was the author of the first known historical narrative titled ''The Histories'', which focused on the wars between Greece and Persia.

A bust of Homer on display at the British Museum

When making a historiographical argument, certain questions need to be asked, such as how other historians have viewed the issue or how a piece of history changed or supported a historian's understanding of the past. Sometimes, the sources and evidence used by historians also provide information as to their own interpretation of events, so those need to be examined also. A good argument for a historical research paper should always address how and why something happened in history. It should also put that something into context so that the argument examines any modern-day implications with respect to recent circumstances.

Steps to Writing a Historical Argument Essay

Simply recounting a historical event, presenting a timeline of events, or listing a set of facts about history does not make an argument. A historical argument essay is meant to expand understanding and not just to inform or to make observations. It is meant to explain how and why an event in the past occurred, as well as analyze that event's relationship to other events. The most important element of any argument is the thesis statement .

The thesis statement presents the main argument of the essay and reflects the direct assertion that a historian is arguing. The thesis needs to have three certain components in order to be truly effective.

  • It must be a specific , clear, and concise sentence that declares what the historian is claiming and why that claim is important. The thesis cannot be so broad that it is virtually impossible to make any argument without resorting to conjecture. The thesis is the assertion that forms the basis of the theory that is being proven, so it must be precise and tightly focused, otherwise, it cannot be managed with clarity.
  • The thesis also needs to be provable , meaning that it cannot be simply a vague statement that has no means to be tested and verified. There must be a logical way to connect and support the argument being made, and there must be evidence that is relevant, supportive, and credible available that can be used to sufficiently prove the thesis.
  • Finally, the thesis must be arguable , meaning there is an idea that is tenable and defensible which is being presented and that the thesis is not simply a matter of opinion. The argument must address the complexities of an issue and it must address the different perspectives and points of view of an issue. Simply stating an observation or providing a description is not a thesis, as the thesis needs to present a goal or objective that can be argued effectively to a satisfactory conclusion or solution.

A good example of a thesis that utilizes the above three components is: ''The Watergate scandal resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon and led to the question of whether a sitting president can be prosecuted for criminal charges while in office. ''

This thesis example is (1) making a specific claim that the fallout from Watergate caused Nixon to resign and raised the issue of whether a president could be criminally charged while still in his term; (2) making a claim that is provable in that an examination of the records from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force or any investigative committee provides evidence of the claim; and (3) making a claim that is arguable as one can note that while Nixon was not forced to resign he was surely going to be convicted in an impeachment hearing and while there was no legal bar at the time to indict a sitting president it was absolutely being discussed.

A lesser example is this: ''The Watergate scandal resulted in many Americans losing their faith in the United States Government and becoming more cynical about politics.'' While this may seem like a viable argument to make, it is pure supposition and opinion with no verifiable or empirical evidence that can be presented to prove this claim. Making a statement that is all conjecture is not the same thing as making an argument.

A scholar at study, as painted by Rembrandt

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member. Create your account

The Civil Rights Movement is obviously an important part of American history. However, to simply use a general statement such as this to make an argument as a whole is much too broad, as there are many facets and many different circumstances under which this statement can be applied. There are numerous aspects that can be addressed about the significance of the movement, including the people involved and the various issues at stake that revolved around politics and social justice.

Narrowing the focus and citing a specific circumstance would strengthen the argument considerably, such as stating: ''The Civil Rights Movement became a national priority because racism hurt the USA's global image in the Cold War.'' This statement now is examining a historical event and is explaining a few things with specificity.

The thesis notes the importance of the Civil Rights Movement in that it became a national priority in the United States. The argument is also providing the reason why the Civil Rights Movement became important; because racism hurt the country's image. Further, the argument puts the event into context by suggesting that the United States needed to present a good reputation to the world during the Cold War to maintain credibility against any negative comparisons to the Soviet Union.

This historical essay example can discuss in detail the how and the why of the elements provided in the thesis statement. On a global stage, the Cold War was essentially the geopolitical maneuvering between the United States and the Soviet Union, along with their respective allies. The Cold War was mostly fought not with weapons, but with propaganda. For that reason, the United States had to maintain a front of good character which could not be diminished because of the suffering of its own citizens as a result of racism throughout the country.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 1963 March on Washington

History itself is a narrative constructed by historians, so it is important to ensure that the arguments are built with clear and direct evidence so that objective conclusions may be drawn about the past. A good historical argument provides solid reasoning as to why and how a historical event occurred and focuses on answering a question for historical research. The argument is succinctly stated through a thesis statement that presents the main argument and is specific, provable, and arguable .

The job of a historian is to place a past event or issue into a context that helps to understand and analyze current circumstances. A historiographical argument can be made about the impact or the study of a historian with respect to an aspect of the study of history, such as Homer or Herodotus as noted above. Essentially, a historiographical argument is a history of a history, so that scholars can analyze and interpret the work of historians to form their own conclusions about an issue or an event. Making any sort of historical or historiographical argument provides a glimpse into the past to help explain the present. If it is understood how and why events happened in the past, it can then be understood how and why events happen in the here and now.

Historical Writing

Historians write…a lot. It's a big part of the profession. So, it's important to know how to write like a historian. Should be easy, right? Isn't historical writing just a recitation of things that happened in the past? Actually, no.

History is, and always has been, a writing-heavy discipline

Historical writing can be very scientific, in that the goal is to use hard evidence, not just to lecture, but to present an argument. An argument is central to historical writing. So, what are we arguing? Historians look at the past and argue how ideas or events unfolded, and most importantly, why these things happened. We understand today that history is constructed, it's a narrative built by historians, so creating an argument based on reliable evidence is one way to ensure more objective understandings of the past. In that sense, historians write very much like scientists. The biggest difference is that we write better (sorry scientists, but you know that it's true).

Writing an Argument for a History Research Paper

So, how do you actually write a historical argument? It depends on what kind of historical writing you're doing. Let's start with the most common form: the history research paper . This is the bulk of what historians do. We research the past and present our findings in research papers.

The key to a research paper is to have a solid historical argument, in which you provide an explanation for how and why an event unfolded. Historians present their arguments in the form of a thesis statement , a clear and direct declaration of what they're arguing. For example, I could say ''A popular surge in the concept of Manifest Destiny is the primary reason for James Polk's election in 1844''. I am examining a historical event, the election of 1844, and arguing that popular support of Manifest Destiny was the reason Polk won.

A historical research paper examines how and why events of the past occurred

The thesis statement is generally found in, or near, the last sentence of the introduction. This isn't required but is the general trend, followed by most historians, which makes it nice and easy to find the thesis in basically any paper you pick up. To be a strong argument, the thesis statement must be related closely to three things.

  • A thesis must be specific enough for you to argue. For example, I could say that American experiences in the Colonial Era led to the independence struggle. That's an argument, but it's so vague that there's really no way to create a research paper around it. What specific experiences occurred and how, exactly, did those motivate independence? This is the same reason that you should never, ever argue ''...and this impacted the world we live in today''. Unless you plan to cover every single moment of history leading up to today, then this is not specific enough to argue.
  • A thesis must be provable . Imagine if I argued that FDR's political decisions were framed by his love of grape soda. That's an argument, but the problem is that I have zero sources to prove it. Your thesis must be something that you are capable of proving, giving the sources that you have. As a reminder, we never create the argument before examining the sources. That would be like writing the conclusion to a science paper before conducting the experiment. Examine your sources first, then develop an argument based on what you can prove using that information.
  • A thesis must be arguable . Some things cannot be argued in a history paper, like opinions. If your argument states ''...and that's why the USA is the best country in the world'', you are presenting an opinion, but not one that is objectively provable. Similarly, your argument has to actually argue something. I could state ''Americans adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776'', but that's not an argument. There's no way to argue that fact without getting into revisionist history, which we're not doing.

The Historiographical Argument

So, that's all we need to know about a historical argument, right? Well, that form of argument is how we write a historical research paper. Historians also, however, have to write historiographical essays . A historiographical essay is a history of a history. You're not looking at how/why a historical event occurred; you're examining the ways that other historians have studied that historical event. This means you'll be asking different questions, like ''What arguments have historians made about this?'', ''How did a piece of historical research impact our understanding of the past?'', ''how did historians construct the narrative of history?'', or ''What methods and sources did a historian use?'' Historiographical essays can study either the historiography of a topic (how have historians written about the American Revolution) or look at a specific historian's work (how did Thomas Aquinas' writings impact medieval understandings of the past).

A historiographical essay examines the impact of a scholar, like Aquinas, on how to understand the narrative of history

These are the questions that we're trying to answer in a historiographical essay, so this is what your thesis statement will argue. Beyond that, your thesis statement must still be specific, provable, and arguable. You still want to present a strong argument about historiography. What that argument is, however, is up to you.

The key to good historical writing is the historical argument, presented in the form of a concise and specific thesis statement . A strong thesis statement must present an argument that is specific enough to examine credibly, provable with reliable sources, and arguable . For a historical research paper , the thesis statement must present an argument about how and why events of the past transpired. For a historiography , the thesis statement must present an argument about how historians studied the past and constructed the narrative of history. These are two very different projects, but the key to each is a solid argument. If you're interested in history, this is something definitely worth practicing. After all, historians write a lot.

Register to view this lesson

Unlock your education, see for yourself why 30 million people use study.com, become a study.com member and start learning now..

Already a member? Log In

Resources created by teachers for teachers

I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.

Historical Argument Definition, Steps & Examples Related Study Materials

  • Related Topics

Browse by Courses

  • History 101: Western Civilization I
  • AP European History: Help and Review
  • AP European History: Homework Help Resource
  • Western Civilization I: Certificate Program
  • Western Civilization I: Help and Review
  • High School US History: Homework Help Resource
  • NY Regents Exam - Global History and Geography: Help and Review
  • NY Regents Exam - US History and Government: Help and Review
  • NY Regents Exam - Global History and Geography: Tutoring Solution
  • AP World History: Tutoring Solution
  • History 106: The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Western Europe Since 1945
  • DSST A History of the Vietnam War Prep
  • History of the Vietnam War: Certificate Program
  • Western Civilization From 1648 to Today: Certificate Program

Browse by Lessons

  • Historiography | Definition, Importance & Examples
  • Subjective History | Definition, Examples & Importance
  • Historical Approaches to Creating Art
  • Trends in 19th Century Historiography
  • The Historiographical Essay vs. The History Research Paper
  • Analyzing Different Perspectives in Historical Narratives
  • Publius Cornelius Tacitus | Life, Career & Books
  • Trends in Enlightenment Historiography
  • Trends in 20th Century Historiography
  • The Göttingen Scholars, History & 19th-Century Historiography
  • Establishing World History in Historiography
  • British Historiography in the 20th Century
  • How Different Media Impact Historical Narrative Analysis & Interpretation
  • Historical Writing in 18th & 19th Century Germany
  • Trends in Early Historiography

Create an account to start this course today Used by over 30 million students worldwide Create an account

Explore our library of over 88,000 lessons

  • Foreign Language
  • Social Science
  • See All College Courses
  • Common Core
  • High School
  • See All High School Courses
  • College & Career Guidance Courses
  • College Placement Exams
  • Entrance Exams
  • General Test Prep
  • K-8 Courses
  • Skills Courses
  • Teacher Certification Exams
  • See All Other Courses
  • Create a Goal
  • Create custom courses
  • Get your questions answered

Home — Essay Samples — Arts & Culture — Indian Culture — American Indians: A History of Resilience and Cultural Richness


American Indians: a History of Resilience and Cultural Richness

  • Categories: Indian Culture

About this sample


Words: 561 |

Published: Jun 6, 2024

Words: 561 | Page: 1 | 3 min read

Table of contents

Introduction, historical context, cultural contributions, ongoing challenges and resilience.

Image of Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Let us write you an essay from scratch

  • 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help
  • Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours

Get high-quality help


Dr Jacklynne

Verified writer

  • Expert in: Arts & Culture


+ 120 experts online

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy . We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

No need to pay just yet!

Related Essays

2 pages / 826 words

3 pages / 1348 words

1 pages / 2164 words

1 pages / 1646 words

Remember! This is just a sample.

You can get your custom paper by one of our expert writers.

121 writers online

Still can’t find what you need?

Browse our vast selection of original essay samples, each expertly formatted and styled

Related Essays on Indian Culture

Sabyasachi Mukherjee's Lab of Luxury. Fortune India. Retrieved from https://www.fortuneindia.com/people/in-sabyasachi-mukherjees-lab-of-luxury/103095.

Singh, R. P. (2019). Superstition and Indian Society: An Overview. International Journal of Research in Humanities, Arts and Literature, 7(1), 191-195.Rajagopalan, S. (2016). Beliefs and Practices of Superstition among Educated [...]

In Bartolomé de las Casas' "Defense of the Indians," the author presents a powerful argument against the exploitation and mistreatment of the indigenous people of the Americas by the Spanish colonizers. Las Casas, a Spanish [...]

There’s been a changing attitude towards incorporating Surya Namaskar as part of a full sequence in a class. Also known as Sun Salutation, it is a series of transitional poses typically used for warming up at a start of a [...]

The Indian society is deeply rooted in tradition and cultural norms that often dictate the roles and expectations of individuals within the family unit. In the short story “An Indian Father’s Plea” by R.K. Narayan, we are [...]

India is a country with a rich culture and heritage. But a very little is known to a few about the ancient india and its civilization than others. More is being learned and encountered from its literatures and puranas and from [...]

Related Topics

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and Privacy statement . We will occasionally send you account related emails.

Where do you want us to send this sample?

By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.

Be careful. This essay is not unique

This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

Download this Sample

Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts

Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.

Please check your inbox.

We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!

Get Your Personalized Essay in 3 Hours or Less!

We use cookies to personalyze your web-site experience. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy .

  • Instructions Followed To The Letter
  • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
  • Unique And Plagiarism Free

historical context in essay

What’s the Israel-Palestine conflict about? A simple guide

It’s killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions. And its future lies in its past. We break it down.

Nakba 1948 people fleeing

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced many millions of people and has its roots in a colonial act carried out more than a century ago.

With Israel declaring war on the Gaza Strip after an unprecedented attack by the armed Palestinian group Hamas on Saturday, the world’s eyes are again sharply focused on what might come next.

Keep reading

From hubris to humiliation: the 10 hours that shocked israel from hubris to humiliation: the 10 hours ..., fears of a ground invasion of gaza grow as israel vows ‘mighty vengeance’ fears of a ground invasion of gaza grow ..., ‘my voice is our lifeline’: gaza journalist and family amid israel bombing ‘my voice is our lifeline’: gaza ....

Hamas fighters have killed more than 800 Israelis in assaults on multiple towns in southern Israel. In response, Israel has launched a bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip, killing more than 500 Palestinians. It has mobilised troops along the Gaza border, apparently in preparation for a ground attack. And on Monday, it announced a “total blockade” of the Gaza Strip, stopping the supply of food, fuel and other essential commodities to the already besieged enclave in an act that under international law amounts to a war crime.

But what unfolds in the coming days and weeks has its seed in history.

For decades, Western media outlets, academics, military experts and world leaders have described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as intractable, complicated and deadlocked.

Here’s a simple guide to break down one of the world’s longest-running conflicts:

What was the Balfour Declaration?

  • More than 100 years ago, on November 2, 1917, Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, wrote a letter addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a figurehead of the British Jewish community.
  • The letter was short – just 67 words – but its contents had a seismic effect on Palestine that is still felt to this day.
  • It committed the British government to “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and to facilitating “the achievement of this object”. The letter is known as the Balfour Declaration .
  • In essence, a European power promised the Zionist movement a country where Palestinian Arab natives made up more than 90 percent of the population.
  • A British Mandate was created in 1923 and lasted until 1948. During that period, the British facilitated mass Jewish immigration – many of the new residents were fleeing Nazism in Europe – and they also faced protests and strikes. Palestinians were alarmed by their country’s changing demographics and British confiscation of their lands to be handed over to Jewish settlers.

What happened during the 1930s?

  • Escalating tensions eventually led to the Arab Revolt, which lasted from 1936 to 1939.
  • In April 1936, the newly formed Arab National Committee called on Palestinians to launch a general strike, withhold tax payments and boycott Jewish products to protest British colonialism and growing Jewish immigration.
  • The six-month strike was brutally repressed by the British, who launched a mass arrest campaign and carried out punitive home demolitions , a practice that Israel continues to implement against Palestinians today.
  • The second phase of the revolt began in late 1937 and was led by the Palestinian peasant   resistance movement, which targeted British forces and colonialism.
  • By the second half of 1939, Britain had massed 30,000 troops in Palestine. Villages were bombed by air, curfews imposed, homes demolished, and administrative detentions and summary killings were widespread.
  • In tandem, the British collaborated with the Jewish settler community and formed armed groups and a British-led “counterinsurgency force” of Jewish fighters named the Special Night Squads.
  • Within the Yishuv, the pre-state settler community, arms were secretly imported and weapons factories established to expand the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary that later became the core of the Israeli army.
  • In those three years of revolt, 5,000 Palestinians were killed, 15,000 to 20,000 were wounded and 5,600 were imprisoned.


What was the UN partition plan?

  • By 1947, the Jewish population had ballooned to 33 percent of Palestine, but they owned only 6 percent of the land.
  • The United Nations adopted Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states.
  • The Palestinians rejected the plan because it allotted about 55 percent of Palestine to the Jewish state, including most of the fertile coastal region.
  • At the time, the Palestinians owned 94 percent of historic Palestine and comprised 67 percent of its population.


The 1948 Nakba, or the ethnic cleansing of Palestine

  • Even before the British Mandate expired on May 14, 1948, Zionist paramilitaries were already embarking on a military operation to destroy Palestinian towns and villages to expand the borders of the Zionist state that was to be born.
  • In April 1948, more than 100 Palestinian men, women and children were killed in the village of Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
  • That set the tone for the rest of the operation, and from 1947 to 1949, more than 500 Palestinian villages, towns and cities were destroyed in what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba , or “catastrophe” in Arabic.
  • An estimated 15,000 Palestinians were killed, including in dozens of massacres.
  • The Zionist movement captured 78 percent of historic Palestine. The remaining 22 percent was divided into what are now the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.
  • An estimated 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes.
  • Today their descendants live as six million refugees in 58 squalid camps throughout Palestine and in the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.
  • On May 15, 1948, Israel announced its establishment.
  • The following day, the first Arab-Israeli war began and fighting ended in January 1949 after an armistice between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
  • In December 1948, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194, which calls for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

INTERACTIVE - NAKBA - What is the Nakba infographic map-1684081612

The years after the Nakba

  • At least 150,000 Palestinians remained in the newly created state of Israel and lived under a tightly controlled military occupation for almost 20 years before they were eventually granted Israeli citizenship.
  • Egypt took over the Gaza Strip, and in 1950, Jordan began its administrative rule over the West Bank.
  • In 1964, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was formed, and a year later, the Fatah political party was established.

The Naksa, or the Six-Day War and the settlements

  • On June 5, 1967, Israel occupied the rest of historic Palestine, including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula during the Six-Day War against a coalition of Arab armies.
  • For some Palestinians, this led to a second forced displacement, or Naksa, which means “setback” in Arabic.
  • In December 1967, the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was formed. Over the next decade, a series of attacks and plane hijackings by leftist groups drew the world’s attention to the plight of the Palestinians.
  • Settlement construction began in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. A two-tier system was created with Jewish settlers afforded all the rights and privileges of being Israeli citizens whereas Palestinians had to live under a military occupation that discriminated against them and barred any form of political or civic expression.

INTERACTIVE What are Israeli settlements

The first Intifada 1987-1993

  • The first Palestinian Intifada erupted in the Gaza Strip in December 1987 after four Palestinians were killed when an Israeli truck collided with two vans carrying Palestinian workers.
  • Protests spread rapidly to the West Bank with young Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli army tanks and soldiers.
  • It also led to the establishment of the Hamas movement, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that engaged in armed resistance against the Israeli occupation.
  • The Israeli army’s heavy-handed response was encapsulated by the “Break their Bones” policy advocated by then-Defence Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It included summary killings, closures of universities, deportations of activists and destruction of homes.
  • The Intifada was primarily carried out by young people and was directed by the Unified National Leadership of the Uprising, a coalition of Palestinian political factions committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing Palestinian independence.
  • In 1988, the Arab League recognised the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
  • The Intifada was characterised by popular mobilisations, mass protests, civil disobedience, well-organised strikes and communal cooperatives.
  • According to the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, 1,070 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during the Intifada, including 237 children. More than 175,000 Palestinians were arrested.
  • The Intifada also prompted the international community to search for a solution to the conflict.

The Oslo years and the Palestinian Authority

  • The Intifada ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the formation of the Palestinian Authority (PA), an interim government that was granted limited self-rule in pockets of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • The PLO recognised Israel on the basis of a two-state solution and effectively signed agreements that gave Israel control of 60 percent of the West Bank, and much of the territory’s land and water resources.
  • The PA was supposed to make way for the first elected Palestinian government running an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with its capital in East Jerusalem, but that has never happened.
  • Critics of the PA view it as a corrupt subcontractor to the Israeli occupation that collaborates closely with the Israeli military in clamping down on dissent and political activism against Israel.
  • In 1995, Israel built an electronic fence and concrete wall around the Gaza Strip, snapping interactions between the split Palestinian territories.

INTERACTIVE Occupied West Bank Palestine Areas A B C-1694588444

The second Intifada

  • The second Intifada began on September 28, 2000, when Likud opposition leader Ariel Sharon made a provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound with thousands of security forces deployed in and around the Old City of Jerusalem.
  • Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces killed five Palestinians and injured 200 over two days.
  • The incident sparked a widespread armed uprising. During the Intifada, Israel caused unprecedented damage to the Palestinian economy and infrastructure.
  • Israel reoccupied areas governed by the Palestinian Authority and began construction of a separation wall that along with rampant settlement construction, destroyed Palestinian livelihoods and communities.
  • Settlements are illegal under international law, but over the years, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers have moved to colonies built on stolen Palestinian land. The space for Palestinians is shrinking as settler-only roads and infrastructure slice up the occupied West Bank, forcing Palestinian cities and towns into bantustans, the isolated enclaves for Black South Africans that the country’s former apartheid regime created.
  • At the time the Oslo Accords were signed, just over 110,000 Jewish settlers lived in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Today, the figure is more than 700,000 living on more than 100,000 hectares (390sq miles) of land expropriated from the Palestinians.

INTERACTIVE Al Aqsa-mosque-compound Jerusalem

The Palestinian division and the Gaza blockade

  • PLO leader Yasser Arafat died in 2004, and a year later, the second Intifada ended, Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip were dismantled, and Israeli soldiers and 9,000 settlers left the enclave.
  • A year later, Palestinians voted in a general election for the first time.
  • Hamas won a majority. However, a Fatah-Hamas civil war broke out, lasting for months, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians.
  • Hamas expelled Fatah from the Gaza Strip, and Fatah – the main party of the Palestinian Authority – resumed control of parts of the West Bank.
  • In June 2007, Israel imposed a land, air and naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, accusing Hamas of “terrorism”.


The wars on the Gaza Strip

  • Israel has launched four protracted military assaults on Gaza: in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2021. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed, including many children , and tens of thousands of homes, schools and office buildings have been destroyed.
  • Rebuilding has been next to impossible because the siege prevents construction materials, such as steel and cement, from reaching Gaza.
  • The 2008 assault involved the use of internationally banned weaponry, such as phosphorus gas.
  • In 2014, over a span of 50 days, Israel killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians and close to 500 children.
  • During the  assault , called Operation Protective Edge by the Israelis, about 11,000 Palestinians were wounded, 20,000 homes were destroyed and half a million people displaced .

INTERACTIVE Gaza 15 years of living under blockade-OCT9-2023


  1. Understanding Literature through Historical Context Free Essay Example

    historical context in essay

  2. History Essay: Topics, Tips and the Outline

    historical context in essay

  3. Social and historical context Free Essay Example

    historical context in essay

  4. Cultural Historical Context Essay

    historical context in essay

  5. History Essay Writing

    historical context in essay

  6. The Context of the History in Frankenstein: [Essay Example], 2947 words

    historical context in essay


  1. What is Historical Texts?

  2. Life of Edward the Black Prince by Louise Creighton

  3. EXTENDED BONUS LENGTH: Writing an introduction to a history essay: the importance of context

  4. solved past papers of journalistic Discourse|| semester 5||Punjab university||

  5. VCE English/EAL: context vs text essays

  6. The Jesus of History by Terrot R. Glover


  1. What is historical context?

    What is 'historical context'? Historical context is the awareness that the people who created sources were living at a time which may have held opinions and beliefs that are very different to what we consider 'normal'. Identifying historical context allows us to demonstrate historical empathy: to understand the different attitudes from the ...

  2. Using Historic Context in Analysis and Interpretation

    The Importance of Historic Context in Analysis and Interpretation. Historical context is an important part of life and literature, and without it, memories, stories, and characters have less meaning. Historical context deals with the details that surround an occurrence. In more technical terms, historical context refers to the social, religious ...

  3. 21 Historical Context Examples (2024)

    Historical Context Examples. 1. The Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was a key turning point in human history. It was a time when manual labor started to be replaced by machines, and mass production became a reality. This change increased economic productivity and improved living standards for many.

  4. PDF A Brief Guide to Writing the History Paper

    like an essay according to the topic's internal logic). Some papers are concerned with history (not just what happened, of course, but why and how it happened), and some are interested in historiography (i.e., how other historians have written history, specifically the peculiarities of different works, scholars, or schools of thought).

  5. 3. Historical Analysis and Interpretation

    HISTORICAL THINKING STANDARD 3. The student engages in historical analysis and interpretation: Therefore, the student is able to: Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas, values, personalities, behaviors, and institutions by identifying likenesses and differences. Consider multiple perspectives of various peoples in the past by ...

  6. ENGL B1B: Historical Context Essay: Getting Started

    Focused idea 1: Many works of literature deal with historical and or social issues. Choose a text that focuses on a historical or social issue, and then write an essay in which you analyze how the author uses literary elements to explore this issue and explain how the issue contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.

  7. PDF The Stages of Historical Analysis

    Step Five: (2-3 minutes) Wrap up by emphasizing that good analysis entails substantial revision. Encourage students to use the four stages as a technique to determine whether their analysis is fully formed or incomplete as they write, and as a guide to advance their analysis to a deeper level. REFLECTIONS.

  8. 'Historical Context' in Historical Context: Surface, Depth, and the

    Historical context as an argument and a hermeneutical position has been with us for several millennia; as Steven Fraade has shown in his work on the early Jewish commentary tradition, the pursuit of historical. context has represented a powerful inducement to interpretation since. the dawn of biblical hermeneutics.9.

  9. How to Write a History Essay: Examples, Tips & Tricks

    Body paragraph 1: Introduction to the Historical Context. Provide background information on the historical context of your topic. Highlight key events, figures, or developments leading up to the main focus of your history essay. Body paragraphs 2-4 (or more): Main Arguments and Supporting Evidence.

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

    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.

  11. Historical context

    Historical Context. Authors are encouraged to avoid perpetuating demeaning attitudes and biased assumptions about people in their writing. At the same time, historians and scholars writing analyses of past events or times or of historical figures must be careful not to misrepresent the ideas of the past in an effort to avoid language bias.

  12. Historical Context: Meaning, Examples & Importance

    Historical Context Definition. Historical context is the setting in which a historical event, idea, or object takes place. In writing, historical context includes the social, economic, cultural, and political influences that shape your primary sources. Historical context helps you understand your topic fully.

  13. LibGuides: Writing an Exegetical Paper: Historical Context

    Historical Context. This section of the paper you will want to focus on background information that a reader may need to sufficiently understand the passage. Focus on any historical, social or cultural context that maybe needed for a greater understanding and to help you engage with the text. For Example:

  14. Historical Argument Definition, Steps & Examples

    A historical argument provides an explanation as to how or why an event occurred in the past. The argument is presented by a thesis statement which must be specific, must be able to be proven, and ...

  15. American Indians: A History of Resilience and Cultural Richness: [Essay

    This essay aims to explore the rich heritage of American Indian communities, the challenges they have faced throughout history, and their enduring resilience. By examining historical contexts, cultural contributions, and ongoing issues, we can gain a deeper understanding of the unique position American Indians hold within the larger narrative ...

  16. What's the Israel-Palestine conflict about? A simple guide

    But what unfolds in the coming days and weeks has its seed in history. For decades, Western media outlets, academics, military experts and world leaders have described the Israeli-Palestinian ...