10 most interesting history extended essay topics
An extended essay is one which you will not finish overnight. It is up to 4000 words in length and will need to be discussed in detail with your teacher or supervisor. The choice of topic is all-important when it comes to writing an extended essay and certainly in the subject of history.
One of the first things you need to understand in making your topic choice is that there is a difference between history and current affairs. One of the traps some young players fall into is that they look in today's newspaper and see an event happening somewhere in the world and choose to write about that for the history extended essay. That won't work.
The student thinks that because there is a great deal of research material in newspapers on websites and in blogs, that it will be an easy topic to research and thus to write about. Again, that might work. Your teacher or supervisor will point out to you the difference between current affairs or current events and something which can be labelled as history.
10 interesting history extended essay topics
- 1. What were the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union?
- 2. What were the opinions or interpretations of the witch trials held in Salem?
- 3. What were some of the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919?
- 4. What are the different explanations which have evolved after the Cuban missile crisis in the early 1960s?
- 5. What were the consequences of the pact between Hitler and Stalin?
- 6. How did the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor change the course of World War II?
- 7. How has the growth of growing opium changed over the decades?
- 8. How important was politics in the plays of William Shakespeare?
- 9. Is there any justification for dropping atomic bombs on Japan in World War II?
- 10. How did the Roman invasion of Britain change the island nation?
Because the extended essay contains far more words than an ordinary essay, the choice of topic needs to be such that a solid argument can be developed and resolved. Talking over your chosen topic with your supervisor should hopefully avoid choosing a bad topic.
Unless there is depth in the subject, you will be unable to produce a well-rounded argument about the pros and cons of your topic. Get the history topic right and then your extended essay can proceed.
The Extended Essay is an individual project of 4000 words.
It is a chance to study a topic that interests you which is not covered by the syllabus.
It gives you a chance to study in real depth a topic that you have an interest in.
It can relate to any period and any topic within the last 10 years.
It gives you the chance to work closely with your History teacher to 'fast-track' your historical skills with one-to-one tutoring.
As such it is a great opportunity to produce a mature academic study on something that you might never again have the chance to research.
Both the IA and the EE in History award students who choose an interesting question which they research thoroughly and answer coherently through critical evaluation of evidence.
The IA is only 1500 words long; the EE is 4,000 words.
The EE requires a much heavier emphasis on the use of primary source material than the IA.
The IA is structured into specific sections; the EE is structured more flexibly.
The IA markscheme grades each section separately; the EE markscheme grades each criteria across the essay as a whole.
You will select which of your IB subjects will form the basis of your EE in the Spring Term of the first year of IB. This will usually (although not always) be one of your Higher Level subjects. The supervisor will set a series of internal deadlines and meetings for each student to ensure the completion of the study in a timely fashion.
Start by considering if there is a period / place / person / issue in history that would like to investigate further. Maybe this is something you have read a little about, watched a film about or are interested in from your other studies / hobbies. The only strict rule is that anything that happened in the past 10 years is not allowed.
The three main focuses of study tend to be focused on
- EITHER Causes of an event / situation;
- OR Consequences of an event / situation
- OR Relevance of particular evidence about an event / situation (e.g. a painting, novel, film, biography).
The following resources may help you in your quest for a topic:
- History Department Magazine collection
- History Department DVD collection
Once you have settled upon a topic, you have to then turn this into a question - a problem that your study will solve, in other words.
The following table could help you get started
|To what extent was...||[Event]|
|the most important result of...|
|How useful is...||the Novel...|
|to the historian studying...|
|How successful / significant was...||[Individual] (e.g. politician / sportsperson / entertainer / film director / etc)||in the context of...|
The following list of past Extended Essay questions from the IST will also be helpful:
- How has politics influenced Berlin's architecture over the 20th century? (Predicted 'A')
- To what extent was World War Two a catalyst for British Decolonisation? (Predicted 'B')
- How decisive was Spanish intervention in World War Two? (Graded 'A')
- How far did Nietzsche's ideas influence the Third Reich? (Graded 'B')
- How reliable is Hogarth's 'The Rake's Progress' as evidence of 18th century London? (Graded 'A')
- How and why do Historical sources disagree about the life and career of Bonnie Parker? (Graded 'B')
You are now ready to complete the Initial Proposal Sheet and hand it to your teacher.
Make sure that this is a detailed, considered proposal. Your supervisor will schedule a meeting with you to talk about how you plan to structure your essay in particular.
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