40 Original History Dissertation Topics
While, some countries use terms “thesis” and “dissertation” interchangeably, in the United Kingdom, dissertations typically refer to effort-intensive research projects included in undergraduate or master’s degree programs. Hence, history dissertation topics we explore below refer mainly to undergraduate dissertations. These are long well-structured essays that follow specific requirements that might somewhat vary from one university history department to another. These requirements refer to appropriate use of sources, terminology, language, writing style, formatting. Below, we briefly review how such essays are structured but also provide a selection of history dissertation topics focusing on Western and particularly, on European history.
Perfect History Dissertation Structure
Dissertation structure typically comprises such sections:
- Abstract – very briefly summarizes all content, including key findings or conclusions. Its key purpose is to help readers decide whether they should read entire paper.
- Introduction – here, all necessary background and contextual information is presented, terms are defined, thesis statements, hypotheses, research goals, and objectives are formulated, outlines are provided, topic importance is explained.
- Main body – content is provided here: facts, proofs, judgements, opinions, etc. This content is organized into relevant chapters, subchapters, into well-structured paragraphs that relate to thesis and ensure a smooth content flow. Depending on content, main body might contain a literature review section where most primary, secondary sources are being interpreted in order to explain current state of knowledge, context of this research; methodology section detailing tools or procedures used; results section stating key findings; discussion section, where these findings are analyzed and put into context.
- Conclusion – key points & ideas are summarized, thesis is restated, suggestions are made for future research. Importantly, no new ideas are allowed here – these should be discussed or mentioned earlier in your dissertation.
- Bibliography – lists all primary and secondary sources used, typically, in alphabetical order or in order of appearance.
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Some Hot History Dissertation Ideas
Below are some history topics grouped into a few popular categories related to Western history.
Historical Events & Personalities
- Otto von Bismarck – his role in Germany’s unification.
- Charle de Gaulle – his role in French Resistance, in rebuilding post-war France, in founding the Fifth Republic.
- Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement – did it offer Hitler a much-needed pause before starting the Eastern front?
- How the outbreak of 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish flu) was aggravated by WWI?
- Why is term “genocide” justified to designate the Armenian mass murder organized by Ottoman Empire in 1914-1923?
The Great Depression
- What caused The Great Depression?
- How was life of a typical British family affected during this crisis?
- What were roles of monetary contraction and gold reserve during the Great Depression?
- How well were banks worldwide prepared for this worldwide crisis?
- What is the legacy of this crisis for our understanding of economy and finance?
First & Second World Wars
- What role imperialism played in triggering the First World War.
- Why assassination of Franz Ferdinand was only a pretext to start WWI?
- What is similar and different in composition of alliances formed by great powers during WWI and WWII – is there a common pattern?
- What impact had burdensome war reparations imposed after WWI in triggering WWII? What does it teach us about how post-war agreements should be forged?
- Deception & disinformation practices in warfare during the Second World War.
History Dissertation Topics on Napoleon III
- Napoleon III’ role in modernizing French agriculture, commerce, banking sector, infrastructure.
- How did Paris, Marseille, and Lyon change under Napoleon III?
- France’s role in Italian unification under Napoleon III.
- Major advances in workers’ and women’s rights during Napoleon III.
- French empire’s expansion under Napoleon III.
Topics on Italian Unification
- How did revolutionary movements in 1820s-1830s inspire the start of Italian unification in 1848?
- How Italian unification spurred nationalist sentiments giving birth to irredentist opinion movement.
- What impact irredentism had on Italy’s involvement in WWI and WWII?
- How sharing a common past within the Roman Empire helped in Italy’s unification.
- How Italian unification (Risorgimento) reflected in culture?
Nazi Germany History Topics
- Extent of propaganda in the Third Reich: news, art, public life, etc.
- To what extent did resources acquired by Nazi Germany during its early expansion help fuel subsequent warfare?
- Was a fact that Europe reacted so slowly and passively to Hitler’s actions an exception or rather a behaviour normally expectable even nowadays (say, in other world regions)?
- Would it have been realistic for the United Kingdom to forge peace with Nazi Germany?
- Would have Britain lost to Hitler if it failed to evacuate Allied troops at Dunkirk?
Topics About The Crimean War
- To what extent did this military conflict stop or slow the Russian Empire from overwhelming the Ottoman Empire?
- Crimean War viewed as a conflict of religious confessions.
- Did this conflict bring any tangible benefits to Britain or was involvement in such a distant conflict unjustified?
- The Crimean War as a trigger for military modernization of Britain and for social reforms in the Russian Empire.
- What role did new technologies (like telegraph, railways, explosive naval shells) had in this conflict?
Stalin’s Russia Topics
- What qualifies Stalin as one of the cruelest dictators of twentieth century
- How Stalin’s poor performance in the Winter War convinced Hitler of the Red Army’s deplorable state encouraging his Barbarossa plan.
- How NKVD’s mass shootings and Stalinist repressions destroyed USSR’s elites, crippling country ahead of WWII as well as for decades afterward.
- Why was Stalin’s invasion of Poland somewhat overlooked by international public as opposed to Nazi invasion?
- How could Stalin be viewed positively by many in today’s Russia despite all his crimes? It is it explained by Stalin’s propaganda that could transcend generations, by certain merits, by war-related trauma, or by a failure to thoroughly denounce his crimes by successors in power?
History Dissertation Introduction Samples
A history dissertation introduction should serve other parts of a dissertation – it should provide necessary background preparing readers for what follows. Below, we provide two brief samples of how to start an introduction.
The European Union as a Successful Peace Project
The EU project started in 1951 with creation of European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) between West Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Luxembourg. Just a few years later, these states formed the European Atomic Energy Community, and European Economic Community. These European integration processes culminated with Maastricht treaty of 1993 which officially established a union of states with a shared currency, with free circulation of goods and people, with an identical foreign and security policy, as well as citizenship rights. Given its contribution to promoting peace and democracy not only within its borders but also beyond, the EU has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – Lessons Learned by Small States
Also known as the Treaty of Nonaggression Between Germany, the USSR, the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement was signed in 1939 and became notorious for its additional secret protocol, through which two powers split spheres of influence in Europe, deciding the fate of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania. Later, these agreed split was largely respected as both Nazi Germany and the USSR annexed corresponding territories. Decades later, this pact could serve as a lesson for small states to assemble in political, economic, and military unions that would help avoid such vulnerability in front of great powers.
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