History essays are one of the trickiest. As the History itself is a science about the past, it is quite difficult to imagine how you can introduce anything new to the topic.
Yet History majors will tell you (and they actually are sure about that at the moment of graduation) that there is as much room for theories and experiments in History, as there is in Physics. The difference is, instead of trying to produce or prove something new, you take a closer look at the events that happened long before and try to reveal hidden connections between them or unobvious effect or reasons.
From this point of view, History offers a huge field for research and analysis and does not treat it kindly when you try to cheat on this part.
Therefore, History essays call for a great deal of efforts and preparation, and writing a thesis, naturally, is a very important part of it.
Being introduced in the first paragraph, the thesis guides your argument in the right direction and explains what you are about to focus on. It will become a thread between your main points and also will serve as a tool to engage your reader. In other words, it is an important if not the most important part of your paper.
To write a strong thesis, you will have to answer three questions: What? How? So what? Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
The What? question suggests that you make a certain claim about a historical event that you consider important and will prove in the main body. This part should be arguable. Imagine that there is someone who wants to challenge this opinion. Will he be able to do it?
The How? part is your evidence itself – sources and facts you will be using to prove your statement.
So what? means that you have to explain the importance of your finding in specific terms. Do not say it is invaluable for History – say it is important because it helps to make further conclusions about this and that and thus see some historical events in the new light.
You cannot squeeze all of it in one sentence, so prepare to write a rather lengthy introduction (beware of the word limit though!) and never forget the last So what? component as it makes your paper relevant and valuable.
When working on your history essay thesis, try not to make some common mistakes. Don’t be too general – if you can extract another topic to write on from your thesis, then it should be narrowed down. Don’t make cliché statements (well, this is true for any kind of essay). Do not make generalizations. If you are stating that all representatives of a certain nation were oppressed, be ready to provide evidence. Also, try to engage your reader and make him think. Don’t be too simple. Just like in the case with crosswords, a person reading your paper must feel that this writing matches his or her level of intelligence.
Last but not least, stick to the point. Your thesis is a map you will be using to write the entire paper, so your arguments must follow in the same order.