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Topics for a History Class Research Paper

In determining a topic for your history research paper, try to think in terms of causes and changes. Choose a topic that is part of a larger issue. The ten topics that follow can be thought of as good starting points that could be further narrowed, depending on the scope of your history research paper.

Discuss the earliest known civilizations

Students should examine the characteristics of Mesopotamia around 3000 B.C. In discussing how geography and climate affected the region, students should explain the importance of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers as well as their significance for farming. What was the roll of trade for the people (the Sumerians), and how did they organize their civilization? What were their religious beliefs, and how did that affect government? What important inventions or historical contributions (e.g. cuneiform, the wagon wheel, bronze, etc.) are the people of Mesopotamia credited with?

Discuss how the first people arrived in North America

Your paper should examine the route and reasons that early people settled in what are now Canada and the United States. How did they get here? Be sure to mention the significance of geography and climate (e.g., the Ice Age and Beringia). What were they in search of? What evidence do we have that indicates these were the first people in the North America? Are there different theories about who were the first people to settle in North America?

Discuss the Mongols and China

How did Genghis Khan unify the different tribes or confederations of Eurasia of the early 13th century to form the largest land empire in history? Discuss the pre-empire conditions as well as some of the more significant tribes that were unified, and describe some of the important invasions that took place. Describe Genghis Khans military techniques and innovations, such as their use of siege weapons, cavalry, and squad formation. Who were Genghis Khan's descendants, and what were their rolls in the empire? What effects did the Mongol Empire have on society?

Discuss the Roman Republic period, leading up the Roman Empire

Discuss the pre-Empire period of ancient Rome. What was the ancient Roman form of government prior to 500 B.C.? Discuss the five phases of political history of the Republic, beginning with the overthrow of the monarchy in 509 B.C. leading up to Julius Caesar and the post-Republic Roman Empire period. Examine the Constitution of the Roman Republic, and discuss some of its characteristics (e.g., consuls, separation of power, term limits, etc.). What are some examples of the legislative structures used in the Roman Republic that can still be observed in the modern world?

Discuss Britain's Imperial Century (1815 to 1914)

At its height, the British Empire encompassed nearly a quarter of the world's land area as well as a fifth of the population, much of it added to the Empire between 1815 and 1914. How did victory over Napoleon contribute to the expansion of the British Empire? Discuss the East India Company and the Crown's roll in its affairs. How did rivalry with Russia during the 19th century affect Britain's sphere of influence? What roll did territories in Canada, Australia, and Ireland play in limiting Britain's expansion? What affect did the First World War have?

Discuss early Mesoamerican civilizations

Before the arrival of the Spaniards, civilizations in what are now Mexico and Central America flourished. Who were the Olmec, and what do we know about their civilization? Describe the contributions of the Maya people, including their infrastructure, as well as improvements they made to writing, the calendar, and art. Later, the Aztec people would come to dominate Mesoamerica. Discuss their mythological and religious traditions, as well as their architecture. How did the arrival of the Spanish explorers in the 16th century mark the end of an era for these native Mesoamerican cultures?

Discuss some of the important factors leading up the Second World War

The Treaty of Versailles had several crucial weaknesses in how it addressed German reparations for the First World War. What were they? How did other nations view Hitler's pre-war military buildup and distribution of troops? Discuss some of the ways that European nations appeased Germany's demands for territory and power. What were other pre-war events? Be sure to discuss Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil War, the Japanese invasion of China and the Soviet Union, etc. Who were the Axis Powers and who were the Allies?

Discuss the origin and effects of the Industrial Revolution in Britain

Changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had incredible effects on British life. What were some of the advancements that led from human and animal labor to the use of machines? How did interchangeable parts affect manufacturing and allow for higher precision and mass production? How did steam, coal, and other types of power for machinery affect production and transportation? Be sure to also discuss the social implications of the changes, such as their effects on population, standard of living, urbanization, workforce, leisure time, etc.

Discuss the Decline of the Soviet Union

Before analyzing the causes for the decline, summarize the Cold War and the relaxation of tensions associated with it. How did the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan affect its reputation in terms of expansionism? Discuss the arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States. How did Mikhail Gorbachev's views affect the economy, domestic policies, and control over the Soviet republics? How did the eventual shift to a free-market economy produce economic hardship?

Discuss the Rwandan genocide

In 1994, an estimated 800,000 people were killed in the East African state of Rwanda. Describe the background of Rwanda's colonization during the late 20th century, and the tensions between the Tutsi and Hutu peoples. How did Belgian Colonialism divide the Tutsi and Hutu? How might the population density have played a role? Discuss the Rwandan Civil War and the death of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana as catalysts for the event. In the aftermath of the tragedy, what are some of the political, economic, and social developments?
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