38+ Sample History Proposal

What Is a History Proposal?

A history proposal is a written and formal proposal touching on any area of history as a discipline. The proposal outlines and initiates further research while prompting a deeper discussion of a historical topic.  

According to an article by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are a few solid reasons why it is absolutely important to study history. For one, the past teaches people about the present. History also allows people to develop empathy by studying or examining the lives and struggles of others who came before them. In relation to that, immersing in history can become deeply personal too. And lastly, learning about history can be likened to solving or investigating a mystery.    

Ideas for a History Proposal

If you are a student researcher, history can be one of the most interesting topics you can cover for an academic paper. Not only is history a basic and universal discipline, it connects humanity in so many different ways. As a field of study, history is meant to be a humanist discipline because of its potential to encapsulate the entire spectrum of human experience. The examples below are just some ideas you can draw from when you make your own history proposal. 

History by the Decades: If you are more interested in recent history, perhaps a deeper look into the decades that shaped the 20th century will suit your interests. People are familiar with generation-defining events or even products- whether it is the disco-inspired fashion and hairstyles of the 70s or the gilded and opulent Jazz age of the 1920s. Many people are biased towards certain decades as well. Those who grew up in the 90s are notorious for proclaiming that the 90s were the best time for music and entertainment. For a history proposal, a deep dive into the inner workings and cultural trends that defined a decade would be a solid topic. You can focus on achievements and highlights of those 10 years; and you can even analyze the problems and disasters that shaped that era. Focused Groups: If people are more your preference, you can also try a history proposal targeted at a group of people at a particular time in history. This focused group contract approach can be a rich and fulfilling goal. You can choose to study big or small, intimate groups. For example, you can explore the history of a nation’s people or an ethnic minority of a particular place. Tracing the roots, origins and collective history of a people is a worthwhile goal and it can even help you reflect on your own personal experiences in the process. Movements: The history we know is a collection of events that have happened in the past. When we talk of movements, these are significant events that helped shape society’s norms, practices, and beliefs. It would be interesting to tackle these turning points events and examine them in-depth. As a historical researcher, you can explore the different ideologies that propelled or gave birth to a new way of thinking. Or you can examine religious movements that changed the way people perceive the world. Different social movements and revolutions such as women’s suffrage and civil rights are just some examples you can dive into. Leaders and Nations: If you want your history proposal to be a little more personal, you can choose a topic that is closer to home. A leader in history that inspires you or your home country can be topics you can focus on. Examine the geopolitical history or the socio-cultural context that evolved during that leader’s term or the climax points in that country’s history. If you prefer the bigger picture, you can study a particular region in the world such as Southeast Asia or the Middle East. There are so many potential topics for a history proposal that you can dig through and discover and you’ll never run out. Study of Systems: In relation to movements, the study of systems and frameworks can be another good topic for a history proposal. This approach entails the study and in-depth exploration of the -isms that were created and are continuously being built upon by evolving ideas even to this day. For example, feminism and communism are some of the most talked about ideologies. Both have been around for many years and yet even up to the present time, the narrative is constantly being reshaped and new ideas are being added to its body of knowledge. The examination of these systems and how they contributed to the social and cultural shifts of the world are vital topics that can be explored further.

Tips to Read History Better

Back in school, the traditional way of teaching history was reduced to the memorization of names, dates, and a series of chronological events that were forgotten once exams were over. But in order to truly appreciate and understand history, one must go beyond memorization. A richer, deeper and more engaging way to read history can be achieved with the following tips:  

Focus on the why. Knowing the names, places, and dates in history is important. But you need to go beyond that to truly make history apply to you. It helps to ask the questions why and how when it comes to historical events. The why poses a much more potent and open question. It leads you to discover bigger and richer ideas as opposed to just memorizing history without really understanding. Unpacking the events that have happened in the past will hold more meaning if you figure out the reasons and causes behind the events. Other times, asking why may not even lead to the answers you expect. But that is what matters when you eventually realize that the questions may even be more important than the answers themselves. Relate it to your context. Another helpful way to read history with a fresh mindset is by placing yourself and your experiences within the context of what you are learning. Historical text and accounts will mean much more and hold greater meaning if you can identify with the events or people in it. For example, when reading the struggles of the French revolution or the Civil Rights movement, you can try reflecting on your own personal experiences with oppression or discrimination. Doing so can help you appreciate the text even more. Examine the parallelisms of the present with that of the past and you will find that the answers may sometimes surprise you. Connect the dots. History can be perceived as one long story or narrative. As a researcher and student of history, it is your job to see the patterns and commonalities in order to better comprehend the literature. Finding links and associations is vital in uncovering the lessons of history. When reading historical text, try to look for and establish the connections. What patterns and practices were predominant in the past? What events led to a significant event in history that shaped society? Connecting the dots and piecing together different aspects will help you get a better grasp of the lesson. Visit museums and heritage sites. When tackling history, it might be a good idea to take advantage of other forms of media, aside from just the written accounts. Textbooks and the like are important, but visuals and audio help enhance your learning as well. Combing through news clippings, photos, video and recording archives are other ways of gaining knowledge. You can also supplement your study with more exposure by visiting national museums or heritage sites. This makes learning about the past more interesting and interactive as opposed to just reading a textbook at home. Do research in the library or national archives for first-hand historical accounts; or read memoirs and autobiographies to get a feel of how ordinary life was like in a particular time in history.

How to Create a History Proposal

To create a history proposal, you need several key components. And if you are on a tight schedule, you can easily use an existing template as a guide. Browse the sample proposals above and download one to customize it. Simply follow the steps below once you have decided on a template. 

Step 1: Introduction

Like any formal proposal, start with an introduction. Keep your introduction brief and general. A short summary report like an abstract should suffice. You want to be able to explore or touch a little on why it is important to study your topic. A good introduction offers just enough details to hook the reader but at the same time also leaves room for the imagination. It should propel your reader to want to find out more about your chosen historical topic.    

Step 2: Research Problem 

The next step is to state your research problem statement and provide some background on it. The objective of a history proposal, after all, is to explore and gain insight to your historical topic. The significance of the study and its relation to society can be further examined in this section. Remember that a research problem is key to any proposal. It serves as the overarching theme of the entire proposal. It sets the tone and direction of the paper.    

Step 3: Review of Related Literature 

An important section of a history proposal is the review on related literature review. This is where you gather as much information from external sources as you can to better support your arguments in the proposal. Not only do you share the existing information and researched facts on your given topic, but you can go further and examine these sources. Where did these sources come from? What type of literature are they? Are they first-hand accounts or secondary external sources?      

Step 4: Research Design and Methods

Your history proposal must clearly outline your proposed research design. How do you intend to approach your research problem? What strategies and methods are you going to employ in order to achieve your objectives? Since history is considered more of a qualitative study, methodology practices such as interviews and formal surveys are typically used to collect data. This section of your proposal may also include a projected timeline of your tasks and objectives. The bottom-line is you are able to choose a research design and framework that can best highlight your historical topic. In addition, you should review our Research Design Statement.


How do you write a history proposal?

Before writing a history proposal, make sure you have a good topic in mind. Like any formal proposal, you need to have a research statement or problem prepared. You need this to build your argument and supporting data for the rest of the contents in your proposal. One practical option is using an existing template to serve as a reference guide that can help you fast track the creation of your proposal.

What should a history research proposal include?

A history research proposal should include a title, introduction, statement of the problem, methodology and research design, review of related literature, projected timeline or schedule, and a bibliography.

What are the main sources of historical research?

According to the University of Washington Tacoma, the main sources used in historical research are primary and secondary resources. Examples of primary sources include letters, interviews, diaries, and oral histories. Books and articles written about a certain topic can be classified as secondary sources.

Don’t allow your history proposal to be just another written, ordinary proposal. Make sure that your proposal topic is something you are passionate about. Choosing a subject that piques your interest will enable you to engage better with history. Browse the sample templates above and start drafting your own history proposal today!