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Sample Academic Proposals

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A proposal is a chance to explain your topic, discuss the resources critical to your research, and justify the need for your proposed paper.

Proposal Guidelines

Goals of a proposal.

1) Precisely defines your topic and the need for studying it (i.e., it briefly takes apart the topic and tells what one will learn from reading your proposed paper).

2) Explains the sources critical to your proposed research, demonstrating that they are adequate for your project.

1) Narrow and break down your topic and your approach to it as much as possible. (ONE SENTENCE ON THE PROPOSED TOPIC IS NOT ENOUGH.)

2) Discuss the issues and questions which you foresee your paper addressing.

3)  To demonstrate your competence, you must exhibit a level of research and thinking suitable for this stage of your work.  Remember, you are expected to have done a fair amount of research already.  It should indicate that you have done extensive research in library catalogs, databases and the internet.

4) Explain why you are using your secondary and primary sources, to explain which will be especially valuable, and, perhaps, to explain what important sources are not available and are likely to be missing from your paper–and why your topic is manageable nonetheless.

Do not try to cover every source. Provide a useful view of the critical sources that anyone doing your topic must look at. Whether or not you have yet finished your study of them, or you have yet to acquire them, you should have determined which are the critical ones.

In referring to sources, always provide author (full name on first reference) and date of work; generally the full title is also necessary or useful.

5) Exclude irrelevant information. Since the proposal is a discussion of sources and not a research trail, do not include comments about where, in what order, or how you found sources (e.g., in the UMW library or through ILL) or that you are “still waiting” for ILL to provide you with a book.

6) Include a bibliography of relevant sources cited using the Turabian/Chicago Manual of Style  citation guidelines . That list of sources should not include finding aids, bibliographies, encyclopedias, or children’s books.

7) Although footnotes/endnotes are not usefully employed in a proposal, you must make clear where your information came from.

8) Use of first-person perspective can be appropriate, but do so only in consultation with your professor.

For general writing guidelines, see here .

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Preparing a History PhD proposal

The carefully thought-out and detailed research proposal to be submitted with the formal application is the product of a sometimes prolonged negotiation with your potential supervisor. The supervisor may be enthusiastic about your project or might advise you to consider a different subject or change your angle on it; they may query aspects of your plan such as its breadth, the availability of primary sources or the extent to which you are familiar with the secondary literature. You may be asked to demonstrate the originality of your research question or be advised to consider applying to another institution which may have more appropriate expertise. During this process you will likely be asked to submit a specimen of written-up historical research, such as your Masters or BA dissertation. The sooner you start developing the structure that is expected in a research proposal, the more productive your exchanges with your potential supervisor will be.

You may find different advice for writing a research proposal across different OU webpages. Given that a research proposal can vary significantly across different disciplines, when applying to the History Department you should follow the guidance provided here.

The research proposal you submit in January should be approximately 1000 words, plus a bibliography, and should contain the following:

A title, possibly with a subtitle

The title should not take the form of a question and it may run to a dozen words or more. Like the title of a book, it should clearly convey the topic you propose to work on. A subtitle may explain the chronological or geographical focus of your work, or the methodological approach you will take. Choosing a title is a good way for focusing on the topic you want to investigate and the approach you want to take.

These are examples of poor titles and topics to research:

These would be poor topics to research because they lack a strong question and it is not clear which approach they take to their already well-researched subjects. They are generic or merely descriptive. 

Examples of good research topics

These projects combine a sharp chronological and geographical focus with a clear indication of how the sources will be analysed to respond to a precise question. In the first case, for example, the premise is that visual representations are critical in the making of a city’s eminence. This indicates the type of sources that will be analysed (paintings, engravings and other visual sources). The chronology is particularly well chosen because in these two centuries Rome turned from being the capital of the Catholic world to becoming the much sought-after destination of the Grand Tour; interesting questions of change and continuity come into focus.

Brief summary of your argument

An acceptable PhD thesis must have a central argument, a 'thesis'.  You need to have something to argue for or against, a point to prove or disprove, a question to answer. What goes into this section of the proposal is a statement of your question and the answer you plan to give, even if, for now, it remains a hypothesis.

Why this subject is important

We expect originality in a thesis and so under this rubric we expect you to explain why the knowledge you seek on the subject you propose to work on is important for its period and place, or for historians’ views on its period and place. Finding some early-modern English laundry lists would not suffice  on its own  to justify writing a PhD thesis about them. But those laundry lists could be important evidence for a thesis about the spread of the Great Plague in London, for example.

Framing your research

Your proposal has to show awareness of other scholarly writing on the subject. This section positions your approach to the subject in relation to approaches in some of those works, summarising how far you think it differs. For instance, you could challenge existing interpretations of the end the Cold War, or you might want to support one historian or another; you could open up a neglected aspect of the debate - say by considering the role of an overlooked group or national government - and perhaps kick-start a debate of your own. All this is to show that you have read  into  your subject and familiarised yourself with its contours. We don’t expect you to have done all your research at the start, but it is essential for you to show familiarity with the key texts and main authors in your chosen field.

What sources might you need to consult in libraries and archives?

Here you should describe or at least list the primary materials you are likely to use in researching your thesis. This demonstrates your confidence that enough relevant sources exist to support a sustained scholarly argument. Many archival catalogues are available online and can be searched remotely, including The National Archives, the National Archives of Scotland, the National Archives (Ireland), the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and Archives Wales. You can search the London-based Historical Manuscripts Commission and the National Register of Archives, both of which provide access to local county record offices. Databases such as ‘Eighteenth Century Collections Online’ and the British Library’s ‘British Newspapers Online 1600-1900’ will help you identify and locate relevant sources.

What skills are required to work on the sources you plan to use?

You need to show that you have the linguistic competence to pursue your research. With few exceptions, original sources must be read in the original languages; if the principal historical literature is not in English, you must be able to read it too. Palaeographic problems aren’t confined to ancient writing. You might have to tackle early modern or other scripts that are hard to decipher. Even with fluent German, an applicant baffled by the Gothic script and typeface would flounder without undertaking ancillary study. Training is available at The Open University, or in some circumstances you can be funded to undertake training elsewhere, and you should demonstrate awareness of the skills that you need to acquire.

Do you have the technical competence to handle any data-analysis your thesis may require?

Databases, statistical evidence and spreadsheets are used increasingly by historians in certain fields. If your research involves, say, demographic or economic data, you will need to consider whether you have the necessary IT and statistical skills and, if not, how you will acquire them.

How will you arrange access to the libraries and archives where you need to work?

Although primary sources are increasingly available in digitised form, you should consider that important sources may be closed or in private hands. To consult them may require some travelling and so you should be realistic as to what you will be able to do, particularly if you are applying to study part-time as not all archives are open out of regular office hours.

A bibliography

This should come at the end and include a list of the primary sources you plan to use and the relevant secondary literature on the subject. While you should show that you are on top of recent work (and of important older studies) on the topic, there is no point in having a long list of works only marginally related to your subject. As always, specificity is the best policy.

Please follow this link to see an  example of a successful research proposal [PDF].

All this may seem daunting, as if the department is asking you to write a thesis before you apply. But that is not our intention; the advice is to help you perform the necessary spadework before entering the formal application process. Working up a proposal under the headings suggested above will, if your application is successful, save you and your supervisor(s) much time if and when the real work begins.

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38+ SAMPLE History Proposal in PDF | MS Word

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How to Write a History Research Proposal Like a Pro

Table of contents

research proposal in history example

In order to come up with a concise title for your research proposal in history, the author has to be clear about the research focus. We recommend building up a title that includes no more than 60 characters. For example, your research proposal title might be ‘The Rise of Independent African Countries’, ‘Potential Change of Pope’s Political Power’, ‘The Influence of Hippie Culture on Today’s Culture’, ‘The Role of Women in Prehistoric Britain’, etc.

Try a quicker way

Summary Statement/Abstract of the Research Proposal

This one-page summary provides a quick overview of the research topic. Besides, you have to focus on your proposal’s new, relevant and current aspects. While striving for clarity, you have to sum up the whole research – its question, the study’s rationale, its hypothesis, all the methods you have used (for instance, analysis procedures, design, instruments, etc.), and the key findings. At the same time, you also have to mention some of the biggest challenges of your research.

Review of Research Literature

In your research proposal, you have to provide a precise and brief overview of the current state of historical research that is related to your research proposal.


The importance of the methodology section in a history research proposal can’t be underestimated because it lets your funding committee know how you’re going to deal with the problem of your research. It will become the kind of work route that will help you to describe all the activities that you’ll have to take in order to complete the project successfully.

In your methodology section, you have an opportunity to also discuss all the ethical issues together with possible obstacles on your way to collecting data and other relevant material.

Describe Relevant Academic Resources

If you’re doing some historical research with institutional background, we recommend including the section titled ‘Description of the Relevant University Resources’. In this part, you have to let your committee know what your university has to offer on the chosen topic. Mention the past contributions of the institution in the sphere of history, and the research facilities if any.

Without a doubt, you do not have results when you’re at the stage of writing a research proposal. Nonetheless, you have to give some idea of what information you’re going to gather, what statistical data will be investigated, and what procedures will be used in order to answer the question of your research.

Include Appendices, If Required

In most types of academic projects, students are required to include appendices. Appendices usually contain all sorts of supporting documents that the author believes the committee will need in order to understand his proposal work. Besides, the author of the research proposal will often refer to his appendices providing his readers with an opportunity to get back to them and read again. Can one imagine a cup if he had never seen it before? Hardly. Consequently, students should also have detailed articles that show examples of worthy research topics, writing tips, and paper samples. Informational articles to demonstrate how to write a History research proposal:

Editing & Proofreading

Once you are done with the conceptual work on your history research proposal, it is time to read it several times in order to edit and proofread it carefully. Here are the points that we recommend you check when writing a research proposal on history:

If you have such an opportunity, we strongly recommend approaching some experienced academic and asking him to check and proofread your research proposal. This will help you to make sure that the paper conforms to the international and academic rules of your institution. Pro tip To make your research proposal top-notch, you should take care of the used language. You should try to avoid too primitive constructions, jargon, and long or hard-to-read sentences. Do not overuse high lexis to make the text readable. It is also necessary to stick to one writing style and tone.

A Few Errors to Avoid

Even though a research proposal writing in history is completely your work, and you decide what data to include, the rule is the same for everyone – it has to be free from errors. Here are some of the most common mistakes that a research proposal author usually makes:

Take your time to read your research proposal over and over again. This is not your research or dissertation yet. However, correcting all spelling, chronological, or grammar mistakes is a must. Approach your supervisor to see if he has any additional requirements for your work. Make sure that all the historical facts that you include flow in a logical order, while your introduction and conclusions do not contradict each other.

Finally, be careful not to judge historical events or people from the past. In other words, make sure to stay away from moralizing. Cheap statements are not going to take you into productive historical analysis that you actually should be doing.

If you learn how to write a History proposal, you will know that only dependable resources can help you manage the task. Below, you can find trustable sources to evidence your idea and get permission to write your academic paper in History.

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Examples of research proposals

How to write your research proposal, with examples of good proposals.

Research proposals

Your research proposal is a key part of your application. It tells us about the question you want to answer through your research. It is a chance for you to show your knowledge of the subject area and tell us about the methods you want to use.

We use your research proposal to match you with a supervisor or team of supervisors.

In your proposal, please tell us if you have an interest in the work of a specific academic at York St John. You can get in touch with this academic to discuss your proposal. You can also speak to one of our Research Leads. There is a list of our Research Leads on the Apply page.

When you write your proposal you need to:

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Megamenu featured, megamenu social, sample thesis proposals.

Lanfranc of Bec: Confrontation and Compromise Imperial Expansion and the Evolution of the South and Southeast Asian economies Nantucket’s Role in the War of 1812 Letters Home: Records of the Experiences of Common Soldiers in the American Civil War Writing for Stalin: American Journalists in the USSR, 1928-1941 Dismal Scientists, Diplomats, and Spooks: Bissell, Milliken, and Rostow and Their Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy Media Reflections of Western Public Opinion in the Suez Crisis The Implications, Effects, and Uses of Media in the Emmett Till Lynching Cromwell Lives while Mason Stalks: Irish Nationalism and Historical Memory during the Troubles ‘My broken dreams of peace and socialism’: Youth propaganda, personality, and selfhood in the GDR, 1979-1989.

Lanfranc of Bec: Confrontation and Compromise

The ecclesiastical history of Europe in the 11th century revolves around the investiture conflict and the Gregorian reform effort. These two issues forced their way into religious lives around the continent. Even in England, on the edge of the world, Anglo-Saxon and Norman reformers grappled with these challenges to the construction of a “universal church.” I would like to enter into this world through the case study of Lanfranc of Bec. Lanfranc is an apt choice for this intensive focus because of the apparent philosophical paradoxes that dominated his life.

Early in his career, Lanfranc was a staunch supporter of Pope Leo IX in the Eucharistic controversy with Berengar of Tours. The doctrine of transubstantiation was, however, less important to Lanfranc than the idea of “the universal church.” Significantly, this new church was to be united under the stronger and more demanding popes in Rome who were early supporters of the young Italian monk. Lanfranc’s transformation began when was appointed abbot of St. Etienne, Caen in 1063 under the direct patronage of William the Conqueror. This relationship continued with Lanfranc’s promotion to Archbishop of Canterbury in 1070. In this role, Lanfranc severed all most traditional ties with Rome. He did command the right to supervise and veto any papal synods planned for England. In addition, Lanfranc even skipped the mandatory pilgrimage to Rome to receive the pallium, a tradition for English bishops that dated back to Gregory the Great and the 6th century.

Traditional scholarship has tended to portray this break as pragmatic. Lanfranc’s new master, William, demanded a more present loyalty than the faraway Church of St. Peter’s. Loyalty in turn led to advancement and a place in religious governance of countless souls in England. To justify these mercenary considerations scholars described the admittedly conservative Lanfranc as a Carolingian bishop, a relic of an empire then dead for two centuries. The Carolingian era was a time of dramatic expansion for the church, largely under the protections of its secular Christian protector, Charlemagne. It is easy to see parallels, at least from the Norman point of view, between the conquest of England in 1066 and the forceful conversion of the Saxons in 8th century. Both these invasions brought subject peoples in line with a new, larger Christendom. Historians have written about Lanfranc as a player within this system of sacred reform spearheaded by the secular.

In my study I plan to reexamine this view. Although the Archbishop did abandon Gregory VII at the time of his greatest need, the investiture conflict, Lanfranc’s role in the English reform need not be seen as driven by Normandy rather than Rome. For example, William’s concern for the piety of his new subjects was at best secondary to an interest in appointing bishops who would maintain order on the tumultuous island in place of the absentee king. Thus it was with a relatively free hand that Lanfranc directly reformed both Canterbury and England as a whole. Some of these changes, like his emphasis on clerical celibacy, were directly in line with the Gregorian reforms that he had supposedly renounced upon his arrival. In other instances, Lanfranc was more open minded to the religious practices that preceded him. Unlike other Norman bishops that arrived after the conquest, the Archbishop was far more accommodating to both local English saints and the institution of monastic cathedrals. These examples create a far more complex picture of Lanfranc. It is clear that he was more loyal to the Gregorian reform movement than to any particular pontiff occupying the See of St. Peter. At the same time, his syncretistic approach would have been at odds with any of the uncompromising popes that he had dealings with. These incongruous details suggest the need to revise traditional interpretations of Lanfranc’s life. Within a wider scope, I hope to demonstrate how the clergy positioned themselves in the larger conflict between the church and state at this time.

In pursuing this topic I want to integrate traditional and less traditional sources in an attempt to create a fresh portrayal. Any study of medieval political and ecclesiastical history will rely heavily on the chroniclers. Specifically I will use the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Eadmer’s Vita Anselmi for the Anglo-Saxon perspective. For the Norman point of view I will use chronicles by William of Jumièges and Gilbert Crispin. To supplement these more formally produced histories, I will read Lanfranc’s own works including his major treatise on the Eucharist, the Liber Corpore et Sanguine Domini, which I fail to believe he so easily abandoned on his arrival to England. In addition, his personal correspondence and monastic constitutions, both of which have been recently republished, will be usefully in understanding his own views, whether they be practical or theological. Lastly, I want to use architectural analyses of the church that Lanfranc built at Canterbury and studies of relic worship surrounding the remains of local saints like Dunstan and Theodore. These less traditional sources, while harder to obtain, will, I hope, provide new insight into Lanfranc’s life and, at the very least, provide social and cultural context for this specific period. The result will be a study that uses the analysis of Lanfranc to address larger question concerning the orientation of individuals within 11th century conflicts.

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Imperial Expansion and the Evolution of the South and Southeast Asian economies

The arrival of Vasco De Gama in 1498 on the beaches of modern-day Calicut marked the beginning of the intensification of economic relations between East and West, and the first encounter of Europeans with an ancient and complex commercial network reaching by land and sea from Europe to China, handling trade and traffic of far greater value than anything known in the West. Luxury products from China, silk and precious metals from Iran, the cotton textiles of India, the gold and ivory of East Africa, and the spices of Indonesia were all connected through highly advanced and dense trading networks. While the Indian economy is often represented as having stagnated under the weight of European intrusions, it is clear that particularly in coastal areas, a brisk and dynamic coastal trade flourished under the aegis of European rule. The creation of a world market in commodities such as rice gold, silver, spices, textiles and other raw materials occurred simultaneous with displacement of local markets as European imperial reach was extended over an increasingly wide part of the globe.

By the mid 18th century, the two great chartered companies, the British East India Company and the VOC (Dutch East India Company) had transformed from mere commercial trading ventures to entities that dominated economic relationships with Asian economies and began to acquire auxiliary governmental and military functions. By 1765 the British East India Company was effectively the de facto sovereign in Bengal by virtue of its overwhelming military power in the region, and its acquisition of the diwani, or the right to collect territorial revenues. For both the Dutch and British East India Companies, it is clear that the acquisition of territorial empires and quasi-governmental functions had profound effects upon the nature, scope, and distribution of investment within the Companies from Europe, but also upon the character of the relationship between indigenous traders, merchants, and financiers, and Europeans. Lakshmi Subramanian, a historian who has published some of the most important works dealing with the relationship of the Marathas and the British in Bombay, mentions how Law de Lauriston, the ex-Governor General of French India, “recognized the local banking community in 1777 as the decisive factor in any future alliance of the French and Indian States against their inveterate antagonist the English East India Company.” In a recent paper Chaudhury asserts how the local credit markets of eastern India, particularly Bengal, were seminal in rescuing financially several of the European Companies in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries from chronic shortages of working capital, yet with victory at Plessy and the transformation of the British role in Bengal, the nature of the relationship between local creditors and European merchants changed dramatically.

This project will comparatively look at the Dutch and British East India Companies and their relationships with groups such as the Marathas, the Chettiars, and the Chinese banking and mercantile families, and will draw upon resources that deal with the relationships of other European powers with indigenous merchants and financiers. By examining the interaction of indigenous financial institutions and capital with Europeans in Asia, particularly South and Southeast Asia, I am hoping to explore many aspects of the Asian economies of the 17th-19th century under the aegis of this broader topic, such as the different development paths between European and Asian societies, the dynamics of the extension of European power in south and southeast Asia, and the radically different financial and economic structures that characterized Asian societies prior to the expansion of Europe, and how the imposition of colonial rule altered (or didn’t) the dynamics of indigenous capital. This project will look at the relationship from the European perspective by utilizing Dutch and British East India Company records. Particularly in recent years, several historians have sought to expand our understanding of the relationship between European traders and Indian merchants and financiers, and this project will attempt to both build upon their work and form a more global and far-reaching conclusion about the role of indigenous capital in imperial expansion by looking at the phenomenon from a comparative perspective.

The chief question I am seeking out to answer is to define and delineate the nature of the relationship between indigenous credit institutions and imperial expansion; effectively, examine the relationship between native bankers, financiers, and traders, and the Europeans who came to trade and later colonize. Above all, I hope to posit a link between these economic relationships, and changes to the political and economic map of Asia.

Nantucket’s Role in the War of 1812

I am a junior history major currently studying abroad at the Williams-Exeter in Oxford Programme. Since August, I have been casually researching the whaling industry on Nantucket during the late 18th to mid-19th century. I am committed to Nantucket as a general topic not only because its history is exceedingly interesting to me but also because there is a wealth of primary data. For example, the Nantucket Historical Association boasts 5000 volumes (ship logs, diaries, legal documents, etc.) that are accessible to scholars.

Although I have explored a number of topics within Nantucket history, I find myself returning again and again to the whaling industry. In particular, I am intrigued by Nantucket’s role in the 1812 war. Nantucket was the only US territory to seek and receive a truce with Great Britain, formally withdrawing from the war in 1814. The islanders were motivated to pursue neutrality because of the importance of the whaling industry as the island’s livelihood and the British fleet’s threat to Nantucket ships. Furthermore, the US government not only offered little to no protection for the islanders but also alienated them by taxing them heavily. In order to understand the1814 treaty, I anticipate needing to research two other areas that I believe are connected: first, how did Nantucket’s experiences in the American Revolution inform and shape its course of action in 1812? During the Revolution, the island declared neutrality, probably because Nantucket whalers did not care which side was victorious, so long as the whaling industry survived the war. The whalers had appealed to other Quakers in England and won an amendment to the parliamentary motion to restrict whaling in New England. However, because the law was not enforced properly, the island fell into economic depression. British naval ships not only prevented Nantucket whalers from selling spermaceti oil to London, its biggest market, but also captured many of their ships. Any threat to the whaling industry would be a true moment of crisis because most of the island was directly or indirectly involved in whaling, and many of the islanders were not rich enough to relocate their families to the mainland. Certainly, there were members of the community in 1812 who would have remembered this treatment by the British and the economic depression.

The second issue that I anticipate addressing pertains to Nantucket’s sense of identity: how “American” did they feel? The circumstances under which the island declared neutrality makes the issue of patriotism more oblique because the “betrayal” of the US can be explained by the need for economic stability without addressing the issue of identity. In these early stages of nationhood, the island seems to have acted very differently from other whaling communities in the US. Socially and politically, Nantucket seemed to be more liberal than the mainland, especially in terms of the role of women and the political (but not always social) equality of African Americans. For example, racial segregation in schools was banned in the 1850s in a legal case that resembles Brown vs. Board of Education. As I have mentioned above, American policies also sometimes alienated the islanders. In the first two years of the 1812 war, Nantucket whaling was almost exclusively threatened not by the British fleet but by American policy, as Congress placed an embargo on trade with Britain; unfortunately, only days after Congress lifted the embargo, Britain enforced is own against New England. During the American Revolution, Nantucket toyed with the idea of becoming either an independent or a British territory. Did it face the same choices in 1812?

Primary Sources :

A Selection from the Nantucket Historical Society Manuscripts Collection:

Allen Family Papers, 1790-1930. Banks on Nantucket, 1804-1985. Barker Family Papers, 1720-1853. Benevolent Society’s Papers, 1814-1976. Carey Family Papers, 1809-1894. Citizens News Room Record. Charles Congdon Collection, 1671-1844. Clapp Family Papers, 1804-1896. Margaret Coffin Papers/Small Collection, 1761-1913. Mary M Coffin Collection, 1806-1865. William Coffin Letter Book, 1811-1833. Coleman Family Papers, 1729-1873. Crosby Family Papers. 1812-1893. Ewer Family Papers, 1813-1875. Fish Family Papers, 1708-1916. Paddock Family Papers, 1755-1853, Phebe Coffin Hanaford Papers, 1848-1929. Jones Family Papers, 1817-1868. Joy Family Papers, 1806-1880. Keziah Coffin Fanning Papers, 1775-1812. Macy Family Papers/ Cloyes Collection, 1812-1869. Myrick Family Papers, 1796-1863. Nantucket Censuses Collection, 1796-1900. Nantucket Monthly Meeting of Friends’ Papers, 1664-1889. Nantucket Monthly Meeting of Friends’ Records, 1672-1944. Ray Family Papers, 1776-1844. Starbuck Family Papers, 1662-1973. Worth Family Papers, 1743-1912. Henry Barnard Worth Collection, 1641-1905.

(I’ve only gone through half of the list of available manuscripts, so I expect that there should be a lot more sources of interest from the Nantucket Historical Society collection. Information about Nantucket Historical Society archives found on www.nha.org)

Annals of Congress, 13th Congress, 2d session. Hutchinson, Thomas. History of Massachusetts, Vol. II, Boston: Thomas & Andrews, 1767. Journal of Samuel Swain, 1813-1837. “Keziah Coffin Fanning’s Diary,” Historical Nantucket 6 (July 1958). Macy, Obed. The History of Nantucket (New York: Research Reprints, 1970 [1835]). Napier, Henry Edward. New England Blockaded in 1814: The Journal of Henry Edward Napier, Lieutenant in H.M.S ‘Nymphe,’ ed. Walter Muir Whitehill. Salem, MA: Peabody Museum, 1939. “Notes on Nantucket. August 1st 1807,” Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society 3 (1815). Scoresby, William. History and Description of the Northern Whale Fisheries, Vol. II. Edinburgh, 1820.

Secondary :

Anderson, Florence Bennet. Through the Hawse-Hole: The True Story of a Nantucket Whaling Captain. New York: Macmillan Co., 1932. Byers, Edward. The Nation of Nantucket: Society and Politics in an Early American Commercial Center, 1660-1820. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1987. Graham, Gerald S. “The Migrations of the Nantucket Whale Fishery: An Episode in British Colonial Policy.” The New England Quarterly 8, no. 2 (Jun. 1935):179-202. Davis, Ralph. The Rise of the English Shipping Industry in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. London: David & Charles, 1972. Hegarty, Reginald B. Returns of Whaling Vessels Sailing from American Ports: A Continuation of Alexander Starbuck’s “History of the American Whale Fishery” 1876-1928. New Bedford, MA: Old Dartmouth Historical Society and Whaling Museum, 1959. Hickey, Donald R. “American Trade Restrictions during the War of 1812.” Journal of American History 68, no. 3 (Dec. 1981): 517-538. Hohman, Elmo Paul. The American Whaleman: A Study of the Life and Labor in the American Whaling Industry. New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1928. Horsman, Reginald. “Nantucket’s Peace Treaty with England in 1814.” New England Quarterly 54, no. 2 (Jun. 1981): 180-198. Horsman, Reginald. The War of 1812. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969. Johnson, Robert. “Black-White Relations on Nantucket.” Historical Nantucket (Spring 2002). Taken from www.nha.org. Kugler, Richard C. “The Whale Oil Trade, 1750-1775,” Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1980. Main, Jackson Turner. The Social Structure of Revolutionary America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965. McDevitt, Joseph L. The House of Rotch: Whaling Merchants of Massachusetts, 1734-1828. New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1986. Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1979. Tower, Walter. A History of an American Whalefishery, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1907. Starbuck, Alexander. History of Nantucket, Boston: C. E. Goodspeed Co.,1924. ______. History of the American Whale Fishery from Its Earliest Inception to the Year 1876. Repr., 2 vols., with preface by Stuart C. Sherman. New York: Argosy Antiquarian, 1964. Vickers, Daniel Frederick. “Maritime Labor in Colonial Massachusetts: A Case Study of the Essex County Cod Fishery and the Whaling Industry of Nantucket, 1630-1775.” Ph.D. Thesis, Princeton University, 1981.

Letters Home: Records of the Experiences of Common Soldiers in the American Civil War

The idea for my honors thesis project is inspired by my work last summer in the Chapin Library of Rare Books at Williams. I spent the summer reading and organizing the library’s collection of Civil War soldiers’ letters—a group of about one thousand letters written by men in army camps to the loved ones they left behind at home. Besides a cursory chronological arrangement, no one before me had touched these letters since the library acquired them. For me they represented a vast untapped historical resource—they were sitting in a closet waiting to be discovered, and I was the first to explore their possibilities. I found myself completely absorbed, squinting at line after line of cramped, faded script and imagining the words flowing haltingly from the authors’ pens as they crouched by the light of a sputtering campfire, the booming of cannon fire echoing in the distance. It fascinated me how these young men portrayed their experiences to family members back home—reassuring them of their safety and expressing enthusiasm for their causes while also betraying paralyzing fear and devastating homesickness. In one particularly memorable series of letters a Union soldier continued to write home to his wife from the battlefield during a siege of a Confederate fort, knowing that no mail was running and suspecting that the days he spent crouching under fire in the brush of a Louisiana forest would be his last. But somehow his letters did get through, and the final letter in the sequence told of his harrowing escape to a field hospital, giving me the hope that he and his wife were reunited soon afterwards.

The words of letters like these haunted me after I left work everyday, and stayed with me even after I left Williams for the year. As I started thinking about my plans for my honors thesis, I knew that I wanted to work closely with the letters in the Chapin collection. In my thesis, I plan to explore the average soldier’s experience of the war, using Union and Confederate sources in the form of the letters soldiers sent home to their families and friends. The Chapin Library’s collection is mainly made up of Union letters, so the Union side will be heavily based upon that resource. For the upcoming summer, I have been granted a summer research fellowship from Williams. My plan for this project is to gather resources from the Confederate side, visiting facilities in Virginia that hold extensive collections of Confederate letters. I am deeply interested in letting the authors of the letters speak for themselves so I will be comparing and contrasting specific experiences related by specific soldiers in relation to broader questions such as what reasons Union and Confederate soldiers gave for fighting, whether the views they express in their letters aligned with the professed views of their respective causes, what they knew—if anything—about these causes, and what they thought of one another. Perhaps most of all I would like to use these primary documents to emphasize how the soldiers on opposing sides were alike—how they commonly identified with certain ‘American’ values and ambitions, and how their views on the War were shaped significantly by the coincidence of which side of the divided country they happened to be born on.

I believe letters like these offer historians an invaluable means for stepping inside the minds of the actors who participated in historical events. And the particular set of letters I will examine in my project is important because it does not tell the ‘great man’ version of the Civil War, governed by figures like Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee. Instead, it gives us a broader sense of the common man’s—in this case the common soldier’s—experiences of events that fundamentally shaped the American past. This is a version of the past that is often inaccessible to us, so it is important for historians to take advantage of resources like those housed in the Chapin Library. It is impossible for me to encompass all the perspectives and experiences offered by surviving Civil War letters, which is why I have chosen to focus my research closely on the Chapin collection, which is manageably sized and within convenient proximity to me for research during the academic year. After working with those letters for several months, I feel that I have a general sense of what they have to offer—a representative sample of the experiences of the common soldier in the war. In my research in the South this summer, I plan to supplement the Chapin collection with more Confederate examples. I also plan to draw inspiration from secondary sources, a small collection of which I have listed below. Many scholars have worked from Civil War soldier’s letters in the past, and they have even infiltrated popular culture to a considerable extent—most famously through Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary. These authors will help me to get a sense of wider patterns in the experiences of soldiers, but I will rely upon my reading of primary sources to draw out specific examples.

The most exciting thing about my proposed thesis for me is that I really do not know what I will find or where my research will take me. I suspect that there are an inexhaustible number of topics that may be drawn out from Civil War soldiers’ letters, and I am confident I will find many things in my research that will inspire me. I am deeply committed to approaching history through contact with authentic documents and artifacts, and I look forward to the opportunity to do this over the course my project next year.

Preliminary Bibliography :

Primary sources: I will rely heavily upon the collection of approximately one thousand Civil War letters in the collection of the Chapin Library of Rare Books at Williams for the Union perspective. For the Confederate point of view, I will use collections of letters held by the Virginia Historical Society, the Museum of the Confederacy, and the Library of Virginia, all in Richmond, as well as the library of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. There are also collections of letters accessible online, in particular The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries at http://solomon.cwld.alexanderstreet.com/.

Secondary sources :

Barton, Michael, and Larry M. Logue, eds. The Civil War Soldier: A Historical Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2002. Manning, Chandra. What This Cruel War Was Over. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. McPherson, James M. The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. ______. For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. ______. What they Fought For, 1861-1865, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994. ______, ed. The Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. ______ and William J. Cooper, Jr., eds. Writing the Civil War: The Quest to Understand. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998. Mitchell, Reid. Civil War Soldiers, New York: Viking, 1988. ______. The Vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Rosenblatt, Emil & Ruth, eds. Hard Marching Every Day: The Civil War Letters of Private Wilbur Fisk, 1861-1865, Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992. Sheehan-Dean, Aaron. The View From the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers, Wiley, Bell I. The Life of Billy Yank. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008. ______. The Life of Johnny Reb, the Common Soldier of the Confederacy. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1943. ______. The Plain People of the Confederacy. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000.

Writing for Stalin: American Journalists in the USSR, 1928-1941

“There is no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be.” So wrote the Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times, Walter Duranty, on November 15, 1931. By the end of 1933, between six and eight million Soviet citizens, at least half of them Ukrainians, had perished in the wake of consecutive failed harvests and official repression, in one of the worst man-made famines in history. Duranty won his Pulitzer Prize a year before the end of the famine. Duranty was not alone in his whitewashing of the Soviet Union in general and Stalinist policy in particular. Journalists from all over the world writing from the USSR depicted a land of noble struggle, where the working class, guided by leader and Party, were forging a utopia free from the injustice and squalor of capitalism. Why did so many Western visitors to the USSR allow themselves to become mouthpieces for the Soviet regime, with evidence of political repression and hideous suffering all around them, while only a few observers spoke out against the communist regime? What was the appeal of Stalinism in this age of the great crisis of capitalism? The 1930s were a time of uncertainty for liberal democracy, with the Great Depression causing misery across the world and calling into question the old liberal creeds of free market capitalism, while democracy itself was under siege from totalitarianisms of the left and right. To attempt to encompass this immense crisis in an entire book, let alone a thesis, would be a daunting task. Instead, I propose to probe this crisis through the microcosm of the men and women who visited the Soviet Union hoping to find a workers’ utopia. Many Westerners came to the USSR at the invitation of the regime, as journalists, technical experts, and travel writers who left behind an impressive body of news reports, diaries, letters, and memoirs. My thesis project will examine a particular subset of these visitors—the American journalists writing for US papers like The Nation, Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times, or English-language publications in the USSR like The Moscow News. The time frame discussed will open with the launch of the first Five Year Plan in 1928, and conclude with the entry of both the Soviet Union and the United States into the Second World War in 1941. I will further focus my project on the coverage of two particular events: the much-denied famine taking place in the Ukraine, and Stalin’s Purge-era show trials, where many observers wrote either that those on trial really were saboteurs and agents of foreign powers, or that their guilt or innocence was of little consequence in the grand historical drama that was unfolding. I choose these two events because they represent indictments of the Soviet system’s claim to legitimacy—its ability to feed all its people, and its claim to be a truly fair society. The gymnastics of fact and logic undertaken by the regime’s apologists on these points are thus of particular significance.

So far, the question of what it was about most journalists visiting the USSR in this period, and what it was about Soviet communism, that made most reporters toe the Party line has not been addressed in particularly great depth. Today, those who favored the regime, like Walter Duranty, Maurice Hindus, and Anna Louise Strong, tend to be dismissed as ideological hacks, either willfully ignorant or purposely lying in the service of socialism. Those who see through the regime’s cloud of deception are by contrast heroic truth-tellers. A certain amount of work has been done on official Soviet efforts to win over liberal-minded Westerners in this period, and the Duranty Pulitzer Prize controversy has generated a number of articles and books in recent years, most notably S.J. Taylor’s Stalin’s Apologist. However, the historiography leaves open a number of questions. Were the journalists reluctant to speak against the regime because they could lose their access to the leadership, because their families might be targeted (many married in Russia), or similar, practical causes? To what extent did the practical intersect with the ideological as reporters sympathized with the official ideology and goals of the regime, and were prepared to forgive a little gangsterism on the part of the leadership if it would bring about a genuinely fair and equal society? As Duranty put it in his article of May 14th, 1933, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.” Was there something about the generally well-meaning liberalism of the American journalists that led them in droves to whitewash the crimes of Stalinism in service of some genuinely laudable social projects like universal literacy and the welfare state, as well as a powerful vision of a society that could come to be? Moreover, how were these journalists’ points of view informed by the society that produced them? What, if any, were the differences in the attitudes of those who were foreign-born, like Duranty and Hindus, and those like Strong who were natural-born citizens? To what extent did the reporters’ experience of Depression-era America, with all its hunger and inequality, influence their perception of the Soviet Union, which claimed to eliminate all such evils of capitalism?

In seeking an explanation of why so many American reporters upheld the Stalinist line in this period, I plan to explore three distinct sets of sources. First, I will examine the actual newspaper reports produced by these journalists. Americans reporting from Moscow were well aware that they were virtually the only source of information about events inside the USSR available to Americans, and their articles naturally give a great deal of insight into how they hoped to explain the Soviet system to the American public. Next I will consider more private sources like the reporters’ diaries and letters, which may shed light on the internal thoughts, goals, motivations, and reservations of the journalists, and include thoughts that were left out of their news articles or later memoirs. Finally, I will consider the memoirs that many journalists wrote during or directly after this period about their experiences in the USSR. The memoirs that I have read so far are extremely rich sources, raising a number of important questions of methodology. How far can we trust these reporters, who often wrote several years after the events they witnessed? Were the memoirs published before or after the Soviet Union had become engaged in the battle against fascism, either indirectly in Spain, or directly after 1941? Are these memoirs little more than cases of special pleading by journalists hoping to prop up both the great idea of communism and their own reputations? The memoirs by those reporters like Eugene Lyons who defied the safe consensus of their colleagues and wrote against Stalinism (often at the price of their careers) present a fascinating set of outliers. Can we trust such former sympathizers to report the truth as they saw it, or do conversions from fellow traveler to anticommunist attack dog represent swings between extremes of endorsement and repulsion, implying unreliability? These sources, both the ones I encountered and wrote about in my tutorial last term with Robert Service, as well as those I have come across since, will constitute a very rich base for my research.

Using this source material, I am seeking to tie together the grand political and ideological debates of the 1930s and the personal lives of the journalists in question to explain why so many of these men and women embraced Stalinism, while a few wrote furious condemnations of the Soviet system. This project will in many ways be an exploration of the crisis of capitalism and seeming rise of socialism in microcosm, driven by the particular nuances and intricacies of my particular material. In 2010, it seems all too obvious to us that Stalinism was a nightmare for millions of Soviet citizens, but eighty years ago, it was still very much an open question whether the future belonged to capitalism or communism. Those who made excuses for Stalinism sometimes did so for the best of reasons. However, that so many people could be so wrong about Stalinism demands an explanation.

Dismal Scientists, Diplomats, and Spooks: Bissell, Milliken, and Rostow and Their Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy

As the current global economic crisis shakes countries around the world, its effects resonate beyond the realms of financial regulators, central banks, and finance ministries. This crisis has created a number of foreign policy challenges for the United States government, and Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair recently declared to the Senate intelligence committee, “The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications.” Blair, however, is not the first representative of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, or even the foreign policy-making establishment of the country as a whole, to advocate for incorporating economics into the conduct of U.S. foreign relations.

Richard Bissell, Max Milliken, and Walt Rostow share a number of similarities; all three, born in the beginning of the twentieth century, graduated from Yale University, became economics professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and later worked as researchers at a number of the same think tanks. More remarkably, all three of these men wandered from academia and into influential roles in the foreign policy-making establishment of the U.S. government during the early Cold War. Between them, these former economists developed strong ties to the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, and the White House during the formative years of the United States’ as a global hegemon.

This commonality opens a number of interesting questions. What motivated their decisions to become economists and then to transition from academics to Cold Warriors? Was their overlap coincidental or does some common thread or societal trend connect their journeys? And, most important and relevant to questions at hand today, what role did these social scientists see for economic theory and analysis in the planning and practice of foreign policy? I plan to explore how world events shaped the career decisions and ideologies of these men, and, in turn, what effect their ideas and contributions had on the development of U.S. foreign policy.

I expect to mainly explore their ideas on economic intelligence, especially with regard to Milliken and Bissell, who both spent significant periods in the CIA, and modernization theory, for which both Rostow and Milliken served as strong advocates to the White House and State Department. With current debates in the U.S. on rebuilding our economic intelligence capacities, correctly using foreign aid, and coping with the current financial crises, the insights gleaned from these former scholars and Cold Warriors could shed light on contemporary issues.

As sources for my investigation, I plan on utilizing the papers of Max Milliken and Walt Rostow, which are both available at the John F. Kennedy Library. Bissell’s memoir and several oral interviews in which he participated are also publicly available. Furthermore, several working papers, which these men produced as officials of the U.S. government and as researchers at numerous think tanks, are known to exist. And, finally, I plan to utilize the rich existing scholarship on modernization theory and its role in U.S. foreign policy.


Central Intelligence Agency On-line Library. Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room. Personal Papers of Max Millikan (1913-1969), John F. Kennedy Library. Walt W. Rostow (#8.24), John F. Kennedy Library. Wilson, Theodore A. and Richard D. McKinzie. “Oral History Interview with Richard M. Bissell, Jr.” Harry S. Truman Library. Works by all three at various think tanks, including one collaboration between Bissell and Milliken at the Center for International Studies (CENIS). Bissell, Jr., Richard M. Reflections of a Cold Warrior: From Yalta to the Bay of Pigs. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. Fialka, John J. War by Other Means: Economic Espionage in America. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1999. Latham, Michael. Modernization as Ideology. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. Light, Jennifer S. From Warfare to Welfare. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. Pearce, Kimber Charles. Rostow, Kennedy, and the Rhetoric of Foreign Aid. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2001.

Media Reflections of Western Public Opinion in the Suez Crisis

In the years following the Second World War, the global balance of power shifted significantly; following conflict amongst the traditional Great Powers, a bipolar power struggle emerged between the United States and the Soviet Union. The military and financial costs of the Second World War made it extremely difficult for European powers to hold their colonial empires, the loss of which compounded their economic downfall and ensured their decline as world powers. These material conditions were certainly a major factor in determining the new balance of power, as was the relative strength of the U.S.’s economic position, but less quantifiable factors were also importantly at play, namely the ability of each of the new and old powers to reconceptualize its role in the world and adapt its attitudes toward other nations accordingly. As decolonization occurred and Cold War conflicts began to arise across the globe, the Cold War powers and the traditional Great Powers were facing novel foreign policy challenges, mostly in the vein of trying to establish influence overseas when using force to do so was no longer feasible or morally acceptable. Thus each nation contending for global influence was forced to reassess its identity as a player on the world stage. Government officials developing policy carried out this reassessment as a conscious process, but it also occurred spontaneously within national populations responding to the obvious shifts in global power dynamics, begging the question: how well did government reconceptions of identity reflect public attitudes in the early Cold War era? The emergence of many new nations and nationalisms in the postwar world created ample cases which exemplify how modern national self-perceptions developed on different levels and how that led to the consolidation of a new world order. My thesis will focus on the 1956 Suez Crisis, due to its location in the strategically important and materially rich Middle East, which resulted in the involvement of many countries, and within that conflict, on the Western powers involved, for whom government was supposedly representative- England, France, and the United States.

Despite historiographical debates about precipitating and intermediate causes, the Suez Crisis of 1956 can be traced at least in part to the joint U.S.-British decision to discontinue their planned funding for the Egyptian government’s Aswan High Dam project, leaving the Egyptians in need of ready money, which served to justify Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal. The proposed Aswan High Dam project was exemplary of the new state of relations between Egypt and the western powers following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. The new Egyptian leadership was anti-colonial, but not opposed to productive relations with the Western world. Thus, it hoped cooperative projects like the construction of the Aswan High Dam could usher in a new type of relationship between Egypt and the West. For Britain, this would mean relations based on voluntary economic cooperation rather than exploitation by force, while for the U.S. the change of policy consisted not in promoting an anti-colonial position but in doing so quite actively, as opposed to its former stance of relative isolationism. Britain and the U.S. tried to advance anti-colonial economic relations as per Egyptian requirements in order to maintain and create, respectively, a presence in the region, which was important in order to protect financial interests in the Middle East that were highly dependent on access to the Suez Canal, and to keep the Soviets from establishing rival influence there.

However, when the U.S. and Britain ultimately deemed the Aswan High Dam project inopportune and Nasser nationalized the canal in the summer of 1956, the ensuing Suez Crisis featured the British, influenced by the French, playing a traditional colonial imperialist role, while the U.S. took on a novel modern role, acting as an international arbitrator in pursuit of its own Cold War related interests. That Britain aligned with France rather than U.S. during the Suez Crisis is not entirely surprising given each nation’s recent history in international relations; careful study has reflected the extent to which French and British politicians were misguided in their political calculations by thought processes that were still largely driven by outmoded colonial considerations. There is also debate about the extent to which they based their policies on false assumptions about the U.S. position. The leaders involved in the Suez Crisis based their decisions about how best to serve their material interests without losing political capital not only on analysis of other nations’ official positions but also on their reading of public opinion at the time. No Western government wanted to act against national will and lose popularity with its constituents over Suez. It is therefore natural to wonder to what degree the western leadership’s gauge of popular thought was skewed by historicism, or conversely, how closely public attitudes in Britain, France, and the U.S. towards the developing crisis in the Middle East actually tended to match official ones in judging what action each nation should take.

For my thesis, I would like to examine this question: to what extent were policy-influencing perceptions of public opinion about the Suez Crisis in Britain, France, and the U.S. accurate? To fill out the high command side of the picture I would use mostly secondary sources, and when necessary the primary documents they are based upon (such as sources available in the U.S. National Archives, British Public Records Office, and French Foreign Ministry Archives), focusing my original research on French, British, and U.S. newspaper and perhaps radio coverage as indicative of trends within the field of public opinion in each country. To manage the scope of this study, I intend to concentrate on the two most publicly controversial time periods within the months of the Suez Crisis, the week after the canal was nationalized on July 26, 1956 (up to and including August 2) and the week after Israel invaded Egypt on October 29, 1956 (up to and including November 6). By analyzing the straight news coverage of, and the range of editorial responses to, the decision taken by Nasser to nationalize the canal, the decision of Israel to invade Sinai, and the subsequent statements and actions taken by France, Britain, and the U.S., I hope to determine the tenor of each national discourse about the crisis, and to place all three within a comparative framework in order to determine the relative degree to which elite and mass perceptions corresponded over the appropriate role for each Western power to play in Suez. The degree to which the press (on a national and local level, across the full spectrum of political stances), condoned and encouraged official decisions taken during the Suez Crisis will hopefully illuminate how well the political development of the crisis matched mainstream contemporary attitudes not merely about the situation, but about where the world powers now stood as arbiters of international relations and, thereby, how far long-serving leaders with deeply rooted beliefs about the role of their nations in the world were able to conform to the demands of a world in which the ideological as well as material environment had recently undergone major changes.

Preliminary Reading List :

Relevant Primary Sources to be located through:

The Times online archives, at http://archive.timesonline.co.uk/tol/archive/ British Library Integrated Catalogue: Newspapers, at http://catalogue.bl.uk ProQuest Historical Newspapers (US) including The New York Times, at http://proquest.umi.com French sources through Gallica, the French National Library’s Digital Browser, at http://gallica.bnf.fr/?&lang=FR

Azar, Edward E. “Conflict Escalation and Conflict Reduction in an International Crisis: Suez, 1956.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 16 (1972): 183-201. Cockett, R. “The Observer and the Suez Crisis.” Contemporary British History 5, no.1 (Summer 1991): 9-31. Gorst, Anthony, and Lewis Johnman. The Suez Crisis. London: Routledge, 1997. Louis, Wm. Roger, and Roger Owen. Suez 1956: The Crisis and its Consequences. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989. Lucas, W. Scott. Divided We Stand: Britain, the United States and the Suez Crisis. Sevenoaks: Hodder and Stoughton, 1991. Negrine, Ralph. “The Press and the Suez Crisis: A Myth Re-Examined.” Historical Journal 25, no. 4 (1982): 975-983. Oneal, John R., Brad Lian, and James H. Joyner, Jr. “Are the American People ‘Pretty Prudent’? Public Responses to U.S. Uses of Force, 1950-1988.” International Studies Quarterly 40, no. 2 (Jun., 1996): 261-279. Owen, Jean. “The Polls and Newspaper Appraisal of the Suez Crisis.” Public Opinion Quarterly 21 (1957): 350-354. Parmentier, Guillaume. “The British Press in the Suez Crisis.” Historical Journal 23, no. 2 (1980): 435-448. Rawnsley, G. D. “Cold War Radio in Crisis: the BBC Overseas Services, the Suez Crisis and the 1956 Hungarian Uprising.” Historical Journal of Radio and Television 16, no.2 (Jun., 1996): 197-219. ______. “Overt and Covert: The Voice of Britain and Black Radio Broadcasting in the Suez crisis, 1956.” Intelligence and National Security 11, no. 3 (July, 1996): 497-522. Shaw, Tony. Eden, Suez and the Mass Media: Propaganda and Persuasion During the Suez Crisis. London: Tauris, 1996.

The Implications, Effects, and Uses of Media in the Emmett Till Lynching

I propose to write an Honors Thesis in History during the xxxx academic year. After researching topics that interest me and consulting with Professor xxxx, I have developed a project that analyzes the uses and effects of media during the Civil Rights Movement. More specifically, my project will investigate how children, and the American media’s depiction of them, greatly impacted the American consciousness of the Civil Rights Movement. Children were a part of some of the most widely televised and reported Civil Rights events such as the lynching of Emmett Till, the use of water cannons and police dogs on children, the deaths of four black girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, the desegregation of Central High School, and the Selma marches where children were trampled by police horses.

Taking on a project with all these events would be beyond the scope of a senior thesis, so Professor Long and I have narrowed our focus to the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955. To briefly summarize this event, after allegedly whistling at a white woman, fourteen year old Emmett Till was shot and his body thrown in the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi by a group of white men. Emmett’s great-uncle identified two of these men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, as those who had forced Emmett into their car the night he was killed. The trial lasted a mere five days, and the all-white jury acquitted both men of Emmett’s death in about an hour.

Media coverage served very important roles in Emmett Till’s death. In The Chicago Defender, Emmett’s hometown newspaper, the first articles on Emmett Till include pictures of his inconsolable mother being held upright by family members in front of Emmett’s casket. The newspaper articles focusing on Emmett also refer to the recent lynchings of black voting rights activists and the recent Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. In effect, these articles attached a name, face, and picture to individuals affected by racist violence in the South while incorporating and increasing the visibility of large-scale race issues. Television crews broadcast Emmett’s mutilated face at his open-casket funeral, sparking outrage and horror throughout the country. Viewing these images in white America’s living room made the Jim Crow South more visible across white America. Media coverage of Emmett’s death further motivated black America to take a stand against white supremacy, all the more so after both white men confessed to Emmett’s murder in Look Magazine. This event raises myriad questions regarding race relations in the South, but I want to focus my efforts on a few that interest me most. I want to explore the reasons, implications, and effects of Emmett’s mother’s decision to display Emmett’s mutilated and decomposed face at his open-casket funeral. This investigation leads to the history, reasons, and importance of open-casket funerals in the African-American community. My project will also analyze the response of the white community in the immediate area where Emmett was murdered. His murder has been well documented in television coverage, newspaper articles, and magazine interviews; however, very little research has examined the media’s impact on the regional, national, and international levels. I want to examine how these communities responded to Emmett’s death and how the white South was viewed as a result of different reactions according to race and location.

Furthermore, Emmett Till’s murder raises questions regarding white masculinity and femininity and their relationship to black masculinity. Another aspect to this project may include how the image of Emmett Till has been remembered and reconstructed by the media more recently in the form of television series and movies. I seek to investigate these issues primarily through primary sources such as photographs, television coverage, newspaper articles, and interviews of individuals. Secondary resources, particularly in the field of media studies will be helpful to my project. Overall, my project will become part of a greater dialogue that explores the media’s perception of the white response to black life and culture in the Jim Crow South.

Since the summer after my sophomore year at Williams, I have laid the foundation for this project. My independent research through the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship has allowed me to develop my research skills, work closely with a professor, and read over a dozen seminal primary and secondary sources in the field of race relations in the United States. I have already written two research papers, (with a third on the way) about these books.

I am interested in writing an Honors Thesis in History for many reasons. Most importantly, I want the opportunity to immerse myself in a subject that greatly interests me while contributing to a larger body of academic work in the field. Writing a thesis is also important because it will allow me to dedicate an extended period of time to a very specific subject. I enjoy historical research and want the satisfaction of knowing that I thoroughly understand the intricacies and nuances of a particular topic, even though it may be a small fraction of a larger whole. Additionally, I want to complete a large historical project to show history graduate schools of my seriousness in pursuing a Ph.D. in American History.

Cromwell Lives while Mason Stalks: Irish Nationalism and Historical Memory during the Troubles

In my proposed thesis I want to ask how significant perceptions of Irish history were in perpetuating the Troubles. Often, the pieces of history that get retold vindicate the present. I believe that perceptions of Irish history are significant in perpetuating the conflict in Northern Ireland because both Unionists and Nationalists created their own versions of history which they use to give legitimacy to their political visions for the future. Within the communities, different interest groups manipulate and re-manipulate history and each separate reading of the past justifies the present actions of its perpetuators. In this sense, the issue of history is an issue of legitimacy, and legitimacy is directly linked to political power. In their book The Northern Ireland Conflict: Consociational Engagements, John McGarry and Brendan O’Leary write that Northern Ireland is “a site of competing analogies and norms. Neither of its communities… have been able to achieve hegemonic legitimacy. This is one reason why the conflict continues.” It’s a trope that history is written by the winners, and in Northern Ireland, both sides are trying to write themselves as winners. Far from just an intellectual debate, the separate readings of history are crafted to justify political action, perpetuating the conflict.

Partition is a classic example of how Unionists and Nationalists use history to justify their current political positions. The Unionists perception of history accentuates the continuity of partition as a social force. Historian A.T.Q. Stewart uses the election of 1886 to emphasize the innate nature of partition. In it, seventeen out of thirty-three Ulster members of parliament elected were for Home Rule. That emphasized to Protestants that they were characteristically different from the rest of the inhabitants of Ireland. Stewart writes, “from 1886 to 1920, Ulster Protestants were a minority under threat.” By stressing the deep, cultural roots of partition, Stewart justifies it as a logical action and just solution that was a long time coming.

In contrast, the general Nationalist reading of the same period of history frames partition as “the arbitrary division of the country”, to quote the New Ireland Forum Report. “In the period immediately after 1920,” the Report continues, “many saw partition as transitory.” Nationalists tend to blame British imperialism or other exogenous factors as the cause of the conflict. In this way, they are able to represent partition an illegitimate action imposed on Ireland. The emphasis on exogenous factors allows Nationalists to imply that partition is the problem. Generally, they argue that by removing it and restoring the territorial integrity of Ireland, the conflict would be solved.

Both Unionists and Nationalists construct elaborate historical myths that legitimate their claim to the territory of Northern Ireland. Andy Tyrie, the supreme commander of the Ulster Defense Association in the early 1980s, broke from the traditional Unionist position of supporting union with Great Britain and advocated for an independent Ulster in the early 1980s. He created historical justification for his position by arguing that the areas of Scotland where Ulster Protestants came from were originally colonized by tribesmen from Ulster in the early middle ages—so in a sense Ulster Protestants were just returning to their ancestral homeland when they re-colonized in the seventeenth century. “Many people are convinced that the Protestants arrived here in 1607,” he said. “But their ancestors arrived here long before that. The Ulster people have always been here.”

Tyrie’s myth about Ulster was designed to compete with the traditionally Republican version of history of centuries of Irish resistance to British imperial rule. The Nationalist myth, as summarized by Padraig O’Malley, begins with the invasion of Ireland by England 800 years ago. In it, O’Malley writes, “history is linear. Thus, Ireland was subdued by superior arms and resources, but not beaten; the struggle to re-establish a free and united Ireland was carried forward from generation to generation.” The H-Block Song, written for the Republican prisoners in the maze perpetuates this view of events. The song ends with the question, “Does Britain need a thousand years of protest, riot, death, and tears?” emphasizing the long history of Irish oppression at the hands of British invaders. Lines like “Black Cromwell lives while Mason stalks” create a sense of the historical continuity of the fight against British imperialism, linking Oliver Cromwell with Roy Mason, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the H-Block song was written in 1976.

Both of these “ancestral tribe” myths are designed to support current claims to the island. Neither one is particularly valid historically, but the point is not historical accuracy. These myths are designed to create legitimacy for current political claims. Thus, history has become a tool allowing each side to perpetuate and justify their view of the conflict.

In my proposed thesis I’d ask the significance of perceptions of Irish history in perpetuating the Troubles. Much of the scholarship that I’ve read concentrates on specific historical occurrences and doesn’t directly investigate Irish historiography, or the link between historical memory and political action. I’d begin with a definition and explanation of the Nationalist myth of unbroken struggle. I’d draw on the writings of Irish Nationalists such as Padraig Pearse, as well as later scholarship by historians such as Padraig O’Malley. I’d also study how this historical myth has been created and perpetuated both inside Ireland and also abroad. On the international front, I’d specifically focus on how Irish Nationalists draw historical analogies to oppressed-native minority/settler-oppressor conflicts such as comparing their situation to the struggle over apartheid in South Africa. I’d study memoirs and interviews, like Adrian Kerr’s book Perceptions: Cultures in Conflict, and scholarship, such as Adrian Guelke’s book on comparative politics, Northern Ireland: An International Perspective. I’d also draw on art and propaganda: music, street murals, accounts of parades, 1916 commemoration posters issued by Sinn Fein and other Republican groups, and films, such as the 1980 documentary The Patriot Game, which gives a Nationalist account of the Troubles.

The well-established historical myth of Nationalist struggle presupposes an almost inevitable pattern to history: “Ireland unfree will never be at peace.” Therefore, I’d next investigate how the Nationalist reading of Irish history has affected political events during the Troubles. I’d focus on two important historical occurrences, the 1974 Ulster Worker’s Council strike that brought down the Sunningdale power-sharing agreement and the 1981 Republican hunger strikes. According to the strike bulletins, the main reason the UWC wanted to stop Sunningdale was because of the provisions it made to involve the Irish Free State in Northern Ireland’s affairs, which it characterizes as “the main danger.” I’d investigate if this anti-Irish attitude was affected by the striker’s perceptions of Ulster history and the North’s relationship to the South.

With the hunger strikes, I’d research the connection between the strikers’ experiences and Irish history. I’d specifically ask if the hunger strikers appealed to historically Irish motifs of martyrdom in an attempt to gain political legitimacy for the Provisional IRA. My hunch is that the Nationalist movement consciously used history as a practical tool in order to get political status for their prisoners, but it would take further research to figure this out. Not Meekly Serve My Time, the remembrances of Republican H-Block prisoners and hunger strikers would be invaluable, as would the diaries of Bobby Sands and the writings of Gerry Adams, as well as the memoirs of SDLP party leader John Hume.

Through these two specific incidents, I’d study how perceptions of Irish history affected the politics of Northern Ireland during the 1970s and early 1980s and also investigate how Nationalists and Unionists used interpretations of history to generate political legitimacy.

Adams, Gerry. Selected Writings. Kerry: Brandon, 1994. Bew, Paul and Patterson, Henry. The British State and the Ulster Crisis. New York: Verso, 185. Patrick Bishop and Eamonn Mallie. The Provisional IRA. Aylesbury: Corgi Books, 1989. Campbell, Brian, Laurence McKeown, and Felim O’Hagan, ed. Not Meekly Serve My Time: The H Block Struggle 1976-1981. Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications, 1998. Farrell, Michael. Northern Ireland: The Orange State. London: Pluto Press Limited, 1976. Gallagher, AM. “Majority Minority Review 2: Employment, Unemployment and Religion in Northern Ireland.” CAIN Web Service, http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/csc/reports/mm210.htm. Guelke, Adrian. Northern Ireland: An International Perspective. New York : St. Martin’s Press, 1988. Hepburn, A.C., ed. The Conflict of Nationality in Modern Ireland. London: Edward Arnold Ltd., 1980. Hume, John. Personal views, Politics, Peace and Reconciliation in Ireland. Dublin: Town House, 1996 Kerr, Adrian, ed. Perceptions: Cultures in Conflict. Derry: Guildhall Press, 1996. McAllister, Ian. The Northern Ireland Social Democratic and Labor Party. London: Unwin Brothers Ltd., 1977. MacDonagh, Oliver. States of Mind. London: Pimlico, 1992. McGarry, John and Brendan O’Leary. Explaining Northern Ireland. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995. ______. The Northern Ireland Conflict: Consociational Engagements. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Mulchaly, Aogan. “Claims-Making and the Construction of Legitimacy: Press Coverage of the 1981 Hunger Strikes.” Social Problems 42, No. 4 (Nov. 1995): 467-499. “The New Ireland Forum Report,” CAIN Web Service, http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/ issues/politics/nifr.htm. O’Malley, Padriag. Biting at the Grave. Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1990. ______. The Uncivil Wars. Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1983. O’Neill, Terence. Ulster at the Crossroads. Faber and Faber: London, 1969. Rose, Richard. Governing without Consensus. London: Faber and Faber, 1971. Sands, Bobby. Writings from Prison. Cork: Mercier Press, 1998. Stewart, A.T.Q. The Narrow Ground: The Roots of the Conflict in Ulster. London: Faber and Faber, 1997. “Strike Bulletins of the Ulster Worker’s Council Strike, No 1.” CAIN Web Service. http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/uwc/uwc-pdfs/one.pdf. Sweeney, George. “Irish Hunger Strikes and the Cult of Self-Sacrifice.” Journal of Contemporary History 28, No. 3 (Jul. 1993): 421-437. Wichert, Sabine. Northern Ireland Since 1945. London: Longman, 1999.

‘My broken dreams of peace and socialism’: Youth propaganda, personality, and selfhood in the GDR, 1979-1989.

“I was a young citizen in a young nation, and it was my duty to advance the cause of socialism,” writes Jana Hensel in her memoir of childhood during East Germany’s final decade of socialism. The molding of youth and children like Hensel into healthy “socialist personalities” desirous of political stability and unity had been the object of the Socialist Unity Party’s (SED) most ardent ideological efforts ever since the foundation of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1949. By the 1980’s, however, when the GDR could no longer rely on brute force to secure the loyalty of its subjects, the very survival of the Communist East German regime had come to depend on the success of the socialist mentality building project. To urge the new generations of East Germans to develop personal qualities essential for the advancement of socialism, the SED mobilized all of its resources: the school system, youth organizations, mass events, and leisure time activities. Unlike the youth of the 1960’s, however, “Honecker’s children” turned out to be much more concerned with personal matters than with the fulfillment of their social and political obligations. Moreover, with the assimilation of new psychological models and concepts of individuality throughout the 1980’s, the anachronism and absurdity of SED’s personality building project became increasingly apparent.

In my Honors thesis, I plan to examine the manifold ways in which the ideological prescriptions disseminated by the SED during the 1980’s actually shaped the lived experience and affected the sense of selfhood of young members of East German society. I also wish to reflect on the lasting effects of GDR’s preoccupation with character building on the sense of identity of “Honecker’s children” twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. My work thus aims to complement current historical literature on the politics of the GDR’s youth project with a thorough investigation of the cultural, psychological, and sociological aspects of socialist character building in the GDR. To this end, I plan to relate my investigation of the ways in which the youth responded to new ideas about the socialist East German self to sociological and anthropological works on identity and selfhood, as well as to psychological theory on childhood and memory. By examining the ideas about selfhood lying at the very heart of East German youth policies and focusing on the ways in which the youth understood them and responded to them, I hope to challenge current understandings of the overarching roles of culture and ideology in postwar German history.

I will begin my research by examining official documents printed by the GDR Ministry of Education, to reveal how state-sanctioned ideas about selfhood were engendered and promoted by the East German school system throughout the 1980’s. I will then explore the inner workings of mass youth organizations such as the Free German Youth (FDJ) to trace the manifestation of these ideas in party-monitored extracurricular and leisure time activities. By investigating children’s letters to relatives, diaries, and anthologies of poems, I plan to shed light on the kinds of interpretive categories that children and youth were using in turn to make sense of their own experiences and evolving personalities. I will then examine memories of GDR’s personality building project in their natural context by conducting interviews with the protagonists of my research during my stay in Berlin and Jena this summer.

Among the secondary sources central to my research are the works of social historians such as Anna Saunders, Alan McDougall, John Rodden, and Alan Nothnagle, who have previously explored the dynamics of youth policy in the GDR and delineated the evolution of propaganda techniques employed by communist youth organizations and schools to communicate Marxist-Leninist values and ideology. Equally significant are the works of Alon Confino and Daphne Berdahl, which examine the consequences of the rigorous program of socialist patriotic education in the GDR on the sense of national and personal identity of the youth before and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. My research aims to respond to debates that have concerned not only German historians, but also scholars of international youth politics. Some of the questions I will be asking are: how much autonomy did the East German youth of the 1980’s have in shaping their sense of self, in what ways were they influenced by the personality models put forward by the SED, how did they conceive of themselves as historical subjects before and after the collapse of the East German regime, and what may explain their reactions to the personality building project?

Agee, Joel. 1981. Twelve years: an American boyhood in East Germany. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. Andresen, Sabine. 2006. Sozialistische Kindheitskonzepte: politische Einflüsse auf die Erziehung. München: Ernst Reinhardt. Annen, Niels, Björn Böhning, Kai Burmeister, and Sven Frye. 2007. 100 years of International Socialist Youth: struggle for peace and equality in the world. Internationale Politik (Vorwarts Buch (Berlin, Germany)). Berlin: Vorwärts Buch. Baehr, Vera-Maria. 1990. Wir denken erst seit Gorbatschow: Protokolle von Jugendlichen aus der DDR. Recklinghausen: G. Bitter. Berdahl, Daphne. 1999. Where the world ended: re-unification and identity in the German borderland. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press. Berdahl, Daphne. 2000. Altering states: ethnographies of transition in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press. Confino, Alon, and Peter Fritzsche. 2002. The work of memory: new directions in the study of German society and culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Confino, Alon. 2006. Germany as a culture of remembrance: promises and limits of writing history. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Franke, Klaus, and Gerhard Krause. 1976. Kommunisten und Jugend in der DDR. ABC des Marxismus-Leninismus. Berlin: Dietz Verlag. Freie Deutsche Jugend. 1987. Fragen und Antworten zum Programm der SED. Berlin: Dietz. Friedrich, Walter. 1975. Jugend, FDJ [i.e. Freie Deutsche Jugend], Gesellschaft: Beiträge zur sozialistischen Persönlichkeitsentwicklung junger Arbeiter und Studenten in der DDR. Berlin: Verlag Neues Leben. Fulbrook, Mary. 2005. The people’s state: East German society from Hitler to Honecker. New Haven: Yale University Press. Hellbeck, Jochen. 2006. Revolution on my mind: writing a diary under Stalin. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Hensel, Jana. 2004. After the Wall: confessions from an East German childhood and the life that came next. New York: Public Affairs. Intertext, Fremdsprachendienst der DDR. 1985. Free German youth, the GDR’s all-embracing youth organization. Berlin: Panorama DDR. Jahnke, Karl Heinz. 1986. Partei und Jugend: Dokumente marxistisch-leninistischer Jugendpolitik. Berlin: Dietz. Jarausch, Konrad Hugo. 1994. The rush to German unity. New York: Oxford University Press. Jarausch, Konrad Hugo. 1999. Dictatorship as experience: towards a socio-cultural history of the GDR. New York: Berghahn Books. Leiby, Richard A. 1999. The unification of Germany, 1989-1990. Greenwood Press “Guides to historic events of the twentieth century”. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. Leidecker, Gudrun, Dieter Kirchhöfer, and Peter Güttler. 1991. Ich weiss nicht, ob ich froh sein soll: Kinder erleben die Wende. Stuttgart: Metzler. Macleod, David I. 1983. Building character in the American boy: the Boy Scouts, YMCA, and their forerunners, 1870-1920. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Maier, Charles S. 1997. Dissolution: The crisis of Communism and the end of East Germany. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. McAdams, A. James. 1993. Germany divided: from the wall to reunification. Princeton studies in international history and politics. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. McDougall, Alan. 2004. Youth politics in East Germany: the Free German Youth Movement, 1946-1968. Oxford historical monographs. Oxford: Clarendon. Meier, Andreas. 1998. Jugendweihe–JugendFEIER: ein deutsches nostalgisches Fest vor und nach 1990. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag. Michalzik, Martin. 1994. An der Seite der Genossen–: offizielles Jugendbild und politische Sozialisation im SED-Staat : zum Scheitern der sozialistischen Erziehung in der DDR. Melle: Knoth. Mothes, Jörn. 1996. Beschädigte Seelen: DDR-Jugend und Staatssicherheit : mit 136 Dokumenten und einer Audi-CD mit Original-Tonunterlagen. Bremen: Edition Temmen. Nothnagle, Alan L. 1999. Building the East German myth: historical mythology and youth propaganda in the German Democratic Republic, 1945-1989. Social history, popular culture, and politics in Germany. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Pelka, Anna. 2008. Jugendmode und Politik in der DDR und in Polen: eine vergleichende Analyse 1968-1989. Osnabrück: Fibre. Pence, Katherine, and Paul Betts. 2008. Socialist modern: East German everyday culture and politics. Social history, popular culture, and politics in Germany. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Rodden, John. 2002. Repainting the little red schoolhouse: a history of Eastern German education, 1945-1995. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. Rodden, John. 2006. Textbook reds: schoolbooks, ideology, and Eastern German identity. University Park, Pa: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Rodden, John. 2008. The walls that remain: Eastern and Western Germans since reunification. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers. Saunders, Anna. 2007. Honecker’s children: youth and patriotism in East(ern) Germany, 1979-2002. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Schmemann, Serge. 2006. When the wall came down: the Berlin Wall and the fall of Soviet communism. Boston: Kingfisher. Schneider, Gisela. 1980. Jugendbrigaden, Bahnbrecher des Neuen. Berlin: Verlag Tribüne. Solms, Wilhelm. 1992. Begrenzt glücklich: Kindheit in der DDR. Marburg: Hitzeroth. Thomson-Wohlgemuth, Gaby. 2009. Translation under state control: books for young people in the German Democratic Republic. New York: Routledge. Turner, Henry Ashby. 1987. The two Germanies since 1945. New Haven: Yale University Press. Urban, Detlef, and Hans Willi Weinzen. 1984. Jugend ohne Bekenntnis?: 30 Jahre Konfirmation und Jugendweihe im anderen Deutschland 1954-1984. Berlin: Wichern-Verlag. Walter, Michael. 1997. Die Freie Deutsche Jugend: ihre Funktionen im politischen System der DDR. Freiburg im Breisgau: Arnold Bergstraesser Institut. Weyer, Jochen. 1974. Youth in the GDR: everyday life of young people under socialism. Berlin: Panorama DDR. Zahra, Tara. 2008. Kidnapped souls: national indifference and the battle for children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Zilch, Dorle. 1994. Millionen unter der blauen Fahne: die FDJ : Zahlen, Fakten, Tendenzen : Mitgliederbewegung und Strukturen in der FDJ-Mitgliedschaft von 1946 bis 1989 unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Funktionäre. Rostock: Norddeutscher Hochschulschriften Verlag.

How to Write a Research Proposal

Lindsay Kramer

Once you’re in college and really getting into  academic writing , you may not recognize all the kinds of assignments you’re asked to complete. You know what an essay is, and you know how to respond to readings—but when you hear your professor mention a research proposal or a literature review, your mind might do a double take. 

Don’t worry; we’ve got you. Boiled down to its core, a research proposal is simply a short piece of  writing that details exactly what you’ll be covering in a larger research project. You’ll likely be required to write one for your  thesis , and if you choose to continue in academia after earning your bachelor’s degree, you’ll be writing research proposals for your master’s thesis, your dissertation, and all other research you conduct. By then, you’ll be a research proposal pro. But for now, we’ll answer all your questions and help you confidently write your first one. 

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What is the goal of a research proposal?

In a research proposal, the goal is to present the author’s plan for the research they intend to conduct. In some cases, part of this goal is to secure funding for said research. In others, it’s to have the research approved by the author’s supervisor or department so they can move forward with it. In some cases, a research proposal is a required part of a graduate school application. In every one of these circumstances, research proposals follow the same structure.

In a research proposal, the author demonstrates how and why their research is relevant to their field. They demonstrate that the work is necessary to the following:

A research proposal also demonstrates that the author is capable of conducting this research and contributing to the current state of their field in a meaningful way. To do this, your research proposal needs to discuss your academic background and credentials as well as demonstrate that your proposed ideas have academic merit. 

But demonstrating your research’s validity and your personal capability to carry it out isn’t enough to get your research proposal approved. Your research proposal also has to cover these things:

If you’ve already read our post on literature reviews , you may be thinking that a research proposal sounds pretty similar. They’re more than just similar, though—a literature review is part of a research proposal. It’s the section that covers which sources you’re using, how you’re using them, and why they’re relevant. Think of a literature review as a mini-research proposal that fits into your larger, main proposal. 

How long should a research proposal be?

Generally, research proposals for bachelor’s and master’s theses are a few pages long. Research proposals for meatier projects, like Ph.D. dissertations and funding requests, are often longer and far more detailed. A research proposal’s goal is to clearly outline exactly what your research will entail and accomplish, so including the proposal’s word count or page count isn’t nearly as important as it is to ensure that all the necessary elements and content are present. 

Research proposal structure

A research proposal follows a fairly straightforward structure. In order to achieve the goals described in the previous section, nearly all research proposals include the following sections:


Your introduction achieves a few goals:

In a research proposal, an introduction can be a few paragraphs long. It should be concise, but don’t feel like you need to cram all of your information into one paragraph. 

In some cases, you need to include an abstract and/or a table of contents in your research proposal. These are included just before the introduction. 

Background significance

This is where you explain why your research is necessary and how it relates to established research in your field. Your work might complement existing research, strengthen it, or even challenge it—no matter how your work will “play with” other researchers’ work, you need to express it in detail in your research proposal.  

This is also the section where you clearly define the existing problems your research will address. By doing this, you’re explaining why your work is necessary—in other words, this is where you answer the reader’s “so what?” 

In your background significance section, you’ll also outline how you’ll conduct your research. If necessary, note which related questions and issues you won’t be covering in your research. 

Literature review

In your  literature review , you introduce all the sources you plan to use in your research. This includes landmark studies and their data, books, and scholarly articles. A literature review isn’t merely a list of sources (that’s what your bibliography is for); a literature review delves into the collection of sources you chose and explains how you’re using them in your research. 

Research design, methods, and schedule

Following your research review, you’ll discuss your research plans. In this section, make sure you cover these aspects:

Beyond a comprehensive look at your research itself, you’ll also need to include:

Suppositions and implications

Although you can’t know your research’s results until you’ve actually done the work, you should be going into the project with a clear idea of how your work will contribute to your field. This section is perhaps the most critical to your research proposal’s argument because it expresses exactly why your research is necessary. 

In this section, make sure you cover the following:

In other words, this section isn’t about stating the specific results you expect. Rather, it’s where you state how your findings will be valuable. 

This is where you wrap it all up. Your conclusion section, just like your conclusion paragraph for an essay , briefly summarizes your research proposal and reinforces your research’s stated purpose. 


Yes, you need to write a bibliography in addition to your literature review. Unlike your literature review, where you explained the relevance of the sources you chose and in some cases, challenged them, your bibliography simply lists your sources and their authors.

The way you write a citation depends on the style guide you’re using. The three most common style guides for academics are MLA , APA , and Chicago , and each has its own particular rules and requirements. Keep in mind that each formatting style has specific guidelines for citing just about any kind of source, including photos , websites , speeches , and YouTube videos .

Sometimes, a full bibliography is not needed. When this is the case, you can include a references list, which is simply a scaled-down list of all the sources you cited in your work. If you’re not sure which to write, ask your supervisor. 

Here’s a tip: Grammarly’s  Citation Generator  ensures your essays have flawless citations and no plagiarism. Try it for citing journal articles in MLA , APA , and Chicago  styles.

How to write a research proposal

Research proposals, like all other kinds of academic writing, are written in a formal, objective tone. Keep in mind that being concise is a key component of academic writing; formal does not mean flowery. 

Adhere to the structure outlined above. Your reader knows how a research proposal is supposed to read and expects it to fit this template. It’s crucial that you present your research proposal in a clear, logical way. Every question the reader has while reading your proposal should be answered by the final section. 

Editing and proofreading a research proposal

When you’re writing a research proposal, follow the same six-step writing process you follow with every other kind of writing you do. 

After you’ve got a first draft written, take some time to let it “cool off” before you start proofreading . By doing this, you’re making it easier for yourself to catch mistakes and gaps in your writing. 

Common mistakes to avoid when writing a research proposal

When you’re writing a research proposal, avoid these common pitfalls: 

Being too wordy

As we said earlier, formal does not mean flowery. In fact, you should aim to keep your writing as brief and to-the-point as possible. The more economically you can express your purpose and goal, the better.   

Failing to cite relevant sources

When you’re conducting research, you’re adding to the existing body of knowledge on the subject you’re covering. Your research proposal should reference one or more of the landmark research pieces in your field and connect your work to these works in some way. This doesn’t just communicate your work’s relevance—it also demonstrates your familiarity with the field. 

Focusing too much on minor issues

There are probably a lot of great reasons why your research is necessary. These reasons don’t all need to be in your research proposal. In fact, including too many questions and issues in your research proposal can detract from your central purpose, weakening the proposal. Save the minor issues for your research paper itself and cover only the major, key issues you aim to tackle in your proposal. 

Failing to make a strong argument for your research

This is perhaps the easiest way to undermine your proposal because it’s far more subjective than the others. A research proposal is, in essence, a piece of persuasive writing . That means that although you’re presenting your proposal in an objective, academic way, the goal is to get the reader to say “yes” to your work. 

This is true in every case, whether your reader is your supervisor, your department head, a graduate school admissions board, a private or government-backed funding provider, or the editor at a journal in which you’d like to publish your work. 

Polish your writing into a stellar proposal

When you’re asking for approval to conduct research—especially when there’s funding involved—you need to be nothing less than 100 percent confident in your proposal. If your research proposal has spelling or grammatical mistakes, an inconsistent or inappropriate tone, or even just awkward phrasing, those will undermine your credibility. 

Make sure your research proposal shines by using Grammarly to catch all of those issues. Even if you think you caught all of them while you were editing, it’s critical to double-check your work. Your research deserves the best proposal possible, and Grammarly can help you make that happen. 

research proposal in history example

An research proposal examples on history is a prosaic composition of a small volume and free composition, expressing individual impressions and thoughts on a specific occasion or issue and obviously not claiming a definitive or exhaustive interpretation of the subject.

Some signs of history research proposal:

The goal of an research proposal in history is to develop such skills as independent creative thinking and writing out your own thoughts.

Writing an research proposal is extremely useful, because it allows the author to learn to clearly and correctly formulate thoughts, structure information, use basic concepts, highlight causal relationships, illustrate experience with relevant examples, and substantiate his conclusions.

Examples List on History Research Proposal

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History Research Proposals Samples For Students

118 samples of this type

While studying in college, you will surely have to compose a bunch of Research Proposals on History. Lucky you if linking words together and organizing them into meaningful content comes easy to you; if it's not the case, you can save the day by finding a previously written History Research Proposal example and using it as a model to follow.

This is when you will definitely find WowEssays' free samples catalog extremely helpful as it includes numerous expertly written works on most various History Research Proposals topics. Ideally, you should be able to find a piece that meets your requirements and use it as a template to compose your own Research Proposal. Alternatively, our qualified essay writers can deliver you a unique History Research Proposal model crafted from scratch according to your individual instructions.

Free Research Proposal On Hitler and Nazi Germany

My best source: lee, stephen. "hitler and nazi germany." questions and analysis in history (2000)., free research proposal about history of islamic art/architecture - al-masjid al-nabawi, the prophet’s mosque, example of supporting points research proposal, essay outline: assessing the success of ancient rome through the manipulation of the physical environment by the romans.

Thesis Statement The success of Ancient Rome in its efforts for territorial expansion and establishing the Roman state lies on the proficiency of Romans in manipulating their physical environment, made through their immensely devastating military power and the effects of their devastation in terms of eliminating population and transfer of land use.

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Greek mythology is made up of profound body of teachings and myths that belong to the ancient Greeks. It incorporates their gods and heroes through prominent features such as artifacts and narratives.

Single Women In The Great Depression Research Proposal Sample

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I work for the government in the field of security and military diplomacy. I have several years experience in bilateral and multilateral activities in the ASEAN and in China. As a result of this work, I have many contacts in both the ASEAN and in China. Furthermore, I have a good grasp of the Thai, English and Chinese languages. This will help in communicating directly with people who are involved in all areas of the subject.

Research Proposal On Defining Europe Using Symbols

This paper is a research proposal that aims at determining the how the continental Europe and its influence over the entire world could be described using sociology symbols. These are the factors which have shaped the history and the current Europe, ranging from civilization, the traditional empires, political, social and economic revolutions, and social and economic theories. The paper explains the thesis, research questions, the hypothesis and the methodology to be utilized in the study, as well as the methods for representing the information.

Music and Rhetoric Research Proposal

Over the course of history there has been a close relationship between rhetoric and music; this is especially evident in the Baroque period (rhetoric).

Until relatively recently in Western society, music was an form primarily focused on vocals, and consequently words were of extremely high importance. Due to this trend, composers were usually inspired by rhetorical principles when coalescing text and music (rhetoric). Likewise, even after instrumental-centered music became popular, rhetoric principles continued to be relied on in creating both vocal and instrumental music.

Archeology, DNA, And Genetics Research Proposal Samples

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Theoretical Questions 5 Primary Contacts 6 Other Sources of Information 7 Methodology 9

Bibliography 13

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Statement of authorship I certify that this dissertation is my own work and contains no material that has been accepted for the award of any degree or diploma in any institute, college or university. Moreover, to the best of my knowledge and belief, it contains no material previously published or written by another person, except where due reference is made in the text of the dissertation.

Signed __________________________________________________

Reasons for forming craft unions (heron, 2014; rouillard, 2014) research proposal samples.

1850-1890: Industrializing Canada: Essay Proposal

Between 1850 and 1890, the Canadian labor force experienced numerous changes including the formation of unions. Labor unions were formed for different reasons and between 1850 and 1890, different competing unions were formed to perform different purposes. Child labor also had a great influence on the Canadian industrial economy during the last half of the nineteenth century.

Free Research Proposal About Racial Segregation In Psu Campus

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Amongst mentally ill patients at high risk for early readmission, does the utilization of a multi-component transition care plan as compared to usual care help to improve early readmission rates?

The Snow Depth And Its Effect On Caribou's Behavior In The Arctic Region Research Proposals Example

Introduction, free research proposal about look at the suggested topics file to pick one, good research proposal about the struggle of the civil rights of the 1960s.

Thesis: Because they focused on correcting legal discrimination instead of social discrimination, African Americans gained greater equality during the 1960s through the efforts of the NAACP and civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

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Racial bias in drug in related arrests in united state of america research proposal sample, now and then: feminine ideals research proposal examples.

Thesis Statement The current research proposal is aiming to structure the main ideas of the research paper that will compare the culture that produced Venus de Willendfor and the one that Produced Barbie doll, focusing on explaining why such a comparison is necessary and why writing about it is necessary. The research paper will gravitate around the idea that Venus of Willendorf, as well as Barbie Dolls constitute popular culture representations of the feminine ideal of their time.

Review Of The Literature Research Proposal

Free research proposal on the tet offensive during the vietnam war: who won who lost, assessing the feasibility of opening an hm store in almaty kazakhstan research proposal examples, assessing the feasibility of opening an h and m store in almaty, kazakhstan 1.

Abstract 2 1. Introduction 5 1.1 Introduction 5 2. Problem /Opportunity 7 2.1 Business problem (opportunity) 7 2.2 Research Question 8 2.3 Research Purpose 8 2.4 Research Objectives 8 2.5 Research Scope 8 3. Literature Review 10 4. Proposed Methodology 13 4.1 Research Methodology 13 4.2 Ethical Considerations 17 5. Project Work Plan and Deliverables 18

References ... Read more Business Education Marketing Company Commerce Trade Study Information Store Data Philosophy Finance 12 Pages History of international relations research proposal sample

International relations concerns relationships between countries or states. The relationships also concern Inter-governmental, International nongovernmental (INGO) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (Buzan & Little 8). International relations encompass state relationships in trade and economics, politics, social-cultural activities such as sports among others. The history of international relations can be traced from thousands of years. Political scientists, Little and Buzan, considered interactions among ancient Sumerian cities in 3,500 BC as a fully-established international system (9).

Good Example Of Economy: Costa Rica And Panama Research Proposal

Gun control legislation in the united states: a research proposal research proposal examples, research questions, free research proposal about the newborn state of kosovo: the actual developments on international relations and security, research proposal on the case of the kurdish minority, the field of struggle for state power to understand of ethnic group in the southeast turkey.

The Kurdish community is a minority group living in Turkey. They are believed to be the largest ethnic group that are not recognized by any state. Because of this reason, they have been involved in a continuous struggle with the government of Turkey. They have been fighting for the right to be recognized and appreciated by the Turkish government (Kaya, 2011, p.15). This paper will give an insight look into the causes behind the struggle in relation to Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of the field.

Good Research Proposal About Relation Between Vitamin D Intake And Osteoporosis

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How to Use Annotated Sample Grants

Are these real grants written by real students.

Yes! While each proposal represents a successfully funded application, there are two things to keep in mind: 1) The proposals below are  final products;  no student started out with a polished proposal. The proposal writing process requires stages of editing while a student formulates their project and works on best representing that project in writing. 2) The samples reflect a wide range of project types, but  they are not exhaustive . URGs can be on any topic in any field, but all must make a successful argument for why their project should be done/can be done by the person proposing to do it.  See our proposal writing guides for more advice. The best way to utilize these proposals is to pay attention to the  proposal strengths  and  areas for improvement  on each cover page to guide your reading.

How do I decide which sample grants to read?

When students first look through the database, they are usually compelled to read an example from their major (Therefore, we often hear complaints that there is not a sample proposal for every major). However, this is not the best approach because there can be many different kinds of methodologies within a single subject area, and similar research methods can be used across fields.

It does not matter whether the samples you read are summer grants (SURGs) or academic year grants (AYURGs).  The main difference between the two grant types is that academic year proposals (AYURG) require a budget to explain how the $1,000 will be used towards research materials, while summer proposals (SURG) do not require a budget (the money is a living stipend that goes directly to the student awardee) and SURGs have a bigger project scope since they reflect a project that will take 8 weeks of full time research to complete.  The overall format and style is the same across both grant cycles, so they are relevant examples for you to review, regardless of which grant cycle you are planning to apply.  

How do I get my proposal to look like these sample grants?

Do not submit a first draft:  These sample proposals went through multiple rounds of revisions with feedback from both Office of Undergraduate Research advisors and the student’s faculty mentor. First, it helps to learn about grant structure and proposal writing techniques before you get started. Then, when you begin drafting, it’s normal to make lots of changes as the grant evolves. You will learn a lot about your project during the editing and revision process, and you typically end up with a better project by working through several drafts of a proposal.

Work with an advisor:  Students who work with an Office of Undergraduate Research Advisor have higher success rates than students who do not. We encourage students to meet with advisors well in advance of the deadline (and feel free to send us drafts of your proposal prior to our advising appointment, no matter how rough your draft is!), so we can help you polish and refine your proposal.

Review final proposal checklists prior to submission:  the expectation is a two-page, single-spaced research grant proposal (1″ margins, Times New Roman 12 or Arial 11), and proposals that do not meet these formatting expectations will not be considered by the review committee.  Your bibliography does not count towards this page limit.

Academic Year URG Submission Checklist

Summer URG Application Checklist


Research methodologies.

The proposed project involves collecting primary sources held in archives, a Special Collections library, or other repository. Archival sources might include manuscripts, documents, records, objects, sound and audiovisual materials, etc. If a student proposes a trip to collect such sources, the student should address a clear plan of what will be collected from which archives, and should address availability and access (ie these sources are not available online, and the student has permission to access the archive).

Computational/Mathematical Modeling

The proposed project involves developing models to numerically study the behavior of system(s), often through computer simulation. Students should specify what modeling tool they will be using (i.e., an off-the-shelf product, a lab-specific codebase), what experience they have with it, and what resources they have when they get stuck with the tool (especially if the advisor is not a modeler). Models often involve iterations of improvements, so much like a Design/Build project, the proposal should clearly define parameters for a “successful” model with indication of how the student will assess if the model meets these minimum qualifications.

Creative Output

The proposed project has a creative output such playwriting, play production, documentary, music composition, poetry, creative writing, or other art. Just like all other proposals, the project centers on an answerable question, and the student must show the question and method associated with the research and generation of that project. The artist also must justify their work and make an argument for why this art is needed and/or how it will add to important conversations .


The proposed project’s output centers around a final product or tool. The student clearly defines parameters for a “successful” project with indication of how they will assess if the product meets these minimum qualifications.

The project takes place in a lab or research group environment, though the methodology within the lab or research group vary widely by field. The project often fits within the larger goals/or project of the research group, but the proposal still has a clearly identified research question that the student is working independently to answer.

Literary/Composition Analysis

The project studies, evaluates, and interprets literature or composition. The methods are likely influenced by theory within the field of study. In the proposal, the student has clearly defined which pieces will be studied and will justify why these pieces were selected. Context will be given that provides a framework for how the pieces will be analyzed or interpreted.

Qualitative Data Analysis

The project proposes to analyze data from non-numeric information such as interview transcripts, notes, video and audio recordings, images, and text documents. The proposal clearly defines how the student will examine and interpret patterns and themes in the data and how this methodology will help to answer the defined research question.

Quantitative Data Analysis

The project proposes to analyze data from numeric sources. The proposal clearly defines variables to be compared and provides insight as to the kinds of statistical tests that will be used to evaluate the significance of the data.

The proposed project will collect data through survey(s). The proposal should clearly defined who will be asked to complete the survey, how these participants will be recruited, and/or proof of support from contacts. The proposal should include the survey(s) in an appendix. The proposal should articulate how the results from these survey(s) will be analyzed.

The proposed project will use theoretical frameworks within their proposed area of research to explain, predict, and/or challenge and extend existing knowledge. The conceptual framework serves as a lens through which the student will evaluate the research project and research question(s); it will likely contain a set of assumptions and concepts that form the basis of this lens.

Proposal Features

Group project.

A group project is proposed by two or more students; these proposals receive one additional page for each additional student beyond the two page maximum. Group projects must clearly articulate the unique role of each student researcher. While the uploaded grant proposal is the same, each student researcher must submit their own application into the system for the review.

International Travel

Projects may take place internationally. If the proposed country is not the student’s place of permanent residence, the student can additionally apply for funding to cover half the cost of an international plane ticket. Proposals with international travel should likely include travel itineraries and/or proof of support from in-country contacts in the appendix.

Non-English Language Proficiency

Projects may be conducted in a non-English language. If you have proficiency in the proposed language, you should include context (such as bilingual, heritage speaker, or by referencing coursework etc.) If you are not proficient and the project requires language proficiency, you should include a plan for translation or proof of contacts in the country who can support your research in English.



Effective Proposal-Writing Style (for History students)

Contributed by B. Zakarin, Office of Fellowships, [email protected] Posted: 2010 Originally written for History students writing proposals for a senior honors thesis, but applicable to all proposal writing                  

                                                                                                                                                 printable file (Word)

Personal pronouns

Writers use first person (“I,” “my”) when discussing their own interests and plans.  This is appropriate in a research proposal because  you  will be admitted to the Senior Thesis Program and/or awarded a summer grant.

Well-organized paragraphs and headings

For the most part, writers use topic sentences to signal a paragraph’s key point.  That point often corresponds to a required element, such as “what I want to learn,” “what scholars have previously studied,” or “where I plan to find sources.”  Writers then add details that explain the topic sentence or argue the point it makes.  Also, paragraphs should not be overly long.

In addition to well-organized paragraphs, writers sometimes use headings to identify key sections.  Such organization is helpful because readers often skim the beginnings of sections and paragraphs to find a proposal’s main argument before they go back for details.  Headings and topic sentences highlight a proposal’s structure.

Action-Oriented sentences

A preponderance of sentences should use  active voice.   In other words, sentences emphasize who (or what) performs the action:

Active voice makes sentences shorter and clearer and makes writers sound confident.  Use passive voice when you have a legitimate reason for doing so, such as when the actor is not important or when passive voice promotes coherence.  Consider these examples from the model proposals:

Active or passive voice is only an issue with action (transitive) verbs, which have objects.  Some sentences simply use state-of-being (intransitive) verbs, such as “is”   or “was”:

These intransitive verbs are often necessary, but in a well-written proposal, active verbs in the active voice will dominate.


Good proposal writers explain their ideas as succinctly as possible.  Most writers start with a proposal that is a little too long.  Then they solicit help from advisors and peer reviewers to trim the fat.  Along with unnecessary background information, you should be vigilant about clunky phrases and excessive qualifying words.  The following strategies for revision will help.

Effective use of transitions

Transitional words and phrases show how sentences and ideas are related to each other.  Used correctly, they make it easier for readers to follow your argument.  The following transitions at or near the beginnings of sentences will make your logic come through clearly and coherently to readers.  

Repetition and parallelism

As the model proposals show, it is often effective to repeat key terms and phrases:  “I will pursue research in three areas…; I will travel to X in July in order to…; I will then go to Y so that I can…“  The repetition in these sentences helps readers focus on the student’s proposed actions.

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research proposal in history example

Best History Research Paper Proposal Online

Get a well-composed and 100% customized history research proposal

research proposal in history example

So many people ask us everyday about one thing : ” – How to write a history research proposal ?”

When it comes to choosing your focus of study, there is a countless number of potential to pick from. Whether you’re interested in a particular period of time or a specific cultural group, there’s always plenty to choose from when it comes to topics. Use this list of topics to find a subject that interests and enthuses you to write a top paper.

Find a Top Sample History Research Paper on You’re Taste

There are many things you can do to write a top history research proposal, but there are just as many things you should refrain from doing. Once you find a topic that enthuses you and an academic supervisor to support your studies, you’ll be well in your way to success.

Use the list of ideas below to work out the best way to approach your dissertation:

Download Here More History Research Proposal Ideas!

How to succeed in history.

When it comes to the subject of history research proposal can be more difficult than you might expect. History is a subject in which you must remain absolutely impartial and unbiased if you are to achieve any success. When you approach a topic of interest, it can be hard to maintain this air of impartiality but it is imperative that you do so. Your work must be unbiased and genuinely directed at getting to the bottom of highly debated past events.

To be able to produce a great history research proposal , you need to ascertain the quality of primary and secondary sources of information. To make sure your analysis is as empirical as possible, you need to be as sure as you can be about your sources.

Planning a Project

The key first step in any project is to plan what you have to say based on your own framework of what the topic entails. Once you have formed a statement, you’ll need to get expert advice to help you with PhD proposal writing or some recommended reading.

As you gather information you’ll need to sort it into primary and secondary sources and keep good records of how you collected your data. Good preparation for this task, can guarantee you easy defense. This is essential if you want to be able to code and analyze important data correctly.

history topics to research

You can now use methodical processes to add to the overall body of knowledge in history. Adding to humanity’s knowledge base is a noble endeavor and not something to be taken lightly. Ask for expert help if you’re stuck at any point in the analysis process. As you begin to consider the various history research proposal from which you’ll choose your focus, you’ll start to see how each subject compares to another. This will help you come to an understanding of which topics are best suited to your individual skills. You can ask for expert advice if you’re finding it hard to pin down exactly which ideas suit you best.

Features of Our History Research Paper Services

On the off chance you are to be effective in getting your proposal or thesis paper altered in the most fitting way, you absolutely require an expert to handle this for you. Every one of our editors and editors are every qualified essayist and with this, they find themselves able to comprehend what is precisely required in any sort of research or thesis paper. So we promise to present the organized and altered adaptation of your paper inside of the timetable you give us.

To begin with, each piece of writing must have its own writing format which the person writing it must follow. Just like all other pieces of writing, you are required to follow a certain format if you are come up with a history research proposal that is worthy of the name your task .

The members of the editing through their expertise knowledge in thesis paper preparations are able to understand the procedure one is expected to follow when developing a history research proposal. So if you have done some errors in the planning of your project, the editors will be in a position to correct the errors.

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10 Research Question Examples to Guide your Research Project

Published on October 30, 2022 by Shona McCombes .

The research question is one of the most important parts of your research paper , thesis or dissertation . It’s important to spend some time assessing and refining your question before you get started.

The exact form of your question will depend on a few things, such as the length of your project, the type of research you’re conducting, the topic , and the research problem . However, all research questions should be focused, specific, and relevant to a timely social or scholarly issue.

Once you’ve read our guide on how to write a research question , you can use these examples to craft your own.

Note that the design of your research question can depend on what method you are pursuing. Here are a few options for qualitative, quantitative, and stastical research questions.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. (2022, October 30). 10 Research Question Examples to Guide your Research Project. Scribbr. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/research-process/research-question-examples/

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Research Proposal Examples for College Students

Published 2023-01-27 Research Topics Project Proposals

Research Proposal Examples for College Students

A research proposal is a formal, structured document that outlines the intended research topic, highlights the justification for choosing it as a topic for study, and your methodology which means the practical approach used in the research. It can outline the approaches you intend to employ as well as the specific activities you'll take to carry out your research. It usually offers a thorough examination of the ideas that underpin your hypothesis, which is a prepared response to this question. it can outline the approaches you intend to employ as well as the specific activities you'll take to carry out your research. The reader is frequently introduced to your topic in the research proposal.

The research proposal aims to persuade your research committee, university, or supervisor that your research is appropriate and eligible for grading. 

Format of a Research Proposal: 

There are seven "fundamental parts" that commonly make up the structure of a research proposal, even though the precise structure and format needed for a dissertation or thesis research proposal vary from university to university.

A research proposal typically follows a specific format and includes several key components. Although, the format may vary slightly depending on the type of research and the specific guidelines of the organization or institution to which it is being submitted.

However, most research proposals include these key points when you write a proposal;

research proposal for college student

Purpose of Research Proposal 

A research proposal's primary goal is to persuade the reader of the merit of your project. You will need to demonstrate that your project will be successful and that you have a plan for your work. Your reader must be confident that what they are reading is not just another pointless essay but rather an in-depth study that will be crucial to the advancement of science.

It should ideally show both the caliber and significance of your project as well as your capacity to carry out the suggested investigation. Additionally, the proposal allows you the chance to plan out your study, sharpen your focus, and anticipate any difficulties that might develop. It may be helpful to return to your proposal at various stages during the research process to keep track of your project's development and to remind yourself of your emphasis.

You may write research proposals for several reasons. They are typically used to:

Here are 50+ Examples of Research Proposal for College Students;

Final Thoughts -

Your research proposal must convince the reader that your idea is appropriate and feasible. A conclusion in a research proposal should summarize the main points of the proposal, including the research question, hypothesis, methods, and significance of the study. It should also reiterate the potential contributions of the research and any expected outcomes.

Additionally, it should include any limitations of the study and suggestions for future research. It is important to make sure that the conclusion is consistent with the rest of the proposal, and that it effectively communicates the importance and potential impact of the proposed research. 

Therefore, put your efforts into creating a compelling story, and you'll have already won half the battle.

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research proposal in history example

Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

Table of Contents

The importance of a well-written research proposal cannot be underestimated. Your research really is only as good as your proposal. A poorly written, or poorly conceived research proposal will doom even an otherwise worthy project. On the other hand, a well-written, high-quality proposal will increase your chances for success.

In this article, we’ll outline the basics of writing an effective scientific research proposal, including the differences between research proposals, grants and cover letters. We’ll also touch on common mistakes made when submitting research proposals, as well as a simple example or template that you can follow.

What is a scientific research proposal?

The main purpose of a scientific research proposal is to convince your audience that your project is worthwhile, and that you have the expertise and wherewithal to complete it. The elements of an effective research proposal mirror those of the research process itself, which we’ll outline below. Essentially, the research proposal should include enough information for the reader to determine if your proposed study is worth pursuing.

It is not an uncommon misunderstanding to think that a research proposal and a cover letter are the same things. However, they are different. The main difference between a research proposal vs cover letter content is distinct. Whereas the research proposal summarizes the proposal for future research, the cover letter connects you to the research, and how you are the right person to complete the proposed research.

There is also sometimes confusion around a research proposal vs grant application. Whereas a research proposal is a statement of intent, related to answering a research question, a grant application is a specific request for funding to complete the research proposed. Of course, there are elements of overlap between the two documents; it’s the purpose of the document that defines one or the other.

Scientific Research Proposal Format

Although there is no one way to write a scientific research proposal, there are specific guidelines. A lot depends on which journal you’re submitting your research proposal to, so you may need to follow their scientific research proposal template.

In general, however, there are fairly universal sections to every scientific research proposal. These include:

Common Mistakes in Writing a Scientific Research Project Proposal

Remember, the best research proposal can be rejected if it’s not well written or is ill-conceived. The most common mistakes made include:

Scientific Research Proposal Example

There are countless examples that you can find for successful research proposals. In addition, you can also find examples of unsuccessful research proposals. Search for successful research proposals in your field, and even for your target journal, to get a good idea on what specifically your audience may be looking for.

While there’s no one example that will show you everything you need to know, looking at a few will give you a good idea of what you need to include in your own research proposal. Talk, also, to colleagues in your field, especially if you are a student or a new researcher. We can often learn from the mistakes of others. The more prepared and knowledgeable you are prior to writing your research proposal, the more likely you are to succeed.

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One of the top reasons scientific research proposals are rejected is due to poor logic and flow. Check out our Language Editing Services to ensure a great proposal , that’s clear and concise, and properly referenced. Check our video for more information, and get started today.

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Research Proposal Examples

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How to Write a Research Proposal

1. select the type of research proposal to write about, 2. designate a title for the research proposal , 3: identify the major goals, objectives, and vision , 4. describe your methods and techniques, 5. highlight its significance and value, 6. add references and citations, 7. proofread, edit, and revise your research proposal , research proposal format, more business, 74+ formal letter examples & samples in pdf | doc | microsoft word | apple pages | google docs, 28+ examples of sports certificate in publisher | ms word | psd | ai | pages | indesign, 65+ project proposal examples in pdf | ms word | pages | google docs, 8+ reminder email examples & samples in pdf | doc, 85+ report examples in pdf, 5+ formal email examples and samples in pdf | doc, 27+ email examples & samples in microsoft word | apple pages | editable pdf | google docs, 10+ goodbye emails to coworkers examples & samples in word, 15+ leave application email examples & samples in pdf | doc, 42+ incident report examples & samples in pdf | google docs | pages | doc, 4+ introduction email examples & samples – pdf, doc, 38+ business proposal letter examples in pdf | doc | microsoft word | apple pages, related articles.

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How to Write a Research Proposal

As part of the application for admission onto our MJur, MPhil and PhD programmes, you must prepare a research proposal outlining your proposed area of study.

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What is a research proposal?

A research proposal is a concise and coherent summary of your proposed research. It sets out the central issues or questions that you intend to address. It outlines the general area of study within which your research falls, referring to the current state of knowledge and any recent debates on the topic. It also demonstrates the originality of your proposed research.

The proposal is the most important document that you submit as part of the application process. It gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you have the aptitude for graduate level research, for example, by demonstrating that you have the ability to communicate complex ideas clearly, concisely and critically. The proposal also helps us to match your research interest with an appropriate supervisor.

What should you include in the proposal?

Regardless of whether you are applying for the MJur, MPhil or PhD programmes, your research proposal should normally include the following information:

This is just a tentative title for your intended research. You will be able to revise your title during the course of your research if you are accepted for admission.

Examples of the thesis titles of some of our current and recent research students can be seen on our Current Projects page .

2. Abstract

The proposal should include a concise statement of your intended research of no more than 100 words. This may be a couple of sentences setting out the problem that you want to examine or the central question that you wish to address.

3. Research Context

You should explain the broad background against which you will conduct your research. You should include a brief overview of the general area of study within which your proposed research falls, summarising the current state of knowledge and recent debates on the topic. This will allow you to demonstrate a familiarity with the relevant field as well as the ability to communicate clearly and concisely.

4. Research Questions

The proposal should set out the central aims and questions that will guide your research. Before writing your proposal, you should take time to reflect on the key questions that you are seeking to answer. Many research proposals are too broad, so reflecting on your key research questions is a good way to make sure that your project is sufficiently narrow and feasible (i.e. one that is likely to be completed with the normal period for a MJur, MPhil or PhD degree).

You might find it helpful to prioritize one or two main questions, from which you can then derive a number of secondary research questions. The proposal should also explain your intended approach to answering the questions: will your approach be empirical, doctrinal or theoretical etc?

5. Research Methods

The proposal should outline your research methods, explaining how you are going to conduct your research. Your methods may include visiting particular libraries or archives, field work or interviews.

Most research is library-based. If your proposed research is library-based, you should explain where your key resources (e.g. law reports, journal articles) are located (in the Law School’s library, Westlaw etc). If you plan to conduct field work or collect empirical data, you should provide details about this (e.g. if you plan interviews, who will you interview? How many interviews will you conduct? Will there be problems of access?). This section should also explain how you are going to analyse your research findings.

6. Significance of Research

The proposal should demonstrate the originality of your intended research. You should therefore explain why your research is important (for example, by explaining how your research builds on and adds to the current state of knowledge in the field or by setting out reasons why it is timely to research your proposed topic).

7. Bibliography

The proposal should include a short bibliography identifying the most relevant works for your topic.

How long should the proposal be?

The proposal should usually be around 2,500 words. It is important to bear in mind that specific funding bodies might have different word limits.

Can the School comment on my draft proposal?

We recognise that you are likely still developing your research topic. We therefore recommend that you contact a member of our staff with appropriate expertise to discuss your proposed research. If there is a good fit between your proposed research and our research strengths, we will give you advice on a draft of your research proposal before you make a formal application. For details of our staff and there areas of expertise please visit our staff pages . 

Read a sample proposal from a successful application  

Learn more about Birmingham's doctoral research programmes in Law:


Birmingham Law School is home to a broad range of internationally excellent and world-leading legal academics, with a thriving postgraduate research community. The perfect place for your postgraduate study.

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    Sample Academic Proposals. Select the Sample Academic Proposals PDF in the Media box above to download this file and read examples of proposals for conferences, journals, and book chapters.

  2. Proposals

    1) Narrow and break down your topic and your approach to it as much as possible. (ONE SENTENCE ON THE PROPOSED TOPIC IS NOT ENOUGH.) 2) Discuss the issues and questions which you foresee your paper addressing. 3) To demonstrate your competence, you must exhibit a level of research and thinking suitable for this stage of your work.

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    Example research proposal #1: "A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management" Example research proposal #2: "Making Healthy Connections: Mentoring, Monitoring and Measurement" Example research proposal #3: "Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use" Receive feedback on language, structure, and formatting

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    Review final proposal checklists prior to submission: the expectation is a two-page, single-spaced research grant proposal (1″ margins, Times New Roman 12 or Arial 11), and proposals that do not meet these formatting expectations will not be considered by the review committee. Your bibliography does not count towards this page limit.

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