The topic of “historians” for a term paper is daunting because it’s so vast. You could write about famous historians, historians of a certain era throughout history, historians who specialize in a certain topic, problems faced by historians, or debate about historical facts from one historian to another.
Here are some interesting research paper topics you can find on history websites or in history books.
Famous women historians
When writing about historians, you could write about the accomplished women in the academic field. Here are just a few:
- Antonia Fraser, a British writer of history, biographies, and crime novels; published nine books on European history, including the topics of Mary Queen of Scots, Charles II, Henry VIII, Marie Antoinette, and the treatment of women in the seventeenth century.
- Pauline Maier, a history professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was a revisionist historian of the American Revolution, and she wrote about colonial America.
- Nell Irvin Painter is a leading historian of American Southern history and professor at Princeton University. Painter’s 2010 New York Times bestselling book, “The History of White People,” chronicles the development of the concept of race based on skin color from the Greeks, Scythians, Celts, and Circassians (caucasians) to 18th century German scholars who invented racial “science.” In the article “Who’s White?” posted in New York Times March 28, 2010, Linda Gordon, professor of history at New York University, wrote a review of Painter’s book saying the author “has written an unusual study: an intellectual history, with occasional excursions to examine vernacular usage, for popular audiences. It has much to teach everyone.”
You know you’re important when other historians cite you as influential to the field of history. That’s what the magazine History Today did for its 60th anniversary. In the article “The Historians’ Historians,” posted November 16, 2011, several prominent historians named Fernand Braudel as one of the most influential historians. His notable work was the 1966 book “The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II.” Linda Colley, the Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History at the University of Princeton, commented, “Braudel has perhaps been the most widely influential, not least because he reminded historians of the vital importance of examining stretches of water and not merely expanses of land.”
Hey historians, get the history right
Another interesting topic for a term paper is to discuss the role, and some say obligation, of historians to get the history right. Historian Alfred Marder is desperately trying to squelch a false rumor perpetrated by other historians. Marder is president of the Amistad Committee, a group in New Haven, Connecticut that studies and promotes the history of the Amistad ship. In 1839 the Amistad carried 53 Africans bound for sale in Cuba. Sengbe Pieh (also known as Joseph Cinque) led a mutiny on the ship that eventually landed in the U.S. where the men were jailed. The Africans successfully sued, and the U.S. Supreme Court granted their freedom.
Unfortunately, some historians, such as Amistad scholar Benjamin Lawrance, are erroneously saying that Pieh later became a slave trader. “Like a virus, this undocumented statement has managed to establish a life of its own,” said Marder in “‘Just the Facts’ Better Than Repeating an Ugly Rumor about a Historical Figure,” by Randall Beach, published in New Haven (CT) Register March 13, 2015. “Now here’s an historian (Lawrance), who should know better, in 2015, repeating this!” added Marder. Yet another historian, Howard Jones, refuted the accusation against Pieh in his academic paper “Cinque of the Amistad a Slave Trader? Perpetuating the Myth.” Marder said Jones’ paper would “force a discussion of institutionalized racism so insidious that serious, reputable historians can rationalize the acceptance as historical facto for a statement so damaging, without merit, leveled at a black hero.”
Who are some famous historians you’d like to write about?