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113 US History Topics [2020 US History Essay Ideas]

American history is not as long as the European one. However, it’s one of the richest histories in the world. It’s full of controversies, different opinions, and interesting facts. Those who study American history will find how many voices, perspectives and points of view can coexist.

When you have to write an essay about America you should try to stay as objective as possible. Think creatively and consider the historic events from a new perspective.

This abundance of information and events can intimidate anyone. That’s why it can be very challenging to select one single US history topic to write about. There are so many!

To decide on it, students should answer several questions:

  1. What time period interests me the most?
  2. What specific event sounds the most appealing to me?
  3. What historical figure impresses me?

It is indeed a daunting task to attempt to put the remarkable story of the US into an essay list. Fortunately, we’re not trying to do so.

☝️ Good US History Topics by Period

This is the IvyPanda list of American history topics that can help students get inspired!

We divided the history into the epochs and organized the US history essay topics accordingly. Besides, this US history topics list structured thematically. It, hopefully, will make it easier to navigate and get started.

One of the best ways to look at history is to examine it from a chronological perspective. The topics you will in this section are structured based on the time period.

Every period is filled with key events and figures. American society is the product of those events—it’s vital to have a closer look at it.

🏗️ History Topics before 1877

  1. America before Columbus. In this topic, you can talk about the first people in the Americas and what historians know about them. There are a lot of archeological findings and artifacts that survived thousands of years. Write about Christopher Columbus and how “the discovery” was not a discovery. The Americas have been inhabited and had developed civilizations long before Europeans put their foot there.
  2. The first landing of Christopher Columbus and the New World
These ideas are for essays and research papers.
  1. Christopher Columbus: Biography, Discoveries, Contributions. You can talk about Christopher Columbus and his biography. Track how his image has been changing throughout history. Modern historians see him as a person who contributed to the genocide of Native Americans. What is your opinion about him?
  2. The British Rule in the Americas and the first British Settlements. Explore the first permanent colony in North America and what English wanted the colonies to be. There were a lot of obstacles, which first settlers had faced before Jamestown became a prosperous city. They suffered from a shortage of food, severe climate conditions, and disease. Plus, there were problems with the Indians. Research what “the middle ground” was and why this concept is relevant to this topic.
  3. What is Puritanism?
  4. Puritans in Great Britain
  5. The Puritan Ethic in the United States. Who the Puritans were? Why were they sent to the New World? What were their religious beliefs? Explore the influence puritans had in the past. Is puritanism still relevant in the US today?
  6. The Effects of the Spanish Rule and The Conquistadors in the Americas. Spanish Colonization of the Americas laid foundations for the Latin American identity. It is also considered the very first mass genocide in the world. It is indeed a matter of perspective. You can talk about how the contact between the Native Americans and the Spaniards affected both parties.
  7. The Protestant Reformation and its influence on the US History. Religion was one of the main reasons why the first settlers decided to travel to the New World. Write about the connection between the freedom of religion in the US. What influence did it have on the nation as a whole in the future? Why is it crucial? How did it affect the lifestyle of people in the US?
  8. Native Americans and “the Middle Ground”. Not everyone knows that the famous Disney cartoon Pocahontas is based on the true story. If this story was told by a Native American, it would be different. In this essay, you can comment on the role that Native Americans played in the European Colonization. Elaborate on the disappearance of “the Middle Ground.”
  9. The beginning of slavery in British America and the Middle Passage. You can analyze the way this institution was established. Write about the factors that influenced it in the 17th century, try to include first-person accounts of slavery. Use the American Slave Narrative, for instance, Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa. This inclusion will demonstrate how inhumane slavery was and will open a good discussion.
  10. Christianity, slavery, and colonialism in the US
  11. The witchcraft trials. Elaborate on religious views of the New England public. How such views made it possible for more than 200 people to be accused of witchcraft. Discuss a Puritan code, the structure of the society, and what type of women were prosecuted.
Salem was an epicenter of the witchcraft trials in the US.
Source: Smithsonianmag.com
  1. The Boston Tea Party as the key event of the American Revolution. The Boston Tea Party is a highly celebrated event in the history of the US. Discuss why is that? Why is it so important for the Americans? Talk about the birth of patriotism, resistance and the revolt against colonialism. What did the rebels mean by “taxation without representation?”
  2. The American Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence. This topic is one of the most popular in the history of the United States. First, you could write about a military battle with Great Britain and the reasons for it. Second, talk about political battles within the US at that period. Examine the establishment of the new nation.
  3. How the Revolutionary war changes American Society
  4. Why was the Declaration of Independence written?
  5. Was the American Revolution really revolutionary?
  6. The meaning of the Constitution. This is one of the most fruitful and fascinating debates in US history. Some people argue that it is written in a very vague way to allow American society to evolve. Others say that its text allows minorities to be deprived of the very things it promises to establish. Elaborate if you find the Constitution to be a liberal, radical, or a conservative document.
  7. Why the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution. Talk about the first 10 amendments to the Constitution and explore why these amendments are so important. What did the amendments guarantee? Why was The Bill of Rights added to the Constitution in the first place?
James Madison wrote the amendments in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties.
Source: Billofrightsinstitute.org
  1. The Founding Fathers’ influence on the US. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence are sacred documents. The Founding Fathers are major figures for the Americans as well. Writing about the influence of the Founding Fathers, select one or two members to focus on. Consider the diversity among the members. How did it help the Founding Fathers in leading the war and framing a sustainable government?
  2. What is the role of the Founding Fathers in American society and religion?
  3. European Colonization influence on the Native American population
  4. Removal of Indian tribes. American History is unjust at times. Explore how unconstitutional the treatment of Indian Americans was and why they find it this way. Look at the way the Founding Fathers addressed this issue. Examining the Indian Removal Act of 1830 will allow you to fully develop this topic. Analyze why the policy was accepted in the first place. Why is it called “ethnic cleansing” by the majority of historians nowadays?
  5. Native Americans lost their freedom
  6. The impact of railroads in America. The rapid expansion of America would be impossible without the railroad construction. The railroads triggered the development of the Midwest and the West. Despite that, the construction of the railroads was highly monopolistic and undemocratic. Comment on the richest men in the US – John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.
  7. The role of cotton in the American economy. The American Economy in the 19th century heavily depended on cotton production. There was even a saying “Cotton is King” that was very popular at that time. Besides cotton, it heavily depended on the slaves. This period in American History is called the Antebellum Era. Look at the role of cotton from several perspectives. How profitable was it? How did slaves contribute to the American economy? How financially unviable was the abolition of slavery?
he cotton plantation is “the Second Middle Passage.
Source: Pbs.org
  1. History of American Transcendentalism.
  2. Why was Transcendentalism important for American Culture? The essay can start with a broad explanation of what transcendentalism is. Explain where it started and how it evolved. Explore what views the group had on women’s rights, slavery, education, government, and religion. You could write about the most prominent transcendentalists – Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau.
  3. Religions in the 19th Century America. Known as the Second Great Awakening or Christian Revivalism, religion in the 19th century America was altered. Look back at the beginning of the American Revolution. Anglicans, Methodists, and Quackers were the fastest-growing religious groups then. Discuss all of them.
  4. The abolition of slavery and the Civil War. A lot of historians believe that slavery in itself did not cause the conflict. In this essay, you could elaborate on this idea and consider the other point of view. For a long essay, write about Abraham Lincoln’s thoughts on slavery. His ideas about slavery and racial inequality were one of the most discussed aspects of his entire life. Look at his letters and write about the complexity of his views.
  5. The causes of the Civil War and the aftermath of war. This essay is one of the easiest American history essays to write. Talk about the causes and effects of the Civil War (1861-1865) in the US. Why did it happen? What was achieved?
  6. The struggle over the goal and the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. You can elaborate on the goal of the amendment. Was it able to protect the rights of black citizens? Why was it still possible for the states to deny them their right to vote?
  7. How did Reconstruction change the United States after the Civil war?
  8. The Reconstruction governments. What type of reforms did the reconstruction government implement? What positive reforms happened during the Reconstruction Era? You could discuss radical reconstruction and white supremacy that spawned during the Reconstruction period. Elaborate on the idea of manifest destiny. Why was it so popular in the 19th century in the US?
  9. The Compromise of 1850. Why was reaching the compromise necessary? You can describe the terms of the compromise. Explain what results were achieved: political, economic, and cultural.

🌻 American History 1878-1899

The United State was going through a lot of change during this time period. From various social changes, changes in foreign and domestic policies, to rapid economic and cultural changes. This time saw the country changing for the best in some aspects and for the worst in others.

  1. Industrialization after the Civil war. Industrialization of the United States was going on for almost half a century. However, the most impressive growth happened in 1880-1900. The expansion of the steel, iron and oil industries drove the American economy. Comment on all the inventions, technological advancements that happened in the US at that time.
  2. Immigrants and their ideas of the American Dream
  3. Social reforms during the Progressive Era
  4. American Foreign Policy in the 1890s
George Washington's quote from his Farewell Address to the American people.
Source: Independent.org
  1. The importance of the Progressive Era reforms
  2. Race relations during the Progressive Era reforms
  3. Japanese Americans Immigration in the 19th century

🏙️ 20th Century US History Topics

The 20th century for the United States and the world, in general, was extremely eventful. Economic crises, two World Wars, the Cold War, the fight over civil rights. Plus, a huge economic and technological upheaval, the space program.

This list of American History topics after 1900 can be great for those looking for inspiration for a paper.

Here you go:

  1. The door to America—Ellis Island. What are America’s best features? Economic opportunities, political and religious freedom? An abundance of jobs and opportunities? Land and natural resources? All of these made the United States experience the migration flux from all over the world. Elaborate on how Ellis island is a symbol of American immigration and the American dream.
Many immigrants entered the US through Ellis Island
Source: Libertyellisfoundation.org
  1. The rise of capitalism
  2. Work environments during the Progressive Era
  3. Women’s suffrage movement in America
  4. The causes and effects of women’s suffrage movement in the US
  5. Changes in American Government after WWI
  6. Is prohibition to blame for the organized crime in The United States?
  7. The economic impact of the Great Depression. The Great Depression is one of the longest economic downturns in the history of the United States. You can talk about several main causes of the crisis. Another good approach would be to analyze the way American presidents handled this crisis.
  8. Japanese American discrimination during the Great Depression
  9. How did Roosevelt plan to end the Great Depression?
  10. The Great Depression and what is the new deal?
  11. The Role of the United States during World War 2
  12. Why did the United States fight and lose the Vietnam War?
  13. The war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement
  14. A Comparison of the traditional and the revisionist arguments regarding the Origins of The Cold War
  15. The Cold War and US diplomacy
  16. The Cold War and how it influenced American society

🧊 Cool US History Topics

History is tough but some significant historic events take our breath away even centuries later. Here is our list of cool American history topics. Even if you don’t find any topic that works for you, it can inspire you to look for moments in history that appeal to you personally.

  1. The true Story of Pocahontas: An untold story of a Native American girl. The true story of Pocahontas is covered with myths. Critically examine the story of her life and death. Try to understand it from a standpoint of a 12 years old Native American girl kidnapped by a white colonizer.
  2. Native American tribes in the US History
  3. What was discussed at the Constitutional Convention?
  4. The history of the Statue of Liberty
  5. Henry Ford and how his inventions changed America
  6. Moon landing conspiracy
  7. The war on drugs in US History
  8. Illegal immigrants in the US
  9. The American sense of humor
  10. American pop culture in the 1920s. This time period is called “the roaring twenties.” It was filled with drastic political and cultural changes in the United States. Jazz, flapper culture, prohibition, and economic abundance are important elements of the 1920s.
The 20s were“roaring” due to the popular culture of the decade.
Source: Dictionary.com
  1. The history of gangs in the US
  2. What did hippies believe in?
  3. History of Hippie’s Culture
  4. Presidential assassinations in the United States History. Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and JFK were the only US Presidents murdered while in office. You don’t have to retell the stories of their deaths! Instead, explore how these assassinations triggered some vital political reforms.
  5. The history of the Fifth Amendment

🙌 Most Interesting US History Topics

Use the following list of most interesting US History topics for your next essay. Choose what US history interesting event or a historic figure captures your attention the most.

🧐 US History Regent Topics

  1. The Relationships Between Federal and State Governments
  2. Was there a need to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
  3. The Cold War: Origins, Causes, Phases, and the Results
  4. Why and How the Cold War Was Fought
  5. The US Army in the Iraq War
  6. The Iraq War: Background and Issues
  7. Why did the Iraq War go against the plan?
  8. Executive Orders and Presidential Power in the United States
  9. History of the American Constitution
  10. The Turning points of the American Revolution
The Battle of Saratoga was a key turning point of the Revolutionary War.
Source: Saratoga.com

✊ Black History Essay Topics

Studying the history of the United States without studying slavery is impossible. Mainly because the issue of race is ingrained into the DNA of America.

Black African American history allows students to get a different perspective on the same events. It lets them hear the voices that are so often erased from the history books. These African American history essays can help anyone who is looking for a good topic to write about.

  1. Slave Resistance in the Eighteen Century. Continuously throughout history, African American slaves were portrayed as voiceless and victimized. Others presented them as almost indifferent and passive to their own destiny. You can examine a different perspective, an Afrocentric one. The history of slavery was not the history of passivity, it was a history of black resistance.
  2. African American Music as a Form of Resistance
  3. African American Religion and Spirituality in the United States
  4. The 13th Amendment and the End of Slavery
  5. The Jim Crow Laws in the United States History. Jim Crow Laws were the laws that enforced racial segregation in the country. Dedicate an introduction to discuss where the name “Jim Crow” comes from. Give a historical background to how the laws were used. This topic can make a strong essay because no one can stay indifferent.
  6. Gender and Jim Crow
  7. The Role of Martin Luther King, Jr in The Civil Right Movement
  8. Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a dream”
  9. Brown vs The Board of Education. The ruling in Brown vs. The Board of Education was one of the most fundamental changes in the US educational system. How did the general public receive the news about the desegregation of public schools? How did the American educational system change after this case?
  10. The Significance of the Harlem Renaissance
  11. Barack Obama: The First African American President
  12. Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms
  13. Has Obama’s Presidency changed America?
Obama prevented a few crises in the US.
Source: Millercenter.org

🎉 Fun US History Essay Topics

  1. The Cowboy Culture in the US
  2. How Did Yellow Journalism Start?
  3. Why is Superman the most American of all the heroes?
  4. The History of American Flag
  5. History of Sports in the United States
  6. History of Thanksgiving Turkey in the United States
  7. How Did Highways Change the United States of America?
  8. American History through Hollywood Film

👌 Easy US History Essay Topics

Sometimes you simply do not have enough time to write a profound essay. These American history topics are relatively easy and you don’t have to research them a lot. Even if you do, there is a ton of information available.

  1. British Colonization of the Americas
  2. Slavery and racism in the United States
  3. The Puritans Influence on the American Society
  4. The pilgrims and the puritans
  5. The Causes of the Vietnam War
  6. Why Was Martin Luter King Assassinated?
  7. American Moon Landing

📋 How to Cite Sources Correctly?

Your citation will depend on the type of requirements your instructor will provide you with. You can ask your teacher which style of citation if preferable before the essay writing. The chool itself may have specific guidelines for every type of academic writing.

Chicago, MLA, APA are the main styles of citation in academic writing.

For history essays, there are two key methods of referencing of both primary and secondary sources:

  1. In-text citation. In this method, you mention the author and the year in the body of the essay. The list of references is placed at the end of the essay.
  2. Footnote Referencing. In this method, you put a number in the body. It corresponds with the reference at the bottom of each page. At the end of the essay, a list of works read rather than cited should be included.

Remember:

All the citation entries should be listed in alphabetical order. If you mention the same author multiple times with different works, use chronological order.

Keeping track of all the sources both read and cited is time-consuming. For that students can try to use different online software systems. These systems can help to arrange the list in alphabetical order and organize all the citations correctly.

Source: Libguides.murdoch.edu.au

These digital tools are worth checking out:

Thank you for reading so far! Now you’re ready to start an amazing paper on US history. Share this article with those who may find it helpful and leave a comment below.

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