How to Write a Histographical Essay

How to Write a Histographical Essay

When writing a histographical essay, you are analyzing the way one particular historical topic or issue is treated by a few authors. This type of essay is usually centered on a problem which is very different from a book review, which focuses on one publication or sometimes, a few references. In other words, your essay should aim to analyze the various ways that different historians tackled a particular historical topic. It is not a study of a historical subject which is what a research paper is. It examines the authors’ interpretations of those historical events and how they changed over time.

If you are to write a histographical essay on the Jewish resistance at the time of the Holocaust, you could explore the varying descriptions of resistance according to those who have written about it. You should cite their conclusions and how they differed, and what they thought about its impact. Aside from exploring the areas where these people agreed or disagreed on the subject, your essay should also try to answer why these differences occurred and what it implies for the understanding of the topic.

There is no one format for writing a histographical essay. It is similar to writing an interpretive or argumentative paper. The essay should include an introduction which provides the subject and should offer an overview of the arguments you wish to explore. As in any standard essay, it should end with a conclusion. This is where you look back on your statements and summarize your key points and what you’ve learned, but make sure to leave your readers a notable idea that they can take away from your piece. The approach that works best for your essay depends on the nature of the topic that you chose and the readings.


One possible approach is a histographical-evolution, which is best if you want to compare a collection of secondary works that discusses similar questions. These works should also show a clear evolution of ideas. This approach begins with a discussion of a basic book that resulted in important theses on your historical topic. There is also the rival-schools approach which explores the materials’ different approaches to a subject. You may also take the different aspects of the problem approach. It is when you treat various readings not to compete different explanations, but to look at different perspectives that contribute to a bigger picture.