September 10, 2021

history extended essay topics

A love-hate relationship exists between students and the IB extended essays, but who can blame them?

Not everyone relishes writing a 4000-word monologue on an academic topic. If you are one of those who hate to even think about EEs, you might as well let your whole year be ruined by it … or not.

You see, experienced writers like the team at Help for Assessment live and breathe such essays.

With years of professional academic writing, we know everything about IBDP extended essays and we are always willing to extend our help to you.

We have come to the aid of every student who is stumped and doesn’t know where to start their IB History EE.

We will help you choose the right topic for the essay and guide you on how to get started. For complete extended essay writing guides, we recommend that you check out our blog. 

Or, you can just skip the whole thing and order our IB essay writing services here. Our experts are ready to do your EE for you and deliver A-grade quality on time, with 100% unique writing and research. When you feel stumped, leave it to the professionals.

If you’re still reading at this point, we will not keep you waiting any longer.

Let us delve into the details of what a good history topic for the essay is, how to choose one, and finally end with some fresh topic ideas.

How to Choose A Good IB History Extended Essay Topic

History falls into the third group of the six IB subject groups which covers Individuals and Societies, including humanities and social science courses.

Choosing is a big part of the IBDP coursework, although by now we assume that you have already settled on doing a history essay. 

You can have a lot of fun when choosing your subjects. However, unlike other topics, history extended essay topics must follow certain guidelines. 

IB History Extended Essay Topics Guidelines


What is considered history must go back at least 10 years. That's because anything within that frame is considered current events.

Thus, the topic needs to focus on the human past and back far enough to be actual history - failure to do this will have severe negative impacts on your grade.

Acceptable and Relevant

IB sets no requirements that you have to choose your topic from the IB history subject.

However, it must be acceptable to your assigned supervisor and allow you to critically analyze historical topics of importance to humanity. IB says that it must be ‘worthy of study.’

Suitably Worded to Warrant a 4,000-word Essay

The scope of the topic chosen shouldn't cover a too wide period or be too specific.

Just like most other extended essays, it must have the right scope to allow in-depth analysis without overshooting the maximum word count or being too shallow.

It Should Lend Itself to Critical Commentary and Analysis

This part refers more to the research question that the topic elicits.

You should craft an open-ended research question that lends itself to an analytical approach of the topic rather than a descriptive or narrative one.

Such a question typically starts with words like “to what extent …” or “how significant …” instead of “how” and “what” questions.

The Topic Must be Disciplinary and Academic

What this means is that it must be hinged on one of the academic disciplines and treated academically.

If you decide to write about the impact of the Great Depression in America, you might approach it from an economic point of view.

If you write about the advent of steam technology and its influence on population growth, then you might approach it from a sociological point of view. 

Academic treatment means that the topic should allow you to fully explore both primary and secondary sources in your work. Remember that primary sources should be used as far as possible because they add credibility.

You can also opt to use Google Scholar, which most IB students ignore even though it is a treasure trove of historical studies, journals, and many other relevant sources.

Please note that Sports and Music are generally not allowed unless you approach them from a historical perspective. Whenever in doubt, please check in with your supervisor.

How to Choose a Good History IB Extended Essay

With the guidelines set out, it becomes easier to go through the process of selecting suitable topics.

1. Brainstorming

With such a wide range of possible topic ideas, you shouldn't have trouble with this part. You can literally choose any idea and give it a historical twist.

For example, if you are a techno buff, how about the influence of the steam engine in industry in Europe? If you love archaeology, there is no shortage of historical subjects.

All you have to do at this stage is to write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how unlikely it seems. You can get inspiration from your coursework, friends, popular media, or books you have read from the library.

We recommend that you think about topics you are thoroughly interested in - these will give you the motivation to push through the whole assignment.

2. Narrowing Down

Narrow down the preliminary list by first eliminating any unsuitable topics.

This includes any that are too complex, non-academic (fictional works, for example), and those that don’t seem particularly appealing to you. 

You can also weed out any that are not ‘worthy of study.’ Basically, any that don't meet the guidelines above should be removed at this point.

3. Selection

Now with a list of 3-5 remaining possibilities, you can afford to give each some serious thought. Ask your librarian about the wealth of literature available for each of the possible topics.

Gauge how common they are from the response. Ideally, you want to approach old topics with fresh ideas, or else choose completely new ones so that your essay will be unique and intriguing.

Remember that you can always have a plan B just in case things don’t work out with the first one.

4. Research

Conduct general research into your chosen topic. Online and library sources are the first stop for research.

The idea here is to know what you are dealing with, formulate your approach, understand the concepts, and perhaps identify any gaps. This stage will allow you to get to the most important one of all.

5. Formulate the Research Question

Formulating your research question is the ultimate in extended essay preparation.

This is what will guide your research, align your thoughts, and drive your inspiration.

Most IB scholars say that a good research question is 25% of the work, and we agree.

Sample History Extended Essay Topics 

As promised, here is a list of topic ideas for the IB extended essay in history.

These are meant to be just ideas, a sort of springing board from which you can launch your own investigations into a topic that interests you.

You will also have to formulate your research questions depending on your individual approach.

  1. The Rwandan genocide.
  2. The cold war.
  3. Salem witch trials.
  4. Pearl Harbour and its significance.
  5. Explore the first/second Sino-Japanese wars.
  6. The impact of dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  7. Conflict Diamonds – you can explore their economic, ethnic, sociological, or even environmental impact.
  8. The Rosetta stone and its historical impact.
  9. The invasion of Nazi by Germany and the USSR, 1939.
  10. The Crusades and their religious significance/political significance in Europe.
  11. The rule of Mao in China.
  12. The Six-Day-War of 1967, and why Israel won. (You can also explore its impact.
  13.  The role of women in the 1st/2nd World War.
  14. The place of women in the Victorian era.
  15. The slave trade and its economic importance in the USA/Europe.
  16. The fall of the USSR.
  17. The Cuban missile crisis.
  18. In light of the Coronavirus, explore the various epidemics in history.
  19. The development of medicine in history.
  20. The role of medicine in history.
  21. The development of military technology during the American Civil War.
  22. The development of military technology during the World Wars/Sino-Japanese Wars. For instance, explore the use of human torpedoes.
  23. Land tenure in (some part of) Europe in (some era.) For example, explore the peasant and their land rights.
  24. The efforts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa.
  25. The Ottoman Empire, it’s rise and fall, economic impact, etc.

As you can see, these topics are mainly ideas meant to inspire. You can easily focus them and craft a good research question for your purposes. Here is an example to show you how.

Topic: The Fall of Napoleon

Research question: To what extent did Britain play a role in the fall of Napoleon through the wars of 1806-1814?

Topic: The role of Christianity in history

Research question: What was the role of the Catholic church in the spread of Christianity in Europe/Americas/Africa?

Help With Extended Essay

For experienced academic mavens like us, writing a history extended essay on such intriguing topics is not only easy but fun.

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Let us write your history EE for you at the most affordable rates. We love our work, and always make sure to write each assignment from scratch, use thorough research, and deliver on time. Place your order and receive a special first-time discount of up to 50%, just for you.

About the author 

Antony W

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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