This page lists American history research paper topics and ideas and provides links to example papers on American history.
The world’s largest tropical rain forest, the Amazon, has often been referred to as a “false paradise” inhospitable to human societies. New research revealing evidence about landscape manipulation and soils, however, suggests that various ancient societies practiced relatively intensive forms of agriculture. Thus, historians can now study the variety and complexity of human adaptation to both the challenges and the potential of the Amazon basin proper and the surrounding regions. See Amazonia Research Paper.
The American Empire, or American imperialism more generally, is a disputed concept that refers to the political, economic, military, and cultural infl uence of the United States around the world. The idea of American imperialism gained in popularity when the United States took possession of Spanish colonies following the Spanish- American War of 1898. More recently the term is invoked to critique U.S. foreign policy. See American Empire Research Paper.
Diverse and isolated cultures developed during the 13,500 years of human habitation of the Americas before the European arrival in 1492. That encounter produced some tragic consequences but also integrated the Americas amongst themselves and with the rest of the world. Eventually, the resulting exchanges between Old World and New created opportunities for both, while the shock of the encounter initiated enduring refl ections about human rights, liberty, and political legitimacy. See The Americas Research Paper.
The early civilizations of the Andes were shaped by the geography of the region—rugged mountains, desert coastal plains, and narrow river valleys—into independent, self-suffi cient communities. Gathering these villages under state rule required coercion and the redistribution of goods. Because no written records exist, the history of the pre-Incan Andes has been interpreted entirely from the archeological record. See Andean States Research Paper.
Native American Art
More than fi ve hundred cultural groups, and many more prior to Spanish colonization in the early sixteenth century, have created the body of art attributed to Native North Americans. The category is thus not cohesive, ranging from ancient petroglyphs to contemporary photographs, and from horse-effi gy dance sticks to installation and performance art. In its great diversity, however, it typically incorporates and conveys a relationship to place and community. See Native American Art Research Paper.
The arts of Central and South America created prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 1500s represent the development of many sophisticated civilizations, some of which still exist. Although countless changes occurred after the European conquest, many indigenous philosophies, cultures, and customs did not vanish; rather, people of the Americas found ways to combine aspects of old and new, especially in their art and architecture. See Pre-Columbian Art Research Paper.
The Aztec Empire of central Mexico dominated through imperial rule for nearly a hundred years as overlords took control of numerous city-states in the regions, gaining power and wealth. The vast and powerful empire attracted Spanish invaders seeking wealth and treasure. These invaders brought with them disease and advanced weaponry that eventually led to the defeat of the Aztecs and the fall of the empire. See Aztec Empire Research Paper.
With few exceptions, the spread of plants, animals, and diseases was limited to geographically bound regions for much of the Earth’s history. Humans facilitated biological exchange, intentionally and accidentally carrying species across natural borders. As opportunities for human travel increased, so did the opportunities for biological exchange, often with dramatic consequences. See Biological Exchanges Research Paper.
Simon Bolivar’s aristocratic background, education, and his and Grand Tour experience in 1799 resulted in his exposure to European revolutionaries in the early days of the Napoleonic era; in 1805 he made an oath to free South America from Spanish rule. He achieved his goal twenty-one years later, after failed attempts, exile, and a decade of war, thereby earning his title of “Liberator.” See Simon Bolivar Research Paper.
History’s portrayal of Christopher Columbus, which varies from hero to destroyer, often overshadows the man and his achievements. The European explorer who fi rst set sail for the Americas in 1492 failed in his mission to fi nd a route to the East Indies, but his journeys to the Americas sparked an era of unprecedented exchange between the Old and New Worlds. See Christopher Columbus Research Paper.
Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama was among a handful of explorers who reshaped trade and labor among Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas. His three voyages between 1497 and 1524 opened an ocean route for trade between Europe and Asia; his three landings on the east coast of Africa in 1498, the first by a European, furthered the Portuguese goal of using Africans as a source of labor. His voyages led Portugal to dictate the terms of trade in the Indian Ocean and to enslave Africans for shipment to plantations first in the Mediterranean and islands off the African coast, then around the globe. See Vasco da Gama Research Paper.
W. E. B. Du Bois
The writings of W. E. B. Du Bois, including the fi rst study of urban blacks in the United States, had a huge impact on African American communities during the 1900s. Du Bois believed in Pan- Africanism and played a major role in founding the NAACP. Although he left the United States for political reasons, he remained (and still does nearly fi fty years after his death) an infl uential presence. See W. E. B. Du Bois Research Paper.
Albert Einstein remains one of the most infl uential people in the fi elds of science and mathematics. The Nobel Prize–winning physicist contributed theories on relativity and the photoelectric effect that are still upheld today. Though German born, Einstein lived out the last portion of his life in the United States and even urged President Roosevelt to act against Nazi Germany. See Albert Einstein Research Paper.
Published in 1789, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano . . . Written by Himself tells the story of an African man enslaved by the British during the mid-eighteenth century. Whether it is based strictly on Equiano’s life or on others, the book spares no sense of the horror and inhumane treatment slaves suffered. Equiano fought for the abolitionist cause from 1789 until his death in 1797. See Olaudah Equiano Research Paper.
Fur trading played an important economic role in Russia, Alaska, and North America by opening up the frontiers to settlers in the early 1500s. Native Americans exchanged furs for goods like fi rearms, blankets, and liquor with early European fi sherman and settlers, and later with trading companies that sold the furs to luxury clothing manufacturers or to felting industries that made hats. See Fur Trade Research Paper.
The Argentine-born revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara is renowned worldwide for his commitment to international social justice during the mid-twentieth century. Although he was both hated and loved for the guerilla warfare tactics he advocated in Cuba, the Congo, and Bolivia, his writings continue to offer insight into world history from the perspective of an internationalist, rather than one committed to a nation-state. See Che Guevara Research Paper.
Hudson’s Bay Company
The Hudson’s Bay Company was a signifi cant British trading company, leading in fur trade, exploring and developing the Canadian wilderness, and holding the biggest territory of any company in the history of the world from its foundation in 1670 till the forced sale of its landholdings in 1869. Since the land sales it has remained a signifi cant actor in Canadian business till present times. See Hudson’s Bay Company Research Paper.
About a hundred years before the Spanish conquistador Franciso Pizzaro took the capital of Cuzco in 1533, the Inca ruled a vast empire that rivaled only China’s. Through diplomacy and force, the Incas conquered diverse ethnic groups with different beliefs and social structures. During the fi rst fi fty years of Spanish rule, epidemics, civil wars, and forced labor wiped out over half of the population. See Inca Empire Research Paper.
Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the American Declaration of Independence, drew upon French and English Enlightenment political philosophy, and especially the work of the Englishman John Locke, to urge colonists to fi ght for a government based on popular consent—a government that could secure the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson became the third U.S. president in March 1801. See Thomas Jefferson Research Paper.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership, from the mid-1950s until his death in 1968, was critical to the civil rights movement’s success in ending the legal segregation of African Americans in the South and other parts of the United States. See Martin Luther King Jr. Research Paper.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), also called the Church of Jesus Christ, is the fi fth-largest Christian denomination in the United States. The church is often called the “Mormon” church because of members’ adherence to The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ as scripture in addition to the Bible. See Latter-Day Saints Research Paper.
Abraham Lincoln, a lawyer and politician noted early on for his integrity and graceful rhetoric, was president of the United States during the U.S. Civil War; he is credited with saving the Union and freeing the slaves. After his assassination in 1865 his role was mythologized and remains controversial for those who see his Emancipation Proclamation as a failure and criticize his active support for resettlement of slaves in Africa. See Abraham Lincoln Research Paper.
Mesoamerica (most of present-day Mexico and parts of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras) was one of the two regions in the Americas (the other being the Andes) where complex state societies developed before the arrival of the Spanish in the early sixteenth century. The long-term and extensive contact among peoples and states in the region infl uenced sociopolitical, cultural, and religious ideas in other regions to the south and north. See Mesoamerica Research Paper.
Francisco de Miranda
The South American revolutionary Francisco de Miranda was not an exceptional military talent, a gifted diplomat, or an innovative thinker. He was a master propagandist and tireless promoter of the one idea that animated his entire life: the emancipation of Spanish America. For his constant efforts on four continents, his countrymen have given him the title of Precursor. See Francisco de Miranda Research Paper.
At the end of the fi rst millennium CE, the Mississippi River valley of North America was the scene of tremendous social and political transformations, resulting in the creation of what archaeologists identify as a Mississippian culture comparable to other complex societies across the globe. See Mississippian Culture Research Paper.
Native American Religions
The term religion suggests that the sacred can be separated from ordinary life. Among Native American peoples the sacred, the appearance of the extraordinary, and the most meaningful values are intertwined with daily concerns. Thus the pursuit of sustenance, and the making of useful objects or political decisions, may be charged with the presence and power of that which moves the cosmos. The term lifeway indicates this close connection. See Native American Religions Research Paper.
Organization of American States (OAS)
The Organization of American States (OAS) is the world’s oldest regional organization, dating to 1889–90. The stated primary concerns of the OAS are promoting democracy, defending human rights, multilateral security, and economic and social development. Today the OAS membership comprises the thirty-fi ve independent states of the Americas; another sixty-two states have permanent observer status, as has the European Union. See Organization of American States Research Paper.
Pentecostals, who interpret the Bible literally and believe in the imminent return of Christ, are distinguished from other Fundamentalists or Evangelicals by greater exuberance in their religious services. Pentecostals emphasize prophecy, interpretation of tongues, healing, and exorcism of demons. The movement has spread from its roots in the United States to the Caribbean, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Korea, Britain, and Eastern Europe. See Pentecostalism Research Paper.
Postcolonial analysis is a mode of inquiry into the nature and aftereffects of European colonial rule in different parts of the world, from the Americas to India and Africa. It has emerged since World War II as one of the most dynamic if not controversial modes of inquiry to be articulated in the humanities. See Postcolonial Analysis Research Paper.
The term Cuban Revolution applies to two phases of Cuban history since the mid-1950s. The fi rst regards the actual military campaign that began in December 1956 with the landing by Fidel Castro and close to one hundred men in Oriente Province, which triumphed in January 1959 with the victory of his rebel army. The second, based on political alliances and ideologies, started immediately after Fidel Castro’s entry into Havana. See Cuban Revolution Research Paper.
The revolution in Haiti began in 1791 and ended in 1804 with the establishment of the Republic of Haiti. It is the only slave revolt in history that led to the founding of an independent nation. The Republic of Haiti was the second republic (after the United States) established in the Americas. See Haitian Revolution Research Paper.
The Mexican Revolution (1910–1920) stemmed from several sources: the alienation of elites who saw their political authority dwindling, the bitterness of peasants and workers who faced economic setbacks and famines, the dictatorial nature of the regime that had promised democracy, and the rise of economic nationalism. Among its successes was the return of more than 25 percent of the nation’s land to the peasantry and rural workers. See Mexican Revolution Research Paper.
The American Revolution (1775–1783) is significant in world history for several reasons: the opportunity to weaken Britain’s position drew the French monarchy into the confl ict, which contributed to a fi nancial crisis and the ensuing French Revolution; the rebellion inspired later changes in British colonial policy (at least where white settlers predominated); and the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence inspired revolutionaries and nationalists elsewhere in the world. See American Revolution Research Paper.
The unprecedented range of Eleanor Roosevelt’s activities, both during her troubled marriage to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and after his death in 1945, made her nearly as controversial a fi gure as her husband. She was a long-time advocate of liberal causes such as child welfare, housing reform, and equal rights for women and racial minorities. See Eleanor Roosevelt Research Paper.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Both beloved and hated during his presidency (in offi ce 1933–1945), Franklin Roosevelt expanded the powers of the U.S. government, instituted a number of regulations and reforms to give Americans a “new deal,” and helped preserve Western liberal democracy by aiding Britain during World War II, which created a bulwark against later Soviet aggression. See Franklin Delano Roosevelt Research Paper.
The trading of slaves had its origins when agricultural societies increasingly needed to defend lands and borders; it proliferated as growing empires expanded their own. Transatlantic slave trade, with its infamous Middle Passage, ensnared roughly 11 million people between 1443 and 1870; historians caution that using only slave-ship records to account for such numbers leaves out millions who perished in forced marches to factories on the African coast. See Slave Trade Research Paper.
Sugar, a dietary source of sweetness and energy, can also act as a binder, stabilizer, caramelizer, and bulking agent. Throughout much of history sugar was a luxury. The expansion of the industry in the Western Hemisphere increased the supply of sugar in Europe, making it less costly; it also linked sugar production with slavery and plantation agriculture, thus affecting lasting political, economic, social, and cultural consequences. See Sugar Research Paper.
Ancient American Trade
Trade was widely practiced in all parts of the ancient New World, among societies of all levels of social complexity, from the earliest huntergatherers to late prehistoric empires like the Aztec and Inca. But the high costs associated with overland human transport produced a volume of long-distance trade lower than that found in many other ancient societies. See Ancient American Trade Research Paper.
Trade and exchange were ancient and pervasive activities throughout Mesoamerica (much of present-day Mexico and northern Central America). The great ecological diversity of Mesoamerica, from steaming tropical forests to highland mountains and plateaus, stimulated the development of regional specialties (such as textiles from the Peruvian Andes) and the opportunity to exchange surplus yields with others. See Mesoamerican Trade Research Paper.
Although the massive rebellion he led in 1780 against Spanish colonial authority was ultimately suppressed, the Peruvian revolutionary Tupac Amaru, a descendant of the ruler in power during the conquest of the Inca capital at Cuzco in 1533, has become an iconic fi gure in the struggle for indigenous rights in Peru. See Tupac Amaru Research Paper.
Post-Columbian Latin American Warfare
War is a constant theme in the history of Latin America. Soon after discovery of the New World in 1492, the Spanish and Portuguese fought and conquered the indigenous peoples. Between the fi fteenth and twentieth centuries, wars for independence, indigenous uprisings, battles for rights to navigation and resources, and internal revolutions took place throughout the continent. See Post-Columbian Latin American Warfare Research Paper.
Post-Columbian North American Warfare
Warfare in North America after the 1492 arrival of Columbus in the West Indies determined the settlement pattern of European colonization and rule, as well as the pattern of European–Native American relations, for the next four hundred years. It also established what some historians have termed the American way of war: a combination of the “surprise and ambush” tactics of Native American warfare and the heavy fi repower of European warfare. See Post-Columbian North American Warfare Research Paper.
Pre-Columbian American Warfare
The earliest evidence of specialized arms for warfare in Mesoamerica dates to post-1150 BCE in Mexico. While North American weapons were used primarily for hunting (at least before 900 CE), Mesoamerican weaponry emphasized hand-to-hand combat and was designed to capture and kill people. Despite this greater emphasis on weapons, perhaps the most crucial element of Mesoamerican warfare was organization and discipline. See Pre-Columbian American Warfare Research Paper.
Pre-Columbian South American Warfare
Indigenous South Americans apparently waged war for many of the same reasons as other peoples: to control land, natural resources, human labor, and trade. Most of what we know about Andean warfare in South America comes from carvings and pottery, and it indicates an emphasis on violence. Less clear is whether the apparent depredatory and cannibalistic behaviors in Amazonia were aggravated by European colonialism. See Pre-Columbian South American Warfare Research Paper.
Western civilization is a historical concept with a recent origin and uncertain future. The term became a secular equivalent in the United States to “Latin Christendom,” but it never took fi rm hold in Europe, where national differences loomed too large. As globalization advances, the separateness of local civilizations blurs; historians, refl ecting their times, have begun to emphasize transcivilizational connections while questioning the coherence of Western or any other regional civilization. See Western Civilization Research Paper.
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