extended essay topics history

IB Extended Essay Topics: History

Choosing the perfect topic for a History extended essay may initially seem daunting. However, with guidance and a little insider knowledge, it can actually be fascinating. As an experienced IB writer and tutor, I’m here to share my insights and give you some ideas for extended essay topics in History.

What Is the IB History Extended Essay?

This extended essay is an integral component of the Diploma Programme, offering students the chance to undertake independent, in-depth research on a topic of their choice within the IB History course. Drawing on my years of experience writing within the IB framework and mentoring students through their extended essays, I’ve come to appreciate the unique opportunity it provides for personal growth.

The extended essay in History investigates a specific historical question, event, or theme that interests the student. According to the general IB criteria, the essay encourages students to develop skills in critical thinking, deep step-by-step research, and academic writing. From my perspective, what sets this extended essay apart is how it challenges students to act as historians: asking questions, analyzing sources, and developing nuanced interpretations. Now, let’s highlight a few essential points:

  • The primary objective of the IB History extended essay is to enable students to research a historical topic in great detail, demonstrating their ability to formulate a focused research question, gather and evaluate evidence, and construct a coherent argument.
  • The essay is expected to be rigorous, where students apply analytical skills to dissect historical narratives, argue a thesis, and contribute to historical understanding.
  • The research requires a careful balance between primary and secondary sources, offering insights into the historical period or events.

Having witnessed many students overcome the IB History extended essay challenges, I’ve identified a few common pitfalls: choosing a topic that is too broad or narrow and underestimating the importance of a well-structured argument. In my opinion, avoiding these pitfalls begins with thorough planning and ongoing reflection throughout the research and writing process.

extended essay topics history

IB History Extended Essay Topics and Research Questions

Based on my extensive experience mentoring students through the IB DP, I’ve found that the right topic can make all the difference. Here are some ideas and IB research questions to inspire and challenge History students:

  1. The Impact of the Cold War on Global Alliances. How did the Cold War influence the formation and dissolution of alliances in the second half of the 20th century?
  2. Decolonization in Africa After World War II. What were the primary factors driving the decolonization process in Africa after World War II?
  3. The Role of Women in the French Revolution. How did the French Revolution alter the status and perceptions of women in French society?
  4. Economic Policies of the Ming Dynasty. What were the economic policies of the Ming Dynasty, and how did they contribute to its stability and prosperity?
  5. The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Turning Point in the Cold War. To what extent did the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 alter the course of the Cold War?
  6. The Influence of the Silk Road on the Spread of Ideas. How did the Silk Road facilitate the exchange of ideas and cultural practices between East and West?
  7. The Fall of the Berlin Wall: Causes and Consequences. What were the immediate causes of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and how did its collapse impact Germany and Europe?
  8. The Rise and Fall of the Aztec Empire. What factors led to the rapid rise and subsequent fall of the Aztec Empire?
  9. The British Raj in India: An Analysis of Economic Impact. How did British colonial rule alter India’s economic landscape?
  10. The Influence of Propaganda in Nazi Germany. How did Nazi propaganda influence the German population during the 1930s and throughout World War II?
  11. The Genocide in Rwanda: An Analysis of International Response. What was the international community’s response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and how effective was it?
  12. The Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Urbanization. How did the Industrial Revolution contribute to urbanization in 19th-century England?
  13. The Role of Cryptography in World War II. To what extent did advances in cryptography influence the outcome of World War II?
  14. The Treaty of Versailles: A Prelude to World War II. How did the Treaty of Versailles contribute to the conditions leading to World War II?
  15. The Cultural Revolution in China: Goals and Outcomes. What were the stated goals of the Cultural Revolution in China, and to what extent were they achieved?
  16. The Impact of the Spanish Influenza on Post-World War I Society. How did the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 affect societal changes in post-World War I Europe?
  17. Apartheid in South Africa: Origins and Outcomes. What were the origins of apartheid in South Africa, and what were its long-term effects on the nation’s social and economic fabric?
  18. The Role of the Samurai in Japanese Society. How did the role and perception of samurai change in Japanese society from the Kamakura to the Edo period?
  19. The Manhattan Project: Scientific Breakthroughs and Ethical Dilemmas. What were the Manhattan Project’s scientific breakthroughs, and what ethical dilemmas did they present?
  20. The Renaissance in Italy: A New Dawn of Cultural Awakening. How did the Italian Renaissance catalyze a cultural awakening across Europe?
  21. The Impact of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire on Eurasia. To what extent did Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire’s conquests influence the political and cultural landscape of Eurasia?
  22. The Crusades: A Clash of Faiths and Cultures. How did the Crusades influence the cultural and religious dynamics between Christian and Muslim societies?
  23. The Haitian Revolution: Implications for Slavery and Colonialism. What were the implications of the Haitian Revolution for the institution of slavery and the system of colonialism in the Americas?
  24. The Formation of NATO and its Role in the Cold War. How did the formation of NATO shape the political and military landscape of the Cold War era?
  25. The Role of Propaganda in the American Revolution. How did propaganda influence public opinion and support for the American Revolution?
  26. The Great Leap Forward in China: Intentions and Consequences. What were the intentions behind the Great Leap Forward in China, and what were its consequences for Chinese society and economy?
  27. The Salem Witch Trials: Socio-Economic Causes and Effects. What socioeconomic factors contributed to the Salem Witch Trials, and what were their long-term effects on the community?
  28. The Impact of the Gold Rush on California’s Development. How did the California Gold Rush affect California’s economic, social, and demographic development?
  29. British Naval Supremacy in the 18th Century. What factors contributed to the rise of British naval supremacy in the 18th century, and how did it influence global trade patterns?
  30. The Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire: Causes and Consequences. What were the primary causes of the Ottoman Empire’s decline and eventual dissolution, and what were the consequences for the Middle East?
  31. The Environmental Impact of the Industrial Revolution. How did the Industrial Revolution alter the natural landscape and contribute to environmental changes in industrialized countries?
  32. The Influence of the Enlightenment on Democratic Ideals. To what extent did Enlightenment philosophies influence the development of democratic ideals in the late 18th and early 19th centuries?
  33. The Partition of India: Causes and Effects on Communal Relations. What were the primary causes of the Partition of India in 1947, and how did it affect Hindu-Muslim relations in the subcontinent?
  34. The Role of Women in World War II’s Workforce. How did the involvement of women in the workforce during World War II impact gender roles and societal expectations in the post-war period?
  35. The Impact of Technological Advancements on 20th Century Warfare. How have technological advancements changed the nature of warfare in the 20th century, particularly concerning World Wars I and II?
  36. Diplomatic Strategies of the Tudor Monarchs. How did the diplomatic strategies of the Tudor monarchs shape European politics?
  37. Economic Impacts of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. What were the long-term economic impacts of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on the West African economies?
  38. The Rise of Totalitarianism in 20th Century Europe. What factors contributed to the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe during the early 20th century?
  39. Native American Societies Before European Contact. How did Native American societies in North America structure their political and social systems before European contact?
  40. The Fall of the Soviet Union: Internal and External Factors. Which were more significant in causing the fall of the Soviet Union: internal economic issues or external political pressures?
  41. The Effect of the Printing Press on European Religious Movements. How did the invention of the printing press influence the spread of religious reform movements across Europe?
  42. The Role of Women in the Resistance Movements During WWII. What role did women play in resistance movements across Europe during World War II?
  43. The Formation of Modern Nation-States in the Middle East. How did the Sykes-Picot Agreement influence the formation of modern nation-states in the Middle East?
  44. Social Reforms of the Meiji Restoration. What were the key social reforms of the Meiji Restoration, and how did they transform Japanese society?
  45. The Cultural Impact of the British Empire on Its Colonies. What were the primary cultural impacts of the British Empire on its colonies during the 19th and early 20th centuries?
  46. Impact of Colonial Rule on Southeast Asia’s Economic Development. How did colonial rule impact the economic development of Southeast Asia from the 19th to the early 20th century?
  47. The Role of Secret Societies in Revolutionary Movements. What role did secret societies play in promoting revolutionary movements throughout history?
  48. Consequences of the Treaty of Versailles on Weimar Germany. How did the Treaty of Versailles contribute to the political and economic instability in Weimar Germany?
  49. Influence of the Spice Trade on European Colonialism. How did the spice trade influence the patterns and practices of European colonialism in the 15th and 16th centuries?
  50. Transformation of Warfare During the Napoleonic Wars. How did warfare evolve during the Napoleonic Wars, and what were the long-term effects on European military strategies?
  51. The Role of Intelligence in the Cold War. How did intelligence operations impact the conduct and outcome of the Cold War?
  52. Architectural Renaissance: The Influence of Classical Antiquity. How did the revival of classical antiquity influence architectural developments during the Renaissance?
  53. Social Impacts of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. What were the key social impacts of the Industrial Revolution on British society in the 19th century?
  54. Decolonization and National Identity in the Caribbean. How did decolonization shape national identity in Caribbean countries during the 20th century?
  55. Economic Consequences of the Black Death in Medieval Europe. What were the economic consequences of the Black Death in Europe, and how did it alter the economic landscape of the continent?
  56. Women’s Suffrage Movements in the Early 20th Century. How did women’s suffrage movements in different countries influence each other, and what were their outcomes?
  57. The Impact of the Cuban Revolution on Latin American Politics. How did the Cuban Revolution influence political ideologies and movements in Latin America?
  58. Technological Innovations and Their Impact on the First World War. What role did technological innovations play in shaping the tactics and outcomes of the First World War?
  59. Rise and Fall of the Zulu Kingdom. What were the key factors contributing to the rise and subsequent fall of the Zulu Kingdom in the 19th century?
  60. The Influence of Religion on Early Modern European Diplomacy. How did religious considerations influence diplomacy in Early Modern Europe?

You can use these topics or refine them as you see fit. It is also good to consult your teacher or supervisor when choosing the best theme for in-depth research.

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Tips for Choosing History Extended Essay Topics

Drawing from years of experience guiding students through this process, I’ve observed that the difference between a good and an outstanding extended essay often lies in the initial choice of topic. Here are some insider tips to help you.

1. Align with Your Interests

It might seem obvious, but it’s easy to be swayed by what seems popular or what you think might impress. Remember, you’ll spend much time researching and writing about this topic. From my experience, students who choose passionate topics tend to enjoy the research process more.

2. Availability of Sources

Conduct preliminary research before settling on a topic to ensure enough primary and secondary sources are accessible. A lack of sources can severely limit your ability to develop a comprehensive and nuanced argument. From my experience, a well-chosen topic is supported by ample evidence that you can analyze and interpret.

3. Originality and Specificity

Try to find a unique angle or a specific aspect of a broader topic. It doesn’t mean you need to choose something obscure but focus on narrowing down a broad topic to something more manageable and original. Originality catches the eye, and specificity helps maintain a clear focus throughout your essay.

4. Be Mindful of Overdone Topics

While it’s okay to choose a popular topic, be cautious of subjects that have been extensively covered. If you opt for a well-trodden path, bring a fresh perspective or focus on an unstudied aspect. From my experience, stand-out essays offer new insights into familiar topics.


Writing the IB History extended essay requires patience and persistence. According to general IB criteria, this paper should demonstrate clarity of thought, depth of insight, and an understanding of historical context. In my experience, successful essays demonstrate a mastery of the topic and an ability to engage with historical debates. So choose your topic wisely, and remember that you can always order custom-written essays from our IB experts. ✍️

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