What should I write in my history essay introductions?

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While there is no exact formula for what constitutes a good history essay introduction, with differences depending on the type of essay (for example, a timed exam or coursework) and the examination board, the most important thing for all introductions to do is answer the question. This does not necessarily have to be in the first sentence of the introduction, but it is crucial that the introduction as a whole summarises the argument of the essay and provides a brief reason/justification for the answer that you are going to argue for the given question.Introductions are also often said to require key definitions. This is in part about specifying the range of the material being looked at (for example, by identifying a specific period, or set of cases). Often, the question will include a key term that, in more advanced essays at least, cannot be given a simple dictionary definition. For example, if the question asks how successful a ruler was, we may need to decide what this means in a more applied sense, whether, for example, they achieved what they set out to achieve, or whether their country was more powerful than when they came to power, or how far they were supported by their people. At the highest level, especially in some coursework essays, introductions can place the essay into a wider scholarly debate, addressing why the question asked here is important and what some historians have argued on this subject (the “historiography”). 

Hugh N.

About the author

Hugh N. is an online A Level History tutor with MyTutor studying at Oxford, Pembroke College University

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