History essay competition

The Department of History's essay competition for 2023-2024 is now open! The deadline for entries is 5pm on Friday 26th April. We aim to inform all entrants of the outcome of the competition by the end of May 2024.

We are proud to sponsor this Y12/L6 History essay prize competition.

Student writing in a book

Our essay competition is open to Year 12 or Lower Sixth history students from schools and colleges anywhere in the UK.

There is a prize of £100 for the winning essay, and two runners-up essays will receive a prize of £25 each.

The intention behind the prize is:

  • to give History A Level students an opportunity to write about a topic that interests them
  • to encourage them to develop independent study skills
  • to provide schools and colleges with a 'stretch and challenge' exercise for their most talented students
  • to recognise the talents of aspiring history students

Essays must be on topics in our essay question title list.

You can view an example of a previous winning essay here.

Please read the full criteria below.

Submission criteria
  • essays should be no more than 1500 words in length, including footnotes but excluding any bibliography
  • essays must be on a topic chosen from the essay question title list below
  • essays must not be on a topic that entrants have studied in the year they are applying to the competition
  • entrants must be in Y12 or Lower 6th and must be studying A Level History, or equivalent. We can only accept essays from entrants who are based in the UK and study at a UK-based school or college  
  • a maximum of two applications per school/college per year are permitted
Assessment criteria

The assessors will be looking for essays that:  

  • provide a broad historical context 
  • show awareness of the changes in historiography 
  • use a range of sources (primary and/or secondary) 
  • are analytical, not descriptive 
  • are written in clear, continuous prose, correctly spelled and punctuated
  • demonstrate an understanding of differing interpretations of history and reach a substantiated conclusion. 
Essay question titles 2023-24
  1. How ‘Roman’ was the Roman Empire? 
  2. Was Alfred the Great great? 
  3. How complete was the Norman Conquest? 
  4. Were the Vikings primarily traders or raiders? 
  5. How central were religious imperatives in the Spanish Conquest? 
  6. How important is it to reframe the English Civil War as a war of three kingdoms? 
  7. Why did England become involved in the Atlantic slave-trade during the seventeenth century? 
  8. Can historians ever truly understand the experiences and perspectives of enslaved African Americans? 
  9. Does childhood have a history? 
  10. ‘The most important consequences of the French Revolution were in Haiti’. Discuss. 
  11. Was the First World War the first ‘global’ conflict? 
  12. Did women have a political voice in Britain before 1918? 
  13. Is it fair to call Stalin a ‘new tsar’?  
  14. Evaluate the roles of women in the Third Reich.
  15. Should historians extend the chronological boundaries of the American Civil Rights Movement beyond the 1950s and the 60s? 
  16. Did Mao Zedong lay the foundation for China’s rapid development?
  17. Did 1960s Britain experience a cultural revolution?
  18. ‘South African apartheid was ended not by the decisions of a few great men, but by the actions of ordinary people.’ Do you agree with this interpretation? 
  19. Why did all the ‘insane asylums’ close in Britain? 
  20. What can historians learn from the humour of past societies?

How to apply:

Deadline for the 2023-24 competition: 5pm, Friday 26 April 2024

  • No more than two applications can be received per school and college, so you should speak to your teacher before submission.
  • To submit your essay, please complete the Google form found here
  • The Google form will prompt you to submit the essay via a Dropbox link.
  • Please ensure once you've submitted the essay via the Dropbox link, you return to, and complete the Google form to ensure your submission is received by us.

We plan to be in touch with applicants to let them know the outcome of their application by the end of May 2024. We will keep applicants up-to-date if there are any delays with this timeline

If you have any questions, or issues, please get in touch with us at history.schools@sheffield.ac.uk.

Good luck to all applicants!

Due to the number of entries we get from across the UK, please note that we are unfortunately unable to provide feedback on unsuccessful entries. 

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