Department of History

History Department Essay Contests

The Department of History offers several monetary prizes for the best undergraduate essays in World History, European History, the American Civil War, and U.S. Political and Diplomatic history. Developing an award-winning essay is an excellent learning experience and will strengthen a resume or an application to graduate or professional school.

World History Essay Prize ($500)
Any IU undergraduate may submit an essay of any length on any topic in the history of any part of the world except the U.S. and western Europe.

European History Prize ($200)
Any IU undergraduate may submit a paper of 15 pages or less (exclusive of notes and bibliography), on any topic in European History.

William M. Locke Prize ($400)
Any IU undergraduate may submit a paper of 15 pages or less (exclusive of notes and bibliography), on a topic related to the American Civil War.

John W. Foster Prize ($200)
Any IU undergraduate may submit a paper of 15 pages or less (exclusive of notes and bibliography), relating to the political and diplomatic history of the United States.

M. Jeanne Peterson Prize ($200)
Any IU undergraduate may submit an essay of any length on any topic in any geo-temporal period concerning: women’s history, the history of gender, or the history of sexuality.

Some suggestions for students submitting essays for the competitions:
While you probably will want to submit an essay you wrote for a class you took (and this is fine), you should keep in mind that even an outstanding essay written to satisfy the requirements of a specific assignment may not make a good submission without some revision. When an essay is a response to an assignment, the author can often choose to omit information that might be required in a more general essay. However, the readers for the contest will expect to see an essay that is entirely self-contained, that is, that contains within it all the information an intelligent reader would need to know to understand the point of the essay. So you will probably need to revise your essay to make it suitable. Ask yourself these questions as you revise:

Is my essay on a topic that would be interesting for a general reader?
Teachers often assign bibliographic essays or reviews. These are very important intellectual exercises for students, but they are often not of much interest to anyone outside the field. A good history essay is one written on an interesting topic, that asks an interesting question, and that supports its answer to that question in interesting and effective ways.

Does my essay have a real thesis (a position I am arguing for or defending) or is it simply a narrative?
An essay that is essentially descriptive will probably not be as strong a competitor as an essay that presents a point of view about the past.

Is my essay focused?
An essay which has a tight focus is likely to be more effective and persuasive than an essay that ranges far and wide.

Are my sources properly cited?
Sometimes in a classroom essay, you are only required to cite works by the author’s last name and page number; for this contest all works need a full and proper citation, whether you choose parenthetical citation with a “Works Cited” list at the end or footnotes and endnotes. For more information about citing sources and the Chicago Manual of Style, visit Research and Writing for History J300 & J400.

Have I corrected all of the grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors in this essay?
An essay containing spelling and grammatical errors is simply not impressive; it does not convince the readers that you have any authority and such sloppiness irritates educated readers.

Submission Instructions

Qualified undergraduates may submit no more than one essay per prize. Essays should be typed in no smaller than 12-point (10cpi) type, and the text should be double-spaced, with 1” margins. The pages should be printed only on one side. Essays may not be submitted in electronic form. Each essay should have a cover page supplying the name of the author, the title of the essay, the prize the essay is being submitted for, and contact information (both a telephone number and an email address). On the second and subsequent pages of the essay, the author should set a header, with the author’s last name and a short title of the paper. For all of these prizes, four copies of the undergraduate’s essay (including the cover page) should be submitted to the History Academic Advisor's Mailbox in Ballantine Hall 742 by Wednesday, March 26, 2014.