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Civil War Essay Topics

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

An essay can be a great way for students to consolidate and showcase their understanding of a topic. This lesson provides you with some ideas for essays about the Civil War.

Why Essay Topics?

When students have learned about a major historical event, they need to process what they've learned. You want to give them an opportunity to consolidate their understanding, synthesize ideas and information from a variety of sources, and showcase their understanding and opinions. One of the best ways to do this is via an essay. In essays, students can take on questions that do not have simple right or wrong answers and examine them from multiple points of view. Essays are great exercises in critical thinking and increasing depth of knowledge.

The Civil War is a defining event in US history, so giving students a chance to write about it is important. This lesson offers some history essay topics that prompt students to go beyond concrete facts and apply analytical skills to what they know about the Civil War.

Essay Topics and Questions

Following are ten varied essay topics on the Civil War with prompts or questions to stimulate student thinking.

Causes of the Civil War

In your own words, define three different causes of the Civil War. After providing a discussion of each of these causes, describe how they might or might not have interacted with each other. Do you think each cause played an equal role in leading to the war? Which, if any, of the causes that you named had the biggest impact, and why?

The Role of Industrialization

Discuss the impact of industrialization on the Civil War. In what ways did industrialization and innovation lead to the war or impact how the war was fought? How might the outcome of the war have differed if industrialization and invention were in a different place?

Abraham Lincoln's Leadership

Describe Abraham Lincoln as a president and leader during the Civil War. How did his leadership impact the outcome of the war, and how might things have turned out differently under a different president? What did his presidency, charisma, and leadership do to impact the course of US history and the nature of the presidency? To what extent do you think his leadership was a defining factor in the war?

Life in the North, Life in the South

Describe life in the North and the South before the Civil War. Focus your essay not on leaders or powerful individuals but on what you know about daily life for most people. How was life different and similar in these two parts of the country? How was the overall culture similar or different? What factors do you consider to account for these differences, and how did these differences impact the Civil War?

Changes in Public Opinion

At the beginning of the Civil War, many northerners actually opposed the war. However, this quickly changed as the war unfolded. What factors caused public opinions in the North to change? What does this teach you about changes in public opinion and cultural norms overall?

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