Finding Ideas for History Articles
by Amy O'Quinn
As writers, we find ideas all around us. Snatches of a conversation overheard in the grocery store, lyrics from a song, an article in the newspaper, a movie plot, some obscure information read in an old book, or an epitaph on a moss-covered grave—all of these things can be grist for a writer’s mill.
What Sparks Your Interest?
Of course, we tend to get more excited about researching and writing on topics that interest us. I have found ideas for history articles (a personal favorite) in some surprising places. When my children studied the Great Depression, my interest was piqued enough to write an article about Herbert Hoover for a history magazine. The same thing happened when they studied the Oregon Trail, Archimedes, and ancient Rome and Greece. Another article about poisonous gas was inspired from our dig into World War I history. My homeschooled children studied and read. I researched and wrote. It worked out great for all of us!
Stuff You Missed in History Class
Over the last few years, I have found another great source for history article ideas. The Stuff You Missed In History Class podcast is well-researched and based on fact and findings, rather than legend and speculation. The topics covered are sometimes about little known figures or obscure events, but the content is extremely interesting.
For example, I have learned about Operation Mincemeat (a World War II spy plot involving a dead body), toshers (men/boys who searched for coins and items in London’s sewers), and the recent discovery of King Richard II’s skeleton beneath a London parking lot. My mind has been reeling about how I can take what I learned from these podcasts and springboard into researching and writing history articles for children.
More Ideas for Finding Ideas:
One of the best ways to get ideas for history articles is to brainstorm. Just sit down and write every single idea that pops into your head. What period of history most excites you? Are there any historical events/places/figures in your county or community that warrant a second look? How about in your state or region? No idea or topic is silly. Just capture every thought as it comes. Then look back over your list and see if you can develop an article idea from something you wrote down.
I can think of at least three ideas for history articles that involve things that happened in my southern locale. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, was captured nearby. General Grant’s drummer boy is buried in a local cemetery. Additionally, I live in an area that was designated for ‘resettlement farms’ during the Great Depression. Could I take these ideas and develop them into articles? Of course!
Check Out Ideas Created for ‘Grown Up’ Shows and Publications
The History Channel and website, American Heritage, Good Old Days, etc. are all places to find history article ideas. Could you take a kernel of an idea and focus on it in depth to create a top-notch children’s article? The top history websites and magazines written for adults have their finger on the pulse of what is being discovered, what topics are hot, or what is current buzz.
Research and Write
Ideas truly are everywhere, yet sometimes where we least expect them. When we hear or read about a topic or historical event that really gets our creative juices flowing, we need to start researching and writing. We need to keep our ears, eyes, and ‘what-iffers’ in good working order, and we’ll never run short of ideas for writing history articles for children. Just start digging!
*Article originally appeared on The Work Writer's Club website HERE.