2019: Triumph and Tragedy
Theme Narrative by Lynne O'Hara
The Triumph and Tragedy in History theme requires that history be viewed from multiple lenses and perspectives. You need to understand the context in which your topic occurred (secondary sources), it’s historical significance, the views of all those involved (primary sources), and it’s impact on today.
During the 2018–2019 school year you and all National History Day students will dive into a topic based on the theme Triumph & Tragedy in History. You will ask questions about time, place and context, cause and effect, change over time, and impact and significance. You must consider not only when and where events happened, but also why they occurred, and what factors contributed to their development. You will describe your topic and then further develop it through analysis, drawing conclusions about how the topic influenced and was influenced by people, ideas, or events. Each year National History Day selects a theme that is intentionally broad enough so that you can select topics from anywhere in the world and any time period.
After deciding on your research topic, you must investigate historical context, historical significance, and the topic’s relationship to the theme by conducting research in libraries, archives, and museums; through oral history interviews; and by visiting historic sites. Also remember to use evidence from your research to explain how your topic has influenced history. How did your topic create change? Does every project need to include both triumph and tragedy? That depends on the topic you select. Look closely— most topics will include elements of both triumph and tragedy.
History is inherently uneven, and there will not always be an equal split between the two sides. Do not ignore connections to both aspects of the theme when they exist, but do not force your topic to fit into both sides of the theme. The Triumph & Tragedy in History theme is complex and requires you to view history through multiple perspectives. Can one person’s triumph be another’s tragedy? Can the same person or group suffer from tragedy and triumph at the same time? How does one ultimately triumph after tragedy? Can triumph lead to tragedy?
The most important question you need to answer to defend your thesis/argument is: So what? By answering this question, you are addressing the part of a History Day project that counts the most - it’s historical quality.