Leadership and Legacy in History
During the 2014—2015 school year, National History Day invites students to research topics related to the theme Leadership and Legacy in History. Congratulations on beginning your National History Day journey! This year’s theme is Leadership and Legacy in History. For those of you who have traveled this road before, you know that creating a great NHD project takes you out of the classroom and into exciting libraries, museums and archives in search of primary sources related to your topic.
And since you get to choose the topic, you know that you will be interested in learning about it! You will discover history firsthand - seeing the very documents or historic sites that you read about in your textbook and, based on your research, come to your own conclusions about historical events.
For those of you who are brand new to the National History Day experience, welcome!
This year’s theme, Leadership and Legacy in History, is broad. This means you can choose a topic that allows you to explore your own interests, whether it’s science, politics, the arts, education—you name it.
What is leadership and what is legacy? In broad terms, leadership is the act of leading: providing motivation, guidance or direction, usually from a position of authority. Leadership also implies the ability to lead—possessing the skills necessary to articulate a shared vision and inspire others to embrace and achieve that vision. Leaders often personify other admirable values such as courage, selflessness, ingenuity and patriotism. Certain traits like ego and confidence are important in a leader; however, such traits may be seen as negative qualities if he or she becomes overzealous or too headstrong. How do you evaluate the legacy of overzealous leaders like Saddam Hussein or Joseph Stalin? Were they leaders or tyrants? Is balance an important aspect to good leadership?
What is a legacy? It's what a person leaves behind long after they're gone. It can be good or bad.
For the NHD people, history is at least 25 years old. Anything more recent is considered current events.
Inspiration can come from most any place: local history, your textbooks, or perhaps recent headlines, TV shows or even the latest Twitter feed. As a student, it’s your right to find a topic that you want to find out more about, but you also have responsibilities: to choose carefully and develop your NHD project in ways that best use your talents and abilities. Listed below are some examples of different kinds of projects that address this year’s theme.
Let’s think about this year’s theme. In considering the theme Leadership and Legacy in History, keep in mind that it’s important to address both elements. Highlighting both the leadership and the legacy of your chosen subject will help you clearly explain the relation of your topic to the theme. Successful researchers look at available primary and secondary sources and draw conclusions from the information. Your analysis of the evidence and presentation of the information to support your thesis is a critical part of your project. Use these primary sources and let the individuals speak for themselves. In thinking about your topic, ask yourself, “what is so important about my topic and what do I want people to understand after viewing my project?” Your answers to these key questions will help guide you as you decide how to present your information. If you can find a way to relate your project to your personal life that will really score some points. For example, your project could be based on how your family has this story that you're all related to Napoleon. You set out to see why that would be such a good thing and then publish the results of your search for your long lost relative.
To explore a topic’s historical importance, you have to answer the question, “So what?” You must address questions about time and place, cause and effect, change over time, and impact and significance. Always try to do more than just describe what happened. Draw conclusions about how the topic affected individuals, communities, other nations and the world as a whole. This helps give your research historical context.
Past national NHD projects that have been extraordinary share one thing in common:
They tend to be "small stories" told well.
Remember Leadership and Legacy in History. That's the topic. Now Google some possible topics.It's due February 1, 2015.
Now it's time for you to go to www.NHD.org and click on "Contest" (up on the top menu bar.) Read what you find there and begin the most fantastic educational journey of your life!
The theme is a broad one, so topics should be carefully selected and developed in ways that best use your talents and abilities. Whether a topic is a well-known event in world history or focuses on a little known individual from a small community, you should be careful to place your topics into historical perspective, examine the significance of your topics in history, and show development over time. Have fun this year and we will see you in College Park, MD in June!
National History Day, Inc.
University of Maryland,
College Park, MD 20742