National History Day Themes

Every year, National History Day (NHD) selects an overarching theme for all History Day Projects. These themes are meant to encourage students and their teachers to think about the different ways our narratives around history are constructed and to consider the ways that might impact our understanding and presentation of particular events and people in history.

The themes can vary from Triumph and Tragedy in History to Conflict and Compromise in History. The one unchanging variable is history, which is considered to be something that took place 50 years ago or more, so in 2020 you’re looking at 1970! Disco anyone? What happened in 1970? The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty went into effect. The Apollo 13’s oxygen tanks exploded mid-flight leading to the now famous line, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” The United States invaded Cambodia. The USSR launched Lunar 17, which landed on the moon and successfully completed the first remote controlled robotic land rover mission.  The Beatles Broke up. Each of these events could be successfully researched and interpreted through a thematic lens such as the examples mentioned above.

You can also look at a list of previous themes going back to 1980.