Center for the Teaching of History

2022 National History Day -- Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences

Start by looking through the official National History Day 2022 Debate & Diplomacy in History Theme Book.

Then begin exploring the many historical resources available at the Massachusetts Historical Society.  You can begin searching for inspiration anywhere in our collections: by exploring our library catalogs, our online resources, our collection guides, or by visiting us in person.

Have research questions?  Not sure where to start?  Our Library Reader Services are happy to help!  You can contact our librarians at 617-646-0532, by email at, or via live chat and virtual reference services with any questions.

Interested in obtaining reproductions of materials that have not been digitized? Learn about our reproductions policies on our website, or email with specific questions.

Questions to Get You Started

The following are a sample of the many potential topics for a National History Day 2022 Debate & Diplomacy in History project based on MHS Collections, digitized and on site. Please note that these ideas are just to get you started, and many of these subjects will have to be narrowed down to produce a high quality project. We recommend browsing our Online Collections for ideas as well--just a few of those collections are linked to topics listed below.

"It is important to consider the short-term and long-term impact of different events or exchanges on history. Students need to determine the legacies and consequences, good and bad, of the debates and diplomatic actions they choose. They must ask questions about successes, failures, and consequences to drive analysis. " (NHD Theme Book, 7). 

Debates and diplomacy are not limited to words and conversations. Rather, a piece of jewelry, a newspaper article, a gift, or even this document can convey a message and influence a negotiation or debate. Think through the ways in which words and visual objects can influence debates and impact relationships between people, communities, and nations.

Below are some questions to get you started:

  1. What does debate mean? What are the different forms it may take?
  2. What is diplomacy, and who is involved in it?
  3. Why was a particular debate or diplomatic event/agreement important? How did it shape events that came after it?
  4. How have diplomatic relations between particular nations soured or improved over time? What caused the changes?
  5. What are the limitations of diplomacy? Was an agreement followed? If not, what happened instead?
  6. How have debates over a particular idea changed over time, especially with the development of [object/thing/idea] or the occurrence of a particular event?

Thinking Through The Archive

Archive: "a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people.”                                                                  Analysis: “detailed examination of the elements or structure of something.”

As historians, it is important to think through the authors of the sources that you are working with. What is their story, and were they in a position of power? What does the source tell us? What does it not tell us? Does it silence a particular narrative at the expense of sharing another?

  • Northeast Boundary Papers, 1700-1799. This collection is composed of correspondence and other papers concerning the dispute over the St. Croix River, part of the lands of the Passamaquoddy which the U.S. and Canada illegally claimed as their own and used as part of their Northeast boundary in the Treaty of 1783. The collection contains depositions and interrogations of persons living in the vicinity of the river, including members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and other Wabanaki nations, and of surveyors employed by both countries. How many different perspectives were involved? What were the goals of the different parties? Which voices are included or left out?
  • Proceedings of Two Meetings with Native Americans, July 1780. This small collection contains the proceedings of two meetings held between Native Americans and the British superintendent of Indian Affairs, Col. Guy Johnson, at Niagara on 3 July and 6 July 1780. The proceedings include transcripts of speeches by Johnson accusing the Native Americans of disloyalty and speeches by tribal represe