Resources for 2018 National History Day Project

Conflict and Compromise in History

The investigation topics in Churchill Archive for Schools contain numerous examples of conflict and compromise in the twentieth century, a turbulent period of history which saw two devastating global conflicts and the Cold War, a period of tense international diplomacy underlaid by the threat of nuclear war. The investigations challenge you to tackle key questions relating to conflict and compromise in twentieth-century history, based on real historical documents from the time. Here are some investigation topics we recommend you explore:

The Special Relationship

A key example of compromise in history is the diplomatic relationship between Britain and the United States, known as the 'special relationship'. In the First and Second World Wars, Britain and the US were military allies, but what was the real nature of this relationship? The two investigations asking, ‘How special was the ‘special’ relationship in the Second World War?' explore this key example of conflict and compromise further. Was the special relationship just a friendly understanding between the political leaders of Britain and the US, or was it a mutually selfish one that happened to benefit both in the period of the war before America formally joined in the fighting?

Just how special was the 'special relationship' in the Second World War? (Part I, 1939-41)

Pearl Harbor

An important instance of conflict in the twentieth century was Pearl Harbor, which occurred on 7 December 1941 when over 350 Japanese aircraft attacked the US naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, destroying or badly damaging much of the US Pacific fleet and causing thousands of casualties. US President Roosevelt called it ‘a date that would live in infamy’. Pearl Harbor was a devastating shock to the US, but was it more than just an attack on US naval forces? You can explore this question through a selection of primary sources in this investigation.

What was the significance of Pearl Harbor?

Nuclear Weapons

The development of the atomic bomb during the Second World War was an immensely significant moment. Once atomic weapons were used against Japan at the end of the war, the threat of nuclear disaster lay at the heart of every international conflict. During the Cold War, major powers raced to equip themselves with nuclear weapons to strengthen their positions on the world stage and defend themselves against the threat from other powers. To many, it seemed that the development of nuclear weapons made the world a more dangerous place, although many historians now argue that the opposite was in fact true. Examine the debate in this investigation.

Did nuclear weapons help to make the world safer between 1945 and 1951?


In the mid-1930s, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was making demands for territory and other concessions. The international community was divided on how to stop Hitler, and looked to Britain and France. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, supported by the French, favoured a policy of ‘appeasement’ – making concessions to and compromising with Hitler. In contrast, Winston Churchill was a prominent critic of appeasement. Why wasn’t Churchill listened to by the politicians of the time? Was Churchill a lone voice, or did he reflect the views of many ordinary people? This investigations explores the debate in more depth.

Did people agree with Churchill's stand on appeasement?

Examining Primary Sources

While history contains many literal conflicts, historians often have conflicting views of history itself; many of the questions above are still debated by historians today. It’s important for anyone studying history to understand that every historical narrative is influenced by the writer’s own perspective. A good way to interrogate a historical narrative is to go directly to the primary sources - items that were produced in the past by people living at the time, such as personal diaries, letters, newspaper articles, speeches and photographs – and use these to inform your own interpretation. If you would like to learn how to better use primary source materials yourself, visit the Churchill Archive for School’s Primary Source Skills Guide.

Primary Source Skills Guide

If you would like to explore the full Churchill Archive, which contains 800,000 pages of original historical documents from 1874 to 1965, your school can register for free access here.