Sample History Essay Assignment on History of the Present Essay

Historian Adam Tooze has argued that the “polycrisis” in which we have been mired since early 2020 is best understood as a comprehensive “crisis of the Anthropocene.” By this, he means to highlight how it is now impossible to separate economic crises of capitalism from a broader crisis related to the relationship between capital and the natural world. I would submit, in agreement with Tooze, that over the last two years it has been impossible to ignore the interconnectedness of the crises and challenges we face.

With this in mind, the major assignment in this course is a History of the Present Essay. You are to choose an aspect of the present crisis, and write an essay of 2000-2500 words that answers the following question: how did we get here?

“Here” is intentionally vague. The point is NOT to write a comprehensive essay about the polycrisis, but to choose one aspect of it and write a focused essay about that issue. The possibilities are myriad. This is a very partial list of broad topics you could write about: “essential workers,” monetary policy, inflation, fiscal policy, climate change, expert knowledge, supply chains, racism, inequality (eg. “vaccine apartheid”), geopolitics, ideology, the “crisis of concepts” (eg. freedom), and so on. These are broad categories, all of which could be written about in a more focused way.