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Welcome to the 2023–24 school year! This year, the National History Day competition is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and now is your chance to get involved.

three students dressed as vikings

“Vikings: A Frontier of Sea Navigation” won the 2023 NMHS Junior Special Maritime Prize from Arkansas for a group performance. (L to R) Tiana Ward, Treveon Russell, Grace Albright, and Tre’Nae Allen. Congratulations! Photograph courtesy of Lisa Sabir.

Vikings in Arkansas? In April, four middle school students from Pinnacle View Middle School in Little Rock, Arkansas, dressed in Viking regalia to present “Vikings: A Frontier of Sea Navigation” at the National History Day (NHD) Arkansas state competition. Back in October these young historians, with the guidance of their teacher, Lisa Sabir, embarked on a research journey exploring the world of Viking navigation. They earned a spot at the state competition, where they were presented with the Junior Division Special Maritime Prize from NMHS.

In all, more than half a million students developed performances, exhibits, papers, websites, and documentaries related to the theme: “Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas.” The results are always impressive, providing a refreshing and inspiring young perspective on historical events.

Students from Virginia getting pumped up for the finals for the National History Day competition at the University of Maryland. Photograph courtesy of nhd.org.

Thanks to efforts by NMHS Chairman Emeritus, Ronald Oswald, we have celebrated the outstanding achievements of these young historians for more than twenty years. The Society awards Special Maritime Prizes in both junior and senior categories: a one-year membership / Sea History subscription and recognition on the NMHS website. Additionally, first-place projects receive a $100 scholarship, while second-place winners are awarded a $50 scholarship.

This year, 53 students from 16 states explored frontiers in naval history, maritime scientific innovations like submarines and the aqualung, and broader themes that included the maritime frontiers of the British Empire and the construction of the Erie Canal. Personal frontiers were also celebrated, with projects focusing on Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition and the inspiring story of Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel. Of course, students’ fascination with certain subjects, like pirates or the sinking of the Titanic, never wanes; every year there are always a couple of projects dedicated to these favorites!

Two students showing their booth

Lucas Frechette of Maine won First Place for his project, “U-Boats During WWII off the Coast of Maine.”

As National History Day commemorates its 50th anniversary this year, the theme for 2024, “Turning Points in History,” invites students to explore ideas, events, and actions that have sparked transformative change. Now is the time to get started! Students can find guidance on research and how to prepare on the NHD website, www.nhd.org. Projects on maritime-related topics by students from participating states will be considered for the NMHS special prizes.

For more information on National History Day and to learn about the competition in your state, visit the NHD website at www.nhd.org. For information on the NMHS Special Maritime Prize (or to get involved as a volunteer judge), please contact NMHS at 914-737-7878 or via email at nmhs@seahistory.org.

By recognizing young historians like those from Pinnacle View Middle School, NMHS’s Special Maritime Prize is fostering interest in historical exploration and keeping the allure of maritime history alive and well!

Did You Know?

Powder Monkey

The Age of Sail was said to be the domain of “wooden ships and iron men,” but sailing ships also had boys on their official crew lists.

Today, you have to be 14 years old before you can get a job in most states in the US, but in the Age of Sail both merchant ships and navy vessels signed on boys as young as seven years old as regular members of the crew.

What were these kids doing on board sailing ships?

Learn more at Kids as Crew