The first step of the research process is a general exploration of the overall topic of interest. For your historical topic, aim to get a big-picture sense of:
Who: Who were the major stakeholders (something to gain or lose)? Who had power? Who threatened it? Who were in middle?
Write down the names of individuals, entities or groups and make notes about their involvement.
What: What happened, exactly? And what happened as a result?
Write down names of important events and documents. Make notes about what happened or what a document or agreement did, and the major results or consequences.
When: When did the events occur? Was this time period significant? In what ways? What else was going on at that time?
Write down the dates and ways of referring to that time period.
Where: In what specific geographic, cultural, or political place or places did the events occur?
Write down these place names (include variant names and spellings) and note any ways in which location was a significant factor in why things happened the way they did.
Why: What were the objectives or motivations behind the events relevant to your topic? Why did the stakeholders want things to change (or stay the same)?
For each of the stakeholders, make note of what they wanted and why.
How: What strategies, methods, guiding philosophies or principles, etc. did the stakeholders use to try to get what they wanted?
Write down the ways in which stakeholders attempted to shape events?