I'm writing a paper about the interpretation of a treaty and I want to include a chapter on the historical background to explain why a certain article must be interpreted a certain way. In this context should I say the historical background for Treaty X, the historical background of Treaty X or use a different preposition entirely?

I checked both phrases on google and each had several million hits. Background of had more, but if the sense changes somewhat with the choice of preposition then that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

  • 1
    "I still find the prepositions thoroughly confusing." That means it's working!
    – Robusto
    Feb 29, 2012 at 14:00
  • "I still find the prepositions thoroughly confusing" implies the articles are still causing some confusion too. Feb 29, 2012 at 16:43
  • Hey, never claimed prepositions were the only thing to throw me off ;)
    – Astrid
    Feb 29, 2012 at 20:07
  • You might want to consider using "historical context of" instead. It may convey your meaning slightly more accurately.
    – Christi
    Feb 29, 2012 at 22:03

3 Answers 3


I've never heard of Background For typically I'd see Historical Background of, or Treaty X's Historical Background

  • This looks interesting since 'Treaty X's Historical Background == Historical Background of Treaty X'.
    – Riyaz
    Dec 22, 2015 at 6:20

People do often use "of" (or even "for") as the preposition in this usage, but personally I prefer:

"the historical background to [Treaty x]"

  • Could you briefly state your reasons? Intuitively, I likewise tend to prefer the proposition to over of -- being no native speaker, however, I am uncertain about my intuitions. Mar 25, 2013 at 11:29
  • @ClintEastwood: It's not really a matter of "reasons/logic" - just idiomatic tendencies. I prefer the version I read/hear most often, which is probably the same one most other Anglophones use/encounter. In this context, our "intuitions" are nothing to do with telling us which preposition is objectively "correct" (at least three are "valid"). They just tell us which version we're most familiar with (which I still suspect is probably to for most native speakers, even if they haven't upvoted this answer). Mar 25, 2013 at 13:53

Neither are wrong. It's a matter of popularity of usuage and choice.

"Historical background of Treaty X" would be a more common usage.

Other common usages include:

He comes from a background of illiteracy.

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