Students choose the history that interests them the most. They do research, learn, and then write a paper about the single historical era that interests them more than the others.
No memorization of dates or copying and pasting from Wikipedia. No irrelevant research. After school, this is the kind of reading about history most of the kids will decide to focus on, and why not encourage them now? It's the kind of research that matters because it's about something that's already of interest.
Teachers can narrow the eras to a certain century or continent, if necessary, but it's probably only necessary if you're using this lesson in more than one class. But I guess if I was a history teacher who got my hands on a cool English teacher's assignment, I'd probably use it every chance I could.
It's also good for English. Self-directed or homeschooled kids will appreciate the freedom as much as their peers at the public school did. Great World Languages assignment, too, if you tell students to choose eras from countries that speak the language you teach.
The paper is more or less a template of five "paragraphs" with four sentences each. Leave the sentences in the template or have the students copy and paste into a paper format.