History dives into a broad range of topics, from graffiti to opera, and will push you to think more deeply about history. How can we be sure it happened? When is history remembered or forgotten?
Here are some general resources related to History. These should be a useful introduction, regardless of which History related course you’re interested in and where you might want to study it.
You can study the history of pretty much anything – think about what interests you and really try to dig into it! Far better to know something you really enjoy learning about in detail, than to try to have a vague, ‘general’ knowledge of lots of things.
When it comes to choosing what to read, it can be very easy to get overwhelmed. If you are just getting started, try choosing a general book which will give you an overview of your chosen topic. If you can, find one that was published relatively recently as it will give you the most up-to-date information.
The Very Short Introductions Series 🔗 This series from Oxford University Press includes several of that sort of general book.
If possible, try to borrow books from your local library or to find them online for free to keep costs down. If you can’t find the books you want this way, see if you can find cheap second-hand
Primary sources are a great way to access history ‘directly’. Think outside of the box and be open-minded about what a primary source might be. Take notes as you go, and see if you can find if any historians have written about the thing you’re exploring (via a Google search or looking for information and references). Compare your thoughts to analysis by historians - trust your own judgement, but also be prepared to take into account other perspectives, and adapt to additional information. This process will help develop flexible thought, which is key both as a student and when you’re applying, especially at interview.
British Library Literary Resources 🔗 If you’re into literature, these are a great place to start. Beyond the British Library, see what literary works you can find online – think about how the meanings of words used might change
Historical Maps 🔗 🌟 If you’re interested in European colonisation and in shifting away from a Eurocentric model of history, have a look at a map of the world! Why does it look the way it does? Why is Britain often located top and centre? Who originally drew up the map? Who decides the positioning of borders? Why even distinguish between different countries? How have maps changed over time and why?
Royal College of Music Digital Exhibitions 🔗 If you’re interested in music history and looking at original manuscripts or instruments from around the world, check out this online exhibition!
Architecture Some buildings and sites can be very interesting in relation to particular historical topics e.g. the Park Hill Estate in Sheffield or the recently demolished Dulcie Bridge Pub in Manchester in relation to working class / social history.
British Film Institute Library 🔗 Worth a look if you’re a historical film fan! You can also access lots of early films easily online for free. It can be interesting to see what working class folk in 1930s Britain enjoyed, or to see the impact of the rise of fascism in Europe on film (think lots of marching and pompous soundtracks!)
Street art Street art and culture – this can be interesting in relation to how communities have changed over time, for example through migration or gentrification. You don’t even need to go far from home to do this. How has the high street changed? In relation to what historical processes? How have people responded and why?
London Crime Archives 🔗 This is the Old Bailey Online, a really cool digitisation project, featuring thousands of sources – great for thinking about the period, crime in history or the digitisation of history, which are all very interesting subjects.
Family history Similarly, if you’re a fan of local or family history, think about what you have right on your doorstep – old buildings, marketplaces, religious buildings etc. You could even investigate your own family history; it all counts as 'history' and you might find out something interesting!
National archives 🔗 Educational resources fab for getting insight into what it might be like to be a practising historian!
There are a vast number of historical podcasts online. Listen to them as you go about your daily life - cooking, on a walk etc - and have a notebook handy to take notes. Then follow up anything you found interesting! This process of using a source - such as a lecture, podcast, or introductory article - is what students do all the time at university. Developing those skills pre-university will prepare you for uni life, help your studies at school, and is useful as evidence of your interest and curiosity in your application (e.g. on your personal statement).
Spotify: BBC Radio 4’s ‘In Our Time: History’ 🔗 🌟 This is a long running series with a huge archive, where Melvyn Bragg interviews 3 expert academics about a particular historical topic.
Spotify: Dan Snow’s ‘History Hit’ 🔗 Interesting takes and interviews on various topics by this popular historian.
Spotify: BBC Radio 4’s ‘You’re Dead To Me’ 🔗 Greg Jenner, the consultant historian on Horrible Histories, hosts a series of discussions on historical topics with comedians and historians
Spotify: Mike Duncan’s ‘History of Rome’ 🔗 An introduction to the ancient city of Rome.
Spotify: Mike Duncan’s ‘Revolutions’ 🔗 This looks at different social upheavals in history.
Spotify: Jamie Jeffer’s ‘The British History Podcast’ 🔗 Jamie Jeffer offers an introduction to British history going from medieval times.
Spotify: History Extra Podcast 🔗 BBC History Magazine’s podcast regularly interviews the authors of new historical books, and also has quizzes and general talks. It is really helpful to see where new books are being published in history, and also has a huge archive.
Spotify: Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Revisionist History’ 🔗 Malcolm Gladwell takes particular topics and questioning the accepted wisdom about them.
Spotify: Mythology 🔗 Explore some of the most notable historical tales from ‘Beowulf’ to the ‘Cú Chulainn’.
Spotify: The Rest is History 🔗 A podcast run by two historians who explore a variety of historical events.
Free online courses are a great way to expand your knowledge, and get a taster for life as a student. They can help you find areas of particular interest, and guide you through the process of studying & thinking independently.
Future Learn 🔗 Have a look at what you can find on sites like Future Learn.
Similar to podcasts, videos are a great way to get you thinking about a historical period or idea. Take notes and use them as a springboard to further study. Again, the real value from these comes from what you do next: following up, or digging around for something else that catches your interest more.
CrashCourse 🔗 🌟 Some short introductory videos to a wide variety of different historical events, themes, and eras. These are really useful to look at different time periods that you might not have encountered, but want to explore a bit further. There are separate courses on World History, European History and US History.
History Matters 🔗 Very short and fun little videos on niche historical questions. The sort of trivia that can get you hooked on looking into a particular historical area or period.
Reading articles is a way to begin to interface with how university history works. You can follow up a particular academic or topic of interest across the various forms of media, making a few notes or picking out things of particular interest.
BBC History Magazine Website 🔗 A website of articles, blogs and updates on the latest historical research. You may need to register for free to access the articles.
History Today Magazine Website 🔗 The website of the other main UK history magazine. This one has more in terms of interactive quizzes and features available without registration.
JSTOR Academic Articles 🔗 In normal times you can read five academic articles a month if you register with JSTOR for free. These are really challenging articles from the frontline of research. They show you exactly what a history degree might be like, and could be useful when researching for coursework or an extended project.