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The Best History Resources for Covid-19 Lockdown!

Struggling to keep the kids engaged with homeschooling during lockdown for Covid-19, or just bored and looking for new things to do? Check out this list of some of the best history-related (ish) resources on the web!

Podcasts and programmes

There is a huge number of podcasts regardless of lockdown, although some – such as Histories of the Unexpected – are doing homeschool specials. Go to Inside History for a list of some of the best podcasts around. And, while you’re on the site, why not have a look at their new quarterly magazine?

For hours of history programming, head over to Dan Snow’s History Hit website. Although it’s behind a paywall, the first 30 days are free and there is enough content to justify the £5.99 per month charge. Or, for a free option, check out the Timeline channel on YouTube.

Webinars and talks

Lockdown has effectively put a stop to the history festival season. However, some festivals have gone online with cut down versions of their talks. HistFest have created a YouTube channel with brief talks and interviews from a number of speakers. Chalke Valley History Festival, which was due to celebrate its tenth anniversary this year, is another casualty of coronavirus. It is too big a festival to have everything online, but its History Hub provides articles and recordings of talks and interviews from previous years.

The History Association has opened a virtual branch, accessible to all, that gives new, in-depth webinars on a variety of topics every two weeks. The old ones are taken down though, so be sure to check back regularly!

Virtual tours

Just because museums and sites of historic interest are closed to visitors doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them from the comfort of your own home. The Guardian has several articles listing some of the best virtual museum tours from around the world, including the Vatican’s museums and the British Museum, and the Evening Standard has a similar list for London attractions. Other museums, such as the Vasa Museum in Sweden (which broadcasts live through its Instagram account every weekday at 16:28 during lockdown) and the tomb of Ramesses VI are also making sure they remain accessible. Use Google to search for your favourite museum and see what you find!

While you’re on Google, why not check out its Arts and Culture section and use Street View to explore a wide range of museums and attractions, from inside, and from pictures, roads, and the air.

For those interested in alternative and quirky tours around historic London, have a look at Joolz Guides on YouTube. His brief but entertaining walking tours concentrate on specific areas of London, taking in some of the more obvious points of interest but also the hidden gems and small museums.

Books and sources

Many older books are already available for free online thanks to the likes of Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. More recent books are also often available online to library members and to those with a Kindle Unlimited subscription (currently £7.99 per month). However, other sites that usually hold content behind a paywall have opened up their archives for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown.

As well as providing a huge range of sources that are always free to access, British History Online have opened all their additional content – an extra 200 volumes – to the public until the end of July 2020.

The National Archives have also made a decision to make their digital records available to all registered users for as long as their Kew site is closed to visitors. Registration is easy, and records include a number of collections from the First and Second World Wars, other military records, wills, twentieth century Cabinet Papers and Security Service files, as well as Domesday BookThe two-million-word report of the survey commissioned by William the Conqueror into land-holding and worth in England and parts of Wales. Its name comes from the a reference to the final account at the Last Judgement, as it was such a complete record., although they do not necessarily include records held on third party sites such as Ancestry. 

Other resources

The Continuing Education department of the University of Oxford is providing an excellent resource for learning from home. Not just limited to history, it has podcasts, recommendations from tutors, and a wide variety of links and suggestions organised under three headings – ‘explore’, ‘enjoy’, and ‘have a go’ – that are changed regularly.

Of course, there is no way this, or any other list, could be exhaustive. But hopefully it’s enough to get you started, to give you some inspiration, and to help to keep you and your family sane! Take care and be safe.

Author Info

Debbie Kilroy

Having read history at the University of Birmingham as an undergraduate, where I won the Kenrick Prize, I worked as a trouble-shooter in the public sector until I took a career break in 2009. Thereafter, I was able to pursue my love of history and turn it into a career, founding Get History in 2014 with the aim of bringing accessible yet high quality history-telling and debate to a wide audience. Since then, I have completed a Masters in Historical Studies at the University of Oxford, from which I received a distinction and the Kellogg College Community Engagement and Impact Award. As well as continuing to write for and expand Get History, I am now a freelance writer and historian. I have worked with Histories of the Unexpected and Inside History, and my article for Parliaments, Estates and Representation won the ICHRPI Emile Lousse essay prize (2019).