What easily digestible video history resources would you recommend?
August 12, 2020 2:50 PM   Subscribe

I have been realizing more and more that I've forgotten most of the history I learned in primary school and college. I work/study in a STEM field, but in my free time I am very interested in leftist politics and organizing. However, I think having a good baseline understanding of US history as well as major events in international history is really important to discussing politics with people at a deeper level. Details on the types of resources I'm looking for below the line.

I'm particularly busy reading and writing for my work lately, so reading dense non-fiction is not something I find I can commit to. I've tried a few times - for example, I find Howard Zinn's "People History.." fascinating, but it's simply too dense for me to work through in its entirety.

As a result, I've been looking for video resources that I could watch during meals or breaks. I would be interested in podcasts or audio resources as well, though I sometimes find it harder to focus on just audio because I'll usually try and multitask then. I'm also not looking for extremely in-depth coverage of specific events (for example, I really enjoy Dan Carlin's podcast, but it isn't the broad-strokes knowledge that I really need before I can dig in deeper). Basically, I'd like a YouTube channel or something similar that provides bit-sized (up to an hour max) segments which I could work through to better understand history.
posted by unid41 to Education (9 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Aimed at highschoolers but still entertaining and the videos pack a lot in to each episode:
Crash Course History (this is just one of their history series)
posted by Megami at 3:09 PM on August 12, 2020 [10 favorites]

Sorta like a podcast maybe, Voices of the Past is full of readings from ancient texts. Inscriptions, tablets, scrolls, journals, etc. A lot of them are fascinating...

First Chinese Visitor Describes Medieval Europe
First Japanese Visitor to USA Describes American Life // 1860 Tokugawa Embassy // Primary Source
Chinese Historian Describes the Byzantine Empire
Rameses III Describes Invasion Of Sea Peoples // Mystery of Bronze Age Collapse // Primary Source
posted by zengargoyle at 3:56 PM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Drunk History - episodes are a half hour with commercials and have 3 stories in each. They are usually hilarious but also educational.
posted by soelo at 7:06 PM on August 12, 2020

Not sure how far back you want to go, but I've been watching these lectures by Yale professor Paul Freedman on The Early Middle Ages, 284–1000. Of the various causes of the downfall of the Roman Empire, one, according to Freedman, was income inequality. So not entirely irrelevant to our current day.
posted by swheatie at 7:07 PM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am not at all a history buff but my husband is and two Youtube channels that we both enjoy are Extra History and Oversimplified . Both channels consist of short, clever and entertaining animated videos that shed new light on historical events in a clear and easy to follow way. Some recent favorites have been The 1918 Flu Pandemic, The War of the Bucket, and the WWI series. Enjoy!
posted by platinum at 12:23 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I recently discovered the History of Rome podcast. Yes it is heavy but I chose listen to it like an audio drama and I don't let myself worry if I zone out for a minute and miss a few sentences. In fact it is better and juicier than a lot of fictional stories!
posted by McNulty at 12:24 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I really liked Eugen Weber's The Western Tradition when I watched it back in the day on PBS. It's 50 something half-hour episodes covering the history of the West from Babylon to us. The first 17 episodes are on youtube here. Some of the rest are here. I audited one of Weber's courses on modern France when I was an undergrad at UCLA; he's a really engaging lecturer.
posted by bertran at 2:50 AM on August 13, 2020

2nding John Green’s Crash Course videos. US History, World History, Euro History - they’re all really good.
posted by gnutron at 4:10 AM on August 13, 2020

It's audio rather than video and occasionally a bit dated, but Studs Terkel's work is fascinating and usually served in small chunks. Spacing out and missing one won't hurt the next. (There are many audio books, but also a free audio archive.)
posted by eotvos at 6:10 AM on August 13, 2020

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