Do you enjoy learning about history? Since you’re reading The Archive, we’re going to assume that the answer is “yes.” But just because you’re already interested in a subject doesn’t mean that you don’t also still want learning about that subject to be fun, and even the most fascinating topic can be rendered dry and dull by the wrong presentation.
Fortunately, these 13 YouTube history channels not only provide reputable, reliable historical content, they do so in a way that’s fun to watch and easy to consume—so that we can all learn and be entertained at the same time. What could be better? Maybe you already follow some of these, but we’re also betting that there’ll be something new on this list for even the most dedicated history buff…
It may be the most obvious inclusion on this list, but you can’t go wrong with HISTORY (formerly known as The History Channel). With online versions of some of your favorite TV shows and YouTube exclusives alike, you can find all kinds of content on the HISTORY YouTube channel, such as shows on the World Wars, listicles of female spies, ancient recipes, and even ancient aliens. Some videos may be a little more sensational than historical, but there’s plenty of stuff to see, and it’s always entertaining.
A lot of YouTube history channels cover the obvious stuff, like the American Civil War or the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Weird History is a channel dedicated to, as they put it, “the chronicles of history that your social studies class never covered in high school.” From Crystal Pepsi to gout and from life in a medieval castle to Victorian-era pastimes, the videos at Weird History are filled with unexpected facts. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re spooky, and sometimes they’re just head-scratching—but they’re always weird.
Tasting History with Max Miller
Judging solely by the ubiquity of fantasy-themed cookbooks, people are interested in learning more about the sumptuous banquets that are described in epic series like George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. If you’ve got a taste for historical cuisine, there’s no better place to indulge it than the Tasting History channel. A furloughed former Disney employee created the channel as a way to pass the time during the pandemic before ultimately turning his hobby into a full-time gig, recreating recipes from ancient Rome to medieval England and beyond.
Created by a self-professed “Rome freak,” Historia Civilis is a YouTube channel dedicated, as you might imagine, to the Roman Empire, though videos have also covered everything from the history of NATO to Cleopatra’s bureaucracy. Eschewing the “talking heads” format in favor of simple-yet-direct illustrations and graphic designs, the videos are quick and informative, with most running no longer than half an hour or so. They frequently cover important battles, but also hit upon everything from the funeral of Julius Caesar to whether or not animals can commit crimes.
Kings and Generals
Kings and Generals creates and distributes “animated historical documentaries,” as they put it. The channel features various concurrently-running series covering periods in history as diverse as the Hundred Years’ War and the Restoration of Justinian. As you might imagine from the title, the channel often focuses heavily on battles and politics, but its videos give concise-yet-sweeping overviews of some of the most important events in history. Each series is doled out in a sequence of digestible chunks so that you can try as little (or binge as much) as you’d like.
The Great War
So far, all the channels we’ve talked about have covered the width and breadth of history. Sure, some have specific focuses or themes—like historic recipes—but they sample from across time. Not so with The Great War, a channel focused solely on the era of World War I.
Despite the name, this isn’t just a recitation of troop movements, battle outcomes, and strategic decisions. The Great War has videos covering just about every aspect of life a century ago, as the so-called “war to end all wars” raged across Europe. You will absolutely find details on battles, warfare, and military technology, but you will also find videos about the arts and culture that flourished in wartime, the other subjects that dominated world headlines of the age, and much more.
As students of history, we all love a deep dive into a complicated subject, and there’s a seemingly infinite world of nuance out there to explore. But we also have our blind spots, the places where our knowledge of a subject is barely conversant. For those times, there are channels like OverSimplified, which is dedicated to explaining subjects ranging from Prohibition to the French Revolution to the Battle of Hastings in, well, “an OverSimplified way.” These short videos will give you the basics you need on a subject in an entertaining and usually humorous form, so that you can get on to the next bit of history that you can’t wait to consume.
The History Guy
“If you love history,” the channel intro for The History Guy begins, “this is the channel for you!” We guess we’ve come to the right place! We’ve called the videos on several of these other channels “short,” but The History Guy has most of them beat, with all of his videos settling in somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes long. He covers all kinds of odd and intriguing bits of history. From the Wild West to the New York blackout of 1977 and from the European discovery of Alaska to the “Great Olive Poisoning” of 1919, The History Guy's videos are delivered in short, informative bites that are quick and easy to watch whenever you have some free time.
Military History Visualized
This absorbing channel offers military history content spanning the Classical era through current wars. Its content is concise, appealing to the eye, informative, and amusing. For those who want to dig a little deeper, each video employs academic texts whenever possible and links its sources in the description.
Mr. Terry History
Mr. Terry History is a channel run by a high school history teacher. He creates funny reaction videos on YouTube in addition to more traditional educational material. His videos are relatively simple to understand, making them an ideal choice if you want to unwind while also learning something new.
The Armchair Historian
The Armchair Historian, a YouTube channel that posts informative and enjoyable animated history videos, was created by Griffin Johnsen. Not only are the animations visually appealing, but the themes covered also distinguish him from the competition. From tank evolution and uniform comparisons to very detailed war visualizations, he covers it all.
Another YouTube user named TIKhistory makes meticulous historical videos that are meant to outdo TV documentaries. TIKhistory aims to eliminate historical myths and misconceptions with an emphasis on World War II and related subjects so we are able to learn from the past and avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Along with his attention to detail, his analysis of all the key sources on a given topic sets him apart from other YouTube history channels. He attempts to create a narrative that is supported by numerous independent sources while proving why contradictory information is not correct. All historians should carry out this task, right?
The Operations Room
For those who are more interested in tactics and strategy, we also highly recommend The Operations Room. It is comparable to The Armchair Historian in that it concentrates on the events of great battles, including the precise movements of the forces, the information that each party had, how they responded to enemy moves, and the reasoning behind their actions. Knowing what Isoroku Yamamoto (Japanese Marshal Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy) knew at the time of the Battle of Midway, what would you have done? Would you have made the same decision?