9 of the best web resources for teaching history

By Juliana Adelman

I have been doing more teaching in the past few years and have found an amazing number of resources online.  Some of them have been passed on through email lists or recommendations, but others have simply emerged from concentrated googling.  Although I found them useful for teaching, or thinking about teaching, many of them are also relevant to researchers.  Enjoy and feel free to add others in the comments.

1. Learning Historical Research.  This is an outstanding website, organised by the environmental historian William Cronon, which targets undergrads but has tips and reminders that even the most seasoned researcher might find useful.  It might be particularly useful if you are supervising a dissertation or conducting a class which requires primary research.

2. Dartmouth Institute for Writing and Rhetoric.  This website is not limited to history, it’s a resource for students and staff on all aspects of writing.  It has loads of relevant material on how to incorporate writing into teaching, ways of managing assessment and even sample assignments.  This piece on syllabus design, for example, is relevant to all types of subjects and I found it really helpful.

3. UC Berkeley, Office of Educational Development. This covers similar ground to the above site, but is aimed at a broader audience.  They have linked to a guide for pronouncing Asian names, but I would nearly pay for someone to create a similar guide for Irish ones.  Just when I think I’ve got it figured out someone comes along with a new set of vowels.

4. iTunes U.  Have to teach a subject you don’t know anything about?  Well listen to someone else’s lectures first.  I am not suggesting that you replicate them, but it is often useful to see what elements of a period or subject that another lecturer highlights.  So far publicly available history classes are limited, but worth a browse.

5. MIT Opencourseware.  This site has made syllabi and reading lists for a wide range of MIT courses publicly available.  Some of them even include lecture notes and videos, allowing you to virtually take the course and examine yourself.  A subject relevant to my own interests is People and Other Animals from Professor Harriet Ritvo.  Ritvo has given syllabi from a number of different years, so that viewers can see how the course has changed over time.  I find reading lists are not only useful for teaching, they are a great way to see which books are deemed most important to a particular field.

6. Wikipedia: school and university projects.  I know what you’re thinking.  How could she endorse Wikipedia?  It’s so unreliable! Inaccurate!  Risky!  Blah blah blah.  Wikipedia is here to stay and these projects have some interesting ideas on how to make use of it in the classroom.  Why not get your students to produce something that thousands of people will read by creating a new entry?  Or ask them to study the controversies over a particular area of history by seeing how an entry has been edited over time?  Or examine popular historical fallacies in existing entries and then edit them?  Just the tip of the iceberg.

7. Subject specific primary source archives.  There are hundreds and hundreds of these.  These are just some that I use: a. the Eugenics Archive (photos, documents and explanatory text; all available to download for use in teaching and on overheads, etc).  b. Darwin Online and  c. the Darwin Correspondence Project.

8. Electronic reading materials.  Again, many many sites, but these are useful: Google books (duh, creating your own library is a good tool though and you could even create an account for the class and a class library), Internet Archive (a bit clunky, but has useful things not available on Google Books), Online Books through UPenn library (a consolidating website that links to other pages and is searchable by author), Project Gutenberg (format leaves something to be desired but a wider coverage).

9. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Need a cheat’s guide to Aristotle?  Or better yet, Michel Foucault?  Or perhaps a definition of art?  This site is your man.

7 Responses to “9 of the best web resources for teaching history”

  1. Joanne Says:

    Extremely useful! Thanks Juliana

  2. puesoccurrences Says:

    Very useful list Juliana!

    I really like that text books for students are increasingly incorporating websites that authors like into the further reading lists.

    Beat Kumin’s The European World does this very well http://www.amazon.co.uk/European-World-1500-1800-Beat-K%C3%BCmin/dp/0415432537/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1295268042&sr=8-1

    The latest edition of Alan Brinkley’s Unfinished Nation also does this exteremly well.

    There is a student edition which links to websites that expand on some of the historical events each chapter discusses and then some sites with primary sources.

    Hopefully we will see more of this in the future as it helps to ease up the pressure on books in libraries and encourages a medium that students today like while ensuring the content is reliable.


  3. Frank Says:

    The Pathe news website is extremely useful as it contains many sound and video recordings and dates from 1896.


    The British Cartoon archive is also worth a look:


  4. puesoccurrences Says:

    I like the cartoons site… thanks for the tip Frank!

  5. puesoccurrences Says:

    Thanks for all the great suggestions, Juliana! I’ll definitely be looking a few of these up!


  6. jk Says:

    – very helpful and generous post – ‘9 of the best’ allowing for inclusion of Pue’s O to bring it up to an even 10?! 🙂

  7. puesoccurrences Says:

    @ Lisa, funny that the history text books are now doing it. My science texts in college had websites and cds with them. I have to admit that I didn’t make much use of either, though! That said, I definitely use electronic reading materials in my own work now more than I would have as an undergrad. The times they are a-changin’.

    @jk. Flattery will get you everywhere! 🙂

    Thanks for all the additional suggestions, folks. Any volunteers to do a best of the web list for their specialist area?


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