Monday, 17 November 2008

Where to find the best history videos on the web

by Derry Nairn

History Today has always worked on the assumption that the study of the past is an extremely relevant activity. Being passionate about history doesn't necessarily mean you also enjoy elbow patches on tweed jackets and complex debates in stuffy university corridors. History people can be technology and internet people too. In recent weeks this has been proved by the amount of excellent multimedia content we have come across on the web. Here's a small selection:

FORA TV is a web portal for streaming video of intellectual discussion. It draws its content from the many hundreds of debates, lectures, interviews and speeches happening around the world every day. Notable content includes a broadcast of 2007's centenary Creighton Lecture (this year's lecture happens tonight) and a recent interview with Whoopi Goldberg on the evolving status of the US constitution. It has several dedicated channels, including one for history. The others are categorised according to discipline, topic and region. Commenting on each video is possible after registration. FORA TV makes a welcome change to the 'Lowest Common Denominator' factor of similar video sites like YouTube.

The Guardian's literary festival seems to be mutate further beyond the borders of provinical Hay-on-Wye each year, with associated events happening in Spain and Columbia over the winter. The website, however, is top-notch, with a massive video and audio archive. Full-length interviews and debates can be downloaded and, once again, there is a dedicated history section. Lots of heavy-hitters here too: Niall Ferguson, Gore Vidal and Orlando Figes are only a few of the many famous historical thinkers featured. Small fees apply.

Worth a look too is the podcast series of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB). Choose from over fifty individuals whose story is told in professionally-produced and easily-digested 10-15 minute snippets. The selection is not merely restricted to the GCSE curriculum either. Notable biographees include the Busby Babes, Springheel Jack, Jimi Hendrix and Friar Tuck. A nice touch is the ability to subscribe via feed reader so each new podcast is delivered straight into your inbox each fortnight. The DNB's online version is also highly recommended.

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