Honing your history skills (during a pandemic)

Patrice Gonzales

Patrice Gonzales is a teacher of History at a school in South East London. Patrice studied Modern History and Journalism at Staffordshire University, and trained as a teacher at UCL’s Institute of Education.

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History is an ever-evolving subject and there is always something to read, watch or listen to in order to expand your knowledge as a practitioner. Around two months ago on Twitter I had seen several soon-to-be trainee teachers looking for ways to develop their knowledge and it made me consider how I use my ‘downtime’. 

Throughout this NQT year, I have found it hard to keep up to date with improving my subject knowledge and it has made me feel unequipped at times so to combat this temporal feeling of inadequacy, during this period of lockdown I have made a conscious effort to change the script. I have replaced the time that I would commute to work with a daily hit of history which has made my confidence boost even if it is just for teaching online lessons and preparing homework booklets. 

Below are just a few ways that I have tackled the development of my subject knowledge. I hope that you will feel inspired to make time to develop your passion for History and utilise this time of lockdown and working from home. 


At the click of a button you may find a fantastic array of podcasts from historians. These are great for teacher knowledge and for getting a fast track to ground-breaking research and historical scholarship. Whatever you are teaching, whatever your interests may be, you are sure to find something you will love amongst this list!

  1. BBC Radio 4 
  2. History extra 
  3. Versus History 
  4. BBC World Service – Witness History 
  5. Dan Snow’s History Hit 
  6. This Day in History Class
  7. A History of the World in 100 Objects – Neil Macgregor


Blogs and Websites

Historical Association - Most schools have a subscription so check with your department before signing up. The HA has great features such as: 

  • What’s the Wisdom On – a short guide to a particular aspect of history teaching. 
  • New, Novice or Nervous? – An article to help new teachers of history.
  • Polychronicon – designed to help history teachers update their subject knowledge.
  • Cunning Plan – step-by-step plans for tackling particular teaching issues.

Made By History by Kerry Apps (https://kerryapps.com) - Social and post-colonial history, the early modern period and musings on teaching 11 – 18 history.

Justice 2 History -  (https://justice2history.org)

Twitter - Just search the hashtag #HistoryTeacher and everything from subject knowledge to resources is at your disposal. 

One Big History Department - a place for sharing thinking, resources and conversations about teaching and learning history

TeachMeet History Icons - providing high quality, free CPD, to UK teachers. (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeihlqFBpMOPGjXzMbgi3Bw)

Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC Iplayer and Youtube - all of these sites have a wide range of history documentaries. Be mindful that a number of the films are not historically accurate and adapted for entertainment. 



From general overviews to specific periods and themes to support the needs of teaching history. This is not an extensive list but it should provide you with a starting point for reading around widely taught subjects. 


The Black Death by John Hatcher

Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood



Reformation by Diarmond McCulloch

Heretics and Believers by Peter Marshall

God’s traitors by Jessie Childs



The Ratline by Phillippe Sands

Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd


The English Civil War:

The English Civil War by Diane Purkiss

White King by Leanda de Lisle


Tudor England:

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

Elizabeth 1 by Helen Castor



The Butchering Art by Lindsey Harris

Medieval Bodies by Jack Hartnell



The War that Ended Peace by Margaret Macmillan

The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire by David Olusoga


18th /19th:

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

Death in ten minutes by Fern Riddell



The Anarchy by William Dalrymple

Chocolate, women and Empire by Emma Robertson


Slavery and abolition:

Bury the chains by Adam Hochschild

A Fistful of shells by Toby Green


Black British History:

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann



Trouble in mind : Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow by Leon Litwack

The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis


Whole Period and wider reading:

A Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer

A short history of England by Simon Jenkins

Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan

Centuries of Change by Ian Mortimer

To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 by Ian Kershaw

Island Stories by David Reynolds

A little history of the world by EH Gombrich

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